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Category Archives: Work

Churchill’s Girls – From Dashing to Tragic

Churchill’s Girls – From Dashing to Tragic

I am in between scanners at present, so here is one Post I prepared earlier…

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill (30 November 1874 – 24 January 1965) was the Prime Minister of the UK for most of WWII, from 1940 to 1945 (and again from 1951 to 1955). He is often stated as being one of the greatest wartime leaders of the 20th century,  and his radio broadcasts help inspire the British people during the war.  His children also did their bit to help the war effort.

Churchill’s only son, Randolph, served with the 4th Queen’s Own Hussars and the SAS),  Eldest daughter Diana gained the rank of officer between 1939 and 1945 in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, middle daughter Sarah, between acting jobs, joined the WAAF and went on to interpret aerial photographs for British invasions.

Winston Churchill is accompanied by his daughter Sarah, Cairo, December 1943

Youngest daughter Mary worked for the Red Cross and the Women’s Voluntary Service from 1939 to 1941, and served with the Auxiliary Territorial Service in London, Belgium and Germany in mixed anti-aircraft batteries, rising to the rank of Junior Commander (equivalent to Captain). Mary also accompanied her father on several of his overseas journeys, including his post-VE trip to Potsdam, where he met with Harry S Truman and Joseph Stalin.

Churchill with daughter Mary at Potsdam Conference

This article from November 1940 shows how the girls captured the publics interest-

churchills dashing daughters

Unfortunately Diana suffered nervous disorders and in 1963, age 54, while working for a suicide prevention organisation, she committed suicide by taking an overdose of barbiturates.

Sarah is best known for her role in the film Royal Wedding (1951), with Fred Aistere, and she made about nine movies in total. Problems with alcohol led to her death in 1982 at the age of 67.


November 1950

Mary, on her marriage Lady Mary Soames, was the last surviving child of Sir Winston Churchill, and died in 2014 at the age of 91. She left a fortune of more than £22 million, in trust to her five children, and in December 2014, Sotheby’s London auctioned on behalf of her heirs, 255 items out of her collection, including paintings by and memorabilia attached to her father. Mary’s daughter, Emma Soames, has written a book about her mother, which you read about Here.


the tragic Churchills

November 1963



Hollywood’s War Work, 1942

Hollywood did it’s bit during WWII in raising much needed War Bond money.  Hoyts Theatres and Fox films had ‘buy a bond to get in’ film premières, which in November 1942 alone raised three and a half million pounds. Stars such as Gene Tierney, pictured below, sold ‘a billion dollars’ worth of bonds in September 1942, in 300 US Cities.


Other actors helped out in different ways.  In 1942 Hollywood workers themselves contributed 160,000 pounds to the Red Cross, and invested around 80,000 pounds a week in war savings – not bad for a little town of 33,000 people.

Actress Linda Darnell qualified as a nurses aid, and with her friend Ann Miller ran a day-nursery for mothers enaged in war work.  Here is Linda Darnell rolling bandages for the Red Cross.


More than 2000 of Hollywood’s workers were in the Armed services by the end of 1942, and Hollywood also make training films for Allies, Government propaganda movies and sent copies of movies to troops in remote locations.

Some stars gave their metal jewellery to scrap drives, and others, such as Cobina Wright, pictured below, did their bit for the ‘Dig for Victory ‘ campaign.


As many movie making technicians joined the service, some actors spent their free time learning a trade, in case manpower shortages meant that movies could not be made.  Here is Ann Corcoran using an Acetylene Torch.


Some glamour girls, such as Ginny Simms and Ann Jeffreys shown below,  simply helped out as hostesses in US Service Canteens.


Photos from PIX Magazine, December 5, 1942

1940s Factory Fashions

We know that during WWII women had to do their bit.  Not only at home, but by joining up or working in factories, such as those that produced uniforms, bombs, ammunition and even aircraft.  There were many propaganda posters urging women to get involved in factory work.


WWII propaganda poster for women to work        WWII propaganda poster for women to work

And for those already working, there were posters to encourage the right type of clothing.

WWII propaganda poster to encourage the right type of clothing       WWII propaganda poster to encourage the right type of clothing

Of course hair had to be tied back, or even better hidden under a scarf, Rosie riveter style.  Actress Veronica Lake even made a propaganda movie about tying back her hair for the war effort.  And overalls or siren suits were also worn.

   fashion for female workers during WWII

Simple, sturdy, and affordable shoes were needed.

Women at work on bomber, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.
Women at work on bomber, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.   Source

Low heeled Oxford shoes, sometimes with the two toned black and white or brown and white design or as above in two different materials, were popular, as were loafers (se below).  They were even worn with skirts,  often with low white socks.  They laced up and so supported the foot, making them ideal for everyday wear.  Low heeled Mary Jane style shoes were also a staple.  A single strap across the foot made them more secure than pumps, and chunky lowish heel had been common for several decades.  Leather was rationed during the war so new shoes were made of fabric, mesh and raffia.

fashion for female workers during WWII

Off duty women could wear sandals, pumps. wedges and peep-toe shoes, but these would not have been considered suitable for factory work.

fashion for female workers during WWII

Of course some women would have worn boots, much like those worn by men in uniform.

Oh, how they must have been dreaming of something like these:

 1940's Black and Acrylic Slingbacks, Size 5-5.5

Check out etsy for great vintage 40s  shoes, or go to Remix for an amazing range of vintage reproduction shoes to die for.

(Part of an article previously published at my other blog, Mid-Century Love)

Lady Margaret Ampthill and the Red Cross

Born lady Margaret Lyon in  1874, third daughter of the sixth Earl of Beauchamp, Margaret married the second Baron Ampthill in 1894.


Lord Ampthill as Knight of King Arthur’s Round Table and Lady Ampthill as a Lady-in-Waiting at the Court of King Arthur at the Devonshire House Ball, 2 July 1897. Via

In 1900 she was made a Lady of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, and in 1911 became a lady in waiting to Queen Mary, the lady of the bed-chamber, a position her elder sister had held from 1895.  In 1918 she became a Dame Grand Cross of the British Empire. her husband died in 1935, and during World War Two she became chairman of the War Prisoner’s section of the International Red Cross.


As well as carrying out its traditional activities for prisoners of war – such as visiting camps or setting up a central information agency on the prisoners, as in WWI, they organisation also helped civilians cope on a day-to-day basis with the disorganization resulting from the war, such as the famine in Greece and the food shortages on the Channel Islands. Most enemy nations in Western Europe allowed the Red Cross to carry out its work of supporting those who had been taken prisoner, but the same was not as true in the Pacific and Eastern European nations. At the Changi camp run by the Japanese in Singapore, on average, a POW received a fraction of one food parcel sent by the Red Cross in the three-and-a half years that the camp was open. They also received just one letter per year. The Red Cross was linked to the Geneva Conventions on how captured personnel should be treated and Japan had not signed up to this -attempts by the Red Cross to visit allied soldiers captured by the Japanese army were hampered by the Tokyo authorities’ lack of cooperation.  With over 5 million Prisoners of War during WWII, the Red Cross had a huge job.

Lady Ampthill was made a Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in 1946 for her work during WWII. She died in December 1957, aged 83.

Nancy Bird – Aviator


Nancy Bird, London, 1939 / by unknown photographer via

Nancy-Bird (Walton), (16 October 1915 – 13 January 2009) was a pioneering Australian aviator, the founder and patron of the Australian Women Pilots’ Association. She knew from a young age that she wanted to fly – and with a name like bird, why not?!

A pupil of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith at 18, she became a fully qualified pilot at the age of 19 –  the youngest Australian woman to gain a pilot’s licence.  Nancy bought her first aircraft, a de Havilland Gipsy Moth, in around 1923, and with her friend Peggy McKillop visited country fairs, giving joyrides to people who had never seen an aircraft before, let alone a female pilot.  Bird met Reverend Stanley Drummond while on the country circuit, and in 1935  they set up a flying medical service in outback New South Wales, reaching areas not covered by the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

During WWII she trained women pilots for the Royal Australian Air Force, although they never saw combat and were used mainly for ferrying empty planes, and sometimes cargo and passengers, around. 

In 1997 the National Trust of Australia declared her an Australian Living Treasure.  She died in January 2009, at the grand age of 93, despite being a pioneering aviator and living a decidedly dangerous and adventurous life.  What an inspiration! 

Australian Army Medical Women’s Service, 1942


Hospital Under Canvas, Northern Territory, 1942


From the Australian Women’s Weekly, 7 November 1942

Working War Time Women and Rosie the Riveter

Several American companies already had contracts with the government to produce war equipment for the Allies from 1939, and when the United States entered the war in 1942 war production had to increase even further in a short amount of time.  Auto-mobile factories were converted to build air-planes, shipyards were expanded, and new factories were built. These facilities needed workers, and as men were leaving for service, women were needed.


Now not only were minority and lower-class women working, as they had always done, but now white middle-class women were asked to step up. Only for the duration of the war of course.  During the Depression and before the war, most people were against women working because they saw it as women taking jobs from unemployed men. So now the government had to convince women that working outside the home was necessary – hence another  propaganda campaign – to sell the importance of the war effort and to lure women into working.

These wonderful photos from the Library of Congress on Flickr were also part of that campaign.


“Mrs. Doris Duke, who is 26 and a mother of one child, Corpus Christi, Texas. Mrs. Duke is a civil service worker in the Assembly and Repair dept. at the Navy Air Base. he she is seem reconditioning spark plugs.”


“Answering the nation’s need for womanpower, Mrs. Virginia Davis made arrangement for the care of her two children during the day and joined her husband at work in the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Both are employed under Civil Service in the Assembly and repair department. Mrs. Davis’ training will enable her to take the place of her husband should he be called by the armed service”


“Mrs. Virginia Davis, a riveter in the assembly and repair department of the Naval air base, supervises Chas. Potter, a NYA trainee from Michigan, Corpus Christi, Texas. After eight weeks of training he will go into civil service. Should he be inducted or enlist in the armed service, he will be valuable to mechanized units of the Army or Navy.”


“Oyida Peaks riveting as part of her NYA training to become a mechanic in the Assembly and Repair Department at the Naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas.”

The most popular and well know propaganda image for war time working women is probably ‘Rosie the Riveter’ –  first used in 1942 in a song of the same name written by Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb, and a national hit. The song portrays “Rosie” as a tireless assembly line worker, who is doing her part to help the American war effort.


Here is a real-life “Rosie the Riveter” operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville, Tennessee, working on an A-31 Vengeance dive bomber.


In 1942, Pittsburgh artist J. Howard Miller was hired by the Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee to create a series of posters for the war effort -one of these posters became the famous “We Can Do It!” image.


This poster was designed as a morale booster rather than a recruitment poster, and when it was rediscovered in the 1980’s it became associated with feminism, and often mistakenly called “Rosie The Riveter.”

On Memorial Day, May 29, 1943 Norman Rockwell’s image of “Rosie the Riveter” featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post – a strong woman taking her lunch break with a rivet gun on her lap and beneath her Penny loafer a copy of Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf.


If you look closely you an see that her lunch pail reads “Rosie”, and the public quickly recognized this to be “Rosie the Riveter” from the earlier song. Rockwell’s model was 19-year-old Mary Doyle, a telephone operator near where Rockwell lived in Vermont, not a riveter, but the image was so  popular that the magazine loaned it to the U.S. Treasury Department for the duration of the war, for use in war bond drives.

If you can find a copy, the 1984 movie ‘Swing Shift‘ with Goldie Hawn gives a great insight into these working women.

“Ferry” Pilots of the ATA – They Deliver the Goods to England, 1941

Atlantic pilots who “ferry” planes call it the safest job in the war.


By the summer of 1941, Jacqueline “Jackie” Cochran and Nancy Harkness Love independently submitted proposals to the U.S. Army Air Forces to use women pilots in non-combat missions,  to free male pilots for combat roles.  Cochran had flown in the MacRobertson Air Race in 1934, and in 1937 was the only woman to compete in the Bendix race.  She also worked with Amelia Earhart to open the race to women.  Harkness and her husband had their own Boston-based aviation company, Inter City Aviation, and she also flew as a test pilot of other airlines in the late 1930s.

Prior to Pearl Harbor, General Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, commander of the USAAF, had turned down both proposals, despite  lobbying by Eleanor Roosevelt.  As the US was not yet fighting in the war, Cochran went to England to volunteer to fly for the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA), which had been using female pilots since January 1940, and was starting to train new ones as well.   Cochran was the first American women to fly military aircraft, and other soon followed, flying Spitfires, Typhoons, Hudsons, Mitchells, Blenheims, Oxfords, Walruses, and Sea Otters -in non-combat roles, but in combat-like conditions.

Image  Image

Cochran returned to the United States in September 1942, just as the The Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) went into operation, with Mrs. Love in charge, and women began ferrying planes from factory to airfields.  Cochran had been promised command of any women’s flying organisation by Arnold, and demanded an explanation.  As the dcision couldn’t be reversed, he made Cochran the commander of the 319th Women’s Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) at the Municipal Airport (now Hobby Airport) in Houston, Texas.

In July 1943 the WAFS and the WFTD were combined to form the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), with Cochran in command.

Women’s War Work and Corset Care, October 1941

I just love this whole magazine page from October 1941 it shows some of the jobs women did during the war, and then has an ad for corsets and how to care for them. Can you imagine having to worry about your underwear while doing war work, caring for children and worrying about your partner faraway?


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