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canary girl

Canary Girls poster for online talk which happened in 2022.

Canary Girls Online Talk

By Events

Thursday 9th June 2022

Canary Girls – the forgotten heroines of WW1 and WW2


Learn about the important role that munitions workers had in both World Wars & the Canary Girls project which campagins for a memorial to them in the FREE online talk.


Book your place and learn more here>

The talk will :-

• Introduce a Canary Girls project, started in Cumbria, campaigning for a memorial to the munitions workers, mainly women, of both World Wars in the National Memorial Arboretum.

• Explain what the women were actually doing in the factories in both world wars; where the nickname Canary Girls came from and the risks they faced daily.

• Look at the precedents they set in challenging gender roles and social class in fashion, sport, factory design and working conditions for women.

• Consider why they are called the forgotten heroines and finally, look at how they have been and are being remembered.

The talk will be given by Valerie Welti. After over 30 years as a teacher in London, in her retirement in Cumbria she has taken on various voluntary roles. One of which, with the Canary Girls Memorial Project, has reignited her interest in history.


Women’s work in World War One

By Collections blog

“Surely, never before in modern history can women have lived a life so completely parallel to that of the regular army.  The girls who take up this work sacrifice almost as much as the men who enlist…it is a barrack life.” 

From ‘The Cordite Makers’ by Rebecca West, an article written in 1916 after her visit to HM Factory Gretna.

Today is International Women’s Day and to commemorate that, we thought we would share some photographs of women working during World War One.  12,000 women worked at HM Factory Gretna (The Devil’s Porridge Museum has this Factory as its main focus) and they did various tasks to make this Factory operational.

If you would like to know more about women’s experiences of life and work at HM Factory Gretna, you might be interested in this booklet (available from the Museum’s online shop):

Lives of Ten Gretna Girls booklet


Working in the bakery, thousands of loaves of bread were baked every day.


Working in one of the Factory canteens.


Issuing items in the Central Stores.


Working on electric trains to transport explosive material throughout the Factory site (which was nine miles long and two miles wide).

Working with chemicals within the Factory to produce cordite (for munitions).

Transporting gun cotton within the Factory.


Laundry workers. Women also worked in the Factory hostels as domestic servants and matrons.

The largest Women’s Police Force in Britain at that time existed at the Factory.

Machine working.

Working in the Factory Power Station.

Woodworking – making boxes to store and transport the cordite (to shell filling factories).

Above: sorting and drying cordite.

Above: mixing acids within the Factory.

Nurses. The Factory had several different medical facilities for its workers. There was at least one female doctor.

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