Difficult times calls for amazing women according to a history talk in March

Sue Slack's talk on amazing women in Cambridgeshire. PHOTO: March History Society

Sue Slack's talk on amazing women in Cambridgeshire. PHOTO: March History Society - Credit: Archant

Extraordinary women in Cambridgeshire in World War One were celebrated during the March Society’s latest event.

A talk coincided with England’s heritage open days’ theme of extraordinary women.

March resident and new author Sue Slack gave a talk about a few of the many extraordinary women who lived in Cambridgeshire at the time of WWl. Sue has spent more than 10 years researching and writing her book ‘Cambridge Women And The Struggle For The Vote’.

She told listeners that when the men were called up for the war, women needed to learn new skills to fill the vacancies. A

As well as working in the fields or raising funds for the Red Cross, many women became ‘munitionettes’ working in the munitions factories. Their pay was half that of the men and some, including Dorothy Willis from Willingham, died as a result of prolonged contact with chemicals. Other women’s skins turned yellow due to TNT poisoning.

Clara Rackham, a Cambridge suffragist was employed as a temporary factory inspector where she talked with many women workers.

After the war she became a city councillor to help improve living conditions in the poorer parts of Cambridge and elsewhere.

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She pushed hard for the building of the swimming pool next to Parker’s Piece.

Barbara Wootton of Cambridge became the country’s first women life peer as well as the first woman allowed to lecture at Cambridge University.

Several Cambridgeshire women had distinguished nursing careers including Nurse Gunson and her doctor husband who worked at North Cambs hospital but volunteered to go to the front together.

Lizzie Lavender of March was a nurse during the war and eventually became headmistress of Burrowmoor School.

Other local nurses were mentioned in despatches or received medals for their work abroad.

Leah Manning in Cambridge was headmistress of an experimental open air school for sick and poor children in Cambridge and became one of the country’s first women MPs.

• The speaker at The March Society’s October event on Wednesday October 10 at 7pm in March Library will be Alan Neville, Greater Anglia’s customer engagement manager. He will bring the latest news and developments on the rail network. All welcome. Members £2, non-members £3, with refreshments.