Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
John_Hartley

Promiscuous WAACs?

Recommended Posts

John_Hartley

In "Home Front", Ian Beckett asserts that "Munitionettes also earned the same kind of reputation for promiscuity as the WAAC".

No evidence is provided to support this claim that either group of women were promiscuous and I wonder where this view came came from. If true that it was believed to be so, then I could only guess that, in both cases, the women were working outside of the then social norms for their employment, mixing closely with men and, as such, "must be up for it" (apologies for the crude nature of my comment but I couldnt think of a better wording).

Is there any evidence around to supprt Beckett's claim?

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Iain

could it just be that men and women were doing what comes naturally????...but then again it sounds better from an "Artistic bent" to sensationalize what people have been doing when being involved in highly dangerous employment ( i.e munitions and being on the recieving end of Munitions)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
peterhogg

It takes two to tango. I suspect there would be as much "promiscuity" on the part of men as women, but the women are given the label, unfairly in my view. I suppose the view might have been "they were asking for it", and of course, so were the men. I suspect the label was not infrequently used by men who were told "no".

But I do agree that when women took on a more active role in services like munitions and nursing, women were perceived as being more assertive, though this was more a product of having more responsibility and being more prominent in the workforce.

All that aside, it would have been awesome for the guys..... :thumbsup:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sue Light

There is evidence to show that this claim is incorrect. Owing to widespread rumours in the press, a committee was set up in 1918, and produced a ten page document of its findings:

Report of the Commission of Enquiry appointed by the Minister of Labour to enquire into the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in France (1918)

They include a breakdown of figures showing a very tiny percentage of pregnancies among the women, and to quote a couple of relevant paragraphs which follow:

'We consider that these figures are in themselves a refutation of the current slanders which, naturally, have caused considerable alarm and distress among the friends and relations of women already enrolled and a very detrimental effect on recruiting. We also wish to point out the pain and indignation caused among members of the Corps returning home on leave when confronted by these allegations...

...In conclusion we desire to repeat our belief that the vague charges of immoral conduct on a large scale brought against the W.A.A.C. in France rest on no foundation in fact. They are disproved in the first place by the figures given in paragraph 4, and our personal observations of the conditions under which some of the girls were living and working in no sense indicated a troublesome or undesirable state of affairs.'

If women were sexually active, which undoubtedly some were, it couldn't have been that many, as taking into account the crudity of contraception at the time the pregnancy figures would have been higher. It's so easy to continue the libel ninety years on!

Sue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John_Hartley

Many thanks, Sue.

Your quote seems to confirm Beckett's use of "reputation" - in the sense that it appears to be reputed that......

And it also confirms that rumour and gossip were not accurate.

John

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Liz in Eastbourne

But it doesn't confirm Beckett's use of the word 'earned', which is unfortunate, in the sentence you quoted.

Liz

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sue Light

I hadn't read the whole report until today, but it's extremely interesting. I'll type it out and put it on the web over the next few days just for general interest.

Sue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John_Hartley

A heads-up when you've done that, please, Sue.

I wonder if Women's Land Army women - or, indeed, other organised groups of women - also got the same tag.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sue Light

WW2 saw the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) women commonly referred to as 'Officers' Groundsheets' so it was probably a fairly universal (mis)representation of women over decades. I suspect that the Land Army and Forestry women were not in such obvious contact with men during their work (except for Farmer Brown's three sons who must have had a wow of a time :huh: )

I'll put a link to the report on this thread when it's viewable.

Sue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Moonraker

I believe that there was also speculation (almost entirely unfounded) about the morals of British nurses serving overseas.Comments on the behaviour of any particular group of women need to be seen in the general context of ia loosening of inhibitions in wartime. As is remarked in The Gentlemen of the Party, A. G. Street's factual novel of the Fovant area (west of Salisbury) in wartime, , 'girls were at a premium, and many of them loved too well, only to find when trouble came that their lovers were overseas'. One of the book's characters remarks that 'half the [village] 'oomen to-day be hoors … there's one thing what 'ave got cheaper. An' that's 'oomen. They do vling it at 'ee, wi out waitin' to be asked. Dirty bitches.' Street himself wrote "the newspapers might print articles telling how splendid the girls were, and in many cases these articles might be justified. But in any camp district during that hectic period of history, 1914 to 1918, the older men and women knew that the girls, both native-borne and war-imported, were anything but splendid."

Moonraker

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sue Light

I believe that there was also speculation (almost entirely unfounded) about the morals of British nurses serving overseas.

I've searched hard to find evidence of 'loose morals' among nurses in France, and it ain't easy, though I've certainly got the names and addresses of a few who got pregnant if anyone wants to send them hate mail or tracts from the Bible :ph34r: I include a section in one of my talks on that aspect of their 'service' and have to say it's usually the most popular part with the audience!

Sue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
ianw

I think there was a political aspect to this with the impugning of women's morals designed to also deter them from continuing their designs on men's jobs and the vote.

As Harry Enfield's character said :-

"Women, know your place!"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
RobL

I believe with WAAC's and VAD's, if they wanted to go 'walking out' with a soldier/officer, they had to be escorted at all times by one other woman to make sure nothing untoward happened - can anyone confirm this for me?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Alan Tucker

Sue did you do anything with the report. I would be interested to see a copy. Just before I logged on and found this thread I had read that one of the Commission was Julia Varley who has Birmingham/\Black Country connections as a trade unionist. In June 1918 she spoke on the subject at a factory gate meeting at the Austin,Longbridge, Birmingham. On 'slanders on the women of the WAAC'/

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sue Light

Sue did you do anything with the report.

Alan

No, not between 7.03 p.m. this evening and now :lol: but I will, as soon as my typing fingers wake up and finish the household chores tomorrow!!

And yes, Julia Varley's name is on the bottom, together with:

Lucy A. E. Deane Streatfield (Chairman)

Mary Carlin

Violet Markham (Hon. Secretary)

Muriel Ritson

Will type as quickly as possible - I promise.

Sue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sue Light

I believe with WAAC's and VAD's, if they wanted to go 'walking out' with a soldier/officer, they had to be escorted at all times by one other woman to make sure nothing untoward happened - can anyone confirm this for me?

No, it's a myth, spread particularly by Canadian historians (tongue firmly in cheek and head in bunker). It was not thought particularly desirable for them to fraternize, but of course many of them did, without too many problems And along the way a great number of them managed to get engaged, married and pregnant, hopefully in that order, presumably not watched over at all times by a third party.

Sue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Alan Tucker

Thanks Sue

I was expecting a miracle!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
John_Hartley

(except for Farmer Brown's three sons who must have had a wow of a time :huh: )

I wouldnt be sure even about that. Personal accounts I've read (at IWM & Liddle) suggest the WLA women were working so hard and for such long hours that, ahem, social activities were very minimal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
auchonvillerssomme

The question of promiscuity is interesting but what would you do with the answer? Yes I would make an assumption some women were promiscuious. the uniformed services do to a point reflect and exagerate the times and given the closeness and shared experiences would, on occassion, lead to men and women (or men and men or women and women) seeking comfort or just enjoyment. Bennet wasn't lying, he talks about reputation not a fact. I worked side by side with QA's and they suffered the indignity of the acronym being changed to Quick And Ready And Never Caught, some were promiscuous, most weren't, but it has never mattered in the eyes of those who enjoy a good sex story.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Alan Tucker

Hope it is not too late for Sue but I have found the Commission's report via a google search.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sue Light

Type, type, type ... type, type, type ... cup of tea, yawn, type, type type ...

No problem Alan - I'm half-way through and will finish it and get it on the website today, as in that form it makes it very much easier if anyone wants to copy, cut and paste etc.

And of course, being a woman I was born to type :thumbsup:

Sue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest

. cup of tea

And of course, being a woman I was born to type

Sue

Yes, and cut out the tea, you don't have time for that. Harumph!

Mike

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
royalredcross

It's all part and parcel of the attitudes of the time. (But see Austin Mitchell MP recently !!) Women were stepping outside their perceived roles and needed to be put down.

Where ever men and women were serving together these kind of rumours and slanders arise. The infant WRAF suffered the same thing about their drivers at Hurst Park depot. Helen Gwynne-VBaughan has something to say about it in Service with the Army.

NGG

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sue Light

Yes, and cut out the tea, you don't have time for that. Harumph!

Sorry, delayed by copious amounts of tea, a trip to the shops, baking biscuits ...

Here's the web page with the report. Apologies for any typos of the type not picked up by a spell-check.

Report of Committee of Enquiry into WAAC in France

Sue

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...