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“The female excess”: the ‘problem’ of too many single women after World War One

By February 9th, 2020 No Comments
Gretna girls in World War One

The Devil’s Porridge Museum’s main focus is on HM Factory Gretna, the greatest factory on earth in World War One.  It employed 30,000 people in the production of cordite (aka the devil’s porridge).  12,000 of these workers were women.

women who worked at hm factory gretna

A display within the Museum.

The majority of female workers were single and young.  We know that some women married while they working at Gretna and there were married women and those who had been widowed due to the War working at the Factory but the majority of the girls were probably affected by the post-War shortage of men.  The ‘lost generation’ i.e. the young men who died in the War meant that a lot of women remained unmarried and single women were perceived as a ‘problem’.

This article from the Times Newspaper in 1920 (published recently in their archive section), makes the point clear.  One cannot help but think of the 12,000 ‘Gretna Girls’.  They did so much to help win the War and it continue to impact on their lives in the decades to come.

1920s girl and the elusive male

This poem, written during the War by one of the female workers sums up how many of the girls may have felt: they were doing their duty, waiting for the boys to come home.  Sadly, many of the boys never did return and the course of the girls’ lives did not run in the way they had anticipated.

bravo gretna poem

If you would like to know more about the Lives of some of the Gretna Girls who made munitions at HM Factory Gretna in World War One, you might like this booklet (available from our online shop):

Lives of Ten Gretna Girls booklet

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