Role of Spalding women in war discussed in 1917

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A meeting was held in Spalding one hundred years ago to form a Women’s Farm Labour Committee for the district.

Prompted by the Board of Agriculture, it would organise volunteer women labour on the land, to help cope with the “keen and serious shortage of labour”.

At that time women were in fact “extensively employed” to labour on the land, but it was felt more could be drawn from classes “other than the working class”.

The meeting heard that the movement was not intended to interfere with the existing women labour or supersede it.

However, during the absence of the men at war it was up to women of all classes to do their share of the work of the nation.

They heard: “This war has done away with the foolish idea that it is infra dig for women of certain classes to soil their hands by doing useful work.”

The Hon Mrs F McLaren was present and said she had seen women’s war work, in a large hospital entirely staffed and controlled by women, and in munition works in which women “who 12 months ago knew nothing about mechanical work”, were now in control.

She said: “In every sphere women are replacing men, and the culminating touch is surely the call for women for service in France.”

Mrs W S Royce risked shocking some by suggesting that “mistresses with two or three maids to attend to their every want” should spare them during the busy seasons on the land.

She had made enquiries and at that time there were 392 domestic servants in Spalding and district.

At the same time an “agricultural innovation” had been brought about by Mr Robert Cooke, of Spalding, who farmed at Baston Fen – a female threshing team, “a departure in farming never heard of lately”.