WW1 knitting day

In July the Harris were lucky enough to host a WW1 knitting workshop with nationally renowned knitter Susan Crawford. As part of the Style and Substance programme of events Susan worked with a group of knitters to explore patterns from the WW1 era. The picture shows Susan with her husband who is wearing a cardigan made by Susan in the style of his great uncle’s, Herbert Ogden, worn in WW1. The pattern is from a Red Cross book sent out during WW1.




Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Preston Postwoman

When war broke out in 1914 everybody was keen to start doing their bit. For the Post Office this meant sending out letters to every eligible employee encouraging them to enlist – joining the 11000 Post Office workers who had already signed up. This campaign was so successful that by December 1914 28000 staff had obliged.

However this left the Post Office at a bit of a loss, as within the first two years of war over a quarter of their workforce had been transferred to the trenches. The temporary workers which they drafted in included 35000 women, and one of those women was 34 year old Ellen Abley, who, although born in Yorkshire, was living near Fishergate Hill on Northcote Road at the outbreak of war.

Ellen started working as a postwoman, delivering letters on a usual ‘round.’ This was significant in a number of ways, despite the fact that women had been permitted to work in the Post Office in official capacities since 1870.

Before the war, women were only permitted to actually deliver post in rural areas, where there were no men available, and most commonly worked as clerks in individual post offices around the country. The special circumstances not only allowed women to put on a uniform and get out delivering letters, it also allowed women, including Ellen, to get around the Marriage Bar. Introduced in 1876, this forbade married women from working in established positions, and forced unmarried women to resign when they tied the knot. Ellen had married Edward Abley, a Borough Police Constable, in 1903, which meant she would not have been allowed to work for the Post Office in any position during peace time – the marriage ban was not lifted until 1946.

All of this serves to highlight the remarkable new territories being explored for and by women during the First World War. Ellen Abley was a wife and mother, but she also became a professional working woman, helping to keep the Post Office’s vital operations running smoothly during a time of need.

You can find out more about women in the First World War by visiting the Style and Substance exhibition, on display in the Harris Museum’s costume gallery.

Post written and researched by Emma Dooley


Thursday, July 23, 2015