Photos of Women’s War Work 1914 – 1919

Hot on the heels of the Bedford Lemere and Roger Fenton photograph albums becoming available via The Library Catalogue (and Luna) we are pleased to announce that an album of photographs by Arthur Reavil detailing Women’s War Work 1914 – 1919 will now be accessible on Library Search too.

This album contains 164 photographs which portray a significant and detailed account of women’s working lives during the First World War.  The images show women fulfilling roles traditionally associated with men, such as Signal Lamp Cleaners, Bus Mechanics, Police Women and Oxy-acetylene welders.  The outfits and uniforms are meticulously recorded, sometimes with surprising detail.  For example the London Bridge Porter who is smartly dressed in a uniform resembling that of a housemaid, but quite strangely, she is wearing small heels in spite of the physical nature the job!

Bill Posters at the Metropolitan Railway, VPH.5.50
Bill Posters at the Metropolitan Railway, VPH.5.50

There is a sequence of images from rural settings showing The Women’s Land Army. These photos show women working on farms hay baling, feeding calves, milking, hop picking and working as foresters.  In more urban surrounds there are a group of photographs where women are shown delivering cakes, driving and maintaining the fleet of vehicles for J.Lyons Catering Company.

Women's Forestry Section - Handling Pit Props VPH.5.148
Women’s Forestry Section – Handling Pit Props VPH.5.148

A large proportion of the album is dedicated to those women working on the Railways in a variety of roles. These included ticket collectors, porters and my favourite a ‘travelling library attendant’.  The index details the specific location and Railway Company, so it is clear to see that women were utilised in these rail roles across the country.

Shell Makers from North Cheshire VPH.5.104
Shell Makers from North Cheshire VPH.5.104

There is limited information about Arthur Reavil, the photographer, to be found.  It is known that his photographic subject of choice was locomotives, he gave a lecture to the Royal Photographic Society in November 1926 entitled ‘The Photography of locomotives and trains in motion’,  so maybe it is unsurprising that so many of these images are based around trains and railways.  We can only surmise what his views would have been on having women taking on these railway roles.  The National Railway Museum holds a significant collection of Reavil’s negatives, featuring French, German, Dutch and Swiss locomotives from the 1920s.

Additional blog posts will announce when further material from the Visual Collections photography collection is available, including photographs by Francis Frith of Manchester, but meanwhile, follow Library Tammy on IG for updates on what goes on in the Visual Collections office here are The John Rylands Library.

0 comments on “Photos of Women’s War Work 1914 – 1919

Leave a Reply