Press release

Giving young people the vote of confidence by celebrating World War One's inspirational women

New educational programme inviting schools to discover inspirational women from the First World War, celebrate their achievements and identify current trailblazing women.

WW1's women

A new educational programme inviting schools across the country to discover inspirational women from the First World War, celebrate their achievements and identify current trailblazing women was launched today (6 February 2018), one hundred years on from some women being given the vote for the first time.

The educational programme - Trailblazers: World War One’s Inspirational Women will:

  • empower students through public presentation workshops to become confident public speakers and active citizens within their local community
  • encourage secondary schools to connect with their local communities through a range of activities, including leading an assembly in a local primary school on inspirational women

As a legacy of the programme, each year, participating schools will nominate an Inspirational Women Ambassador to promote gender equality and female empowerment within their school community.

Communities Minister Heather Wheeler said:

This year marks an important national moment, 100 years since the end of the First World War as well as celebrating the centenary of some women in the UK being granted the right to vote.

The programme will sit at the heart of these commemorations and is a unique opportunity for schools to mark the centenary of the Armistice and celebrate women’s achievements in the First World War and the present day.

Further information

To mark the centenary of the Armistice and celebrate women’s achievements in the First World War and the present day the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are funding Big Ideas Company to lead nationwide school and community engagement projects in 2018. For more details see: www.bigideascompany.org

Among the inspirational women whose achievements are to be promoted through the project are:

Evelyn Miles (1867-1939)

In 1917, Evelyn Miles became the first woman to be employed by Birmingham City Police. Between 1914-1916, 700 male police officers left the city to serve in the First World War. At the time, many people believed that maintaining order and enforcing the law was beyond the capabilities of a woman. Miles thought differently, and wrote to the Chief Constable of Birmingham City Police requesting consideration for the role of Assistant Matron.

Her role as assistant matron required her to look after female prisoners and ensure they were being treated fairly by the judicial system. On 1 July 1918 she was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and put in sole charge of a unit. Evelyn Miles worked as a police officer in the city until she retired in 1939 at the age of 72.

Edith Cavell (1865-1915)

Edith Cavell was a famous medical reformer and nursing teacher before the war and had trained as a nurse in London and Belgium.

Cavell was in England when the war broke out, but decided to return to Brussels to continue her work as a nurse and teacher. When Cavell arrived in Brussels, the city was already in the control of the German army.

Now working behind enemy lines, Cavell continued to treat every patient, whether German, British or Belgian with the same level of care. German officials however suspected that Cavell was acting as a spy, and passing information back to the British army.

Cavell was not a spy but – along with twenty others living in occupied Belgium – she was helping allied soldiers and civilians to escape from the Belgian capital into Holland. This ensured they would not be taken as prisoners of war by German forces. Around two hundred soldiers escaped using this underground network of safe houses.

Edith Cavell confessed to having helped British and Allied soldiers and was executed on 12 October 1915.

Dorothie Feilding (1889-1935)

When war broke out, Dorothie Feilding decided to serve with the Munro Ambulance Corps in Belgium, driving wounded soldiers to hospitals. Three of her sisters also volunteered as nurses and ambulance drivers.

Feilding was responsible for driving one of the earliest motor ambulances, which replaced the earlier ambulances, pulled by horses. As the war progressed, the driving conditions became increasingly difficult. This was very dangerous work, and often placed Feilding directly in the line of fire.

Dorothie Feilding was awarded numerous medals including the Military Medal for Bravery (UK), the Order of Leopold II (Belgium) and the Croix de Guerre (Bronze Star; France).

In 1917, she left the Western Front and returned to London where she continued to work as an ambulance driver, driving wounded soldiers to hospitals across the capital.

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Published 6 February 2018