Exhibitions

World War One at LSE: a common cause

Introduction

When the First World War began, the LSE had been established for two decades as a metropolitan centre for research and teaching in the social sciences, with a tradition of public engagement. Although the School was characteristically divided over the rights and wrongs of the conflict, hundreds of alumni did military service (as well as academics such as Clement Attlee, Hugh Dalton, and R. H. Tawney) and 46 students and staff would be killed in action [for a card index of those who served, see LSE Small Deposits/117/1-3]. Many more - often women - helped the war effort behind the lines or in Britain, including in government.

The items in this online exhibition come from the LSE archives and from the Women's Library, recently relocated to the British Library of Political and Economic Science. They showcase these collections' value for researchers, and will hold the attention of anyone seeking to recapture the mood of 1914-18. They display some initial reactions, for example by the Dunbartonshire diarist Eunice Guthrie Murray, who foresaw that the struggle would be long. Whereas Professor Sir Herbert Warren from Oxford asserted Britain's superiority over Germany in penning martial verse, Christabel Pankhurst and Millicent Garrett Fawcett - respectively from the radical and the mainstream branches of the women's suffrage movement - gave reasoned defences of Britain's participation, which a French pamphlet none the less berated as too little and too late. Conversely the International Congress of Women made a bold attempt to mediate, while E. D. Morel, the founder of the Union of Democratic Control, condemned the secret diplomacy that in his view had committed Britain without consultation. The battle of ideas was not fought just with prose, however, and the disturbing images of atrocities by the Dutch caricaturist Louis Raemaekers, commissioned for British propaganda, expressed the conviction held by many that Germany was an outlaw from civilized standards.

Other items here shed light on wartime conditions and on the conflict's impact on those caught up in it. Their coverage ranges from anxieties raised by prostitution on the Western Front, to case histories of the symptoms of shell shock. A rare selection illustrates women's war work in Germany; other photographs show British women driving ambulances, painting stations, making soldiers' bread, and laying wreaths on battlefield graves. The Scottish Women's Hospital organization, in which Vera Holme did service, worked in Macedonia, feeding Serbian children and carrying out surgical operations. Closer to home, the Misses Scott cared for Belgian refugees in Tunbridge Wells, and an album presented in gratitude figures in the collection. Its paintings and verse show how poetry served - far more than it would today - to vent the feelings of a generation too often misrepresented as tight-lipped.

Professor David Stevenson - International History Department

7EGM/1/2: Diary of Eunice Guthrie Murray, volume 2, 1908-1914

Eunice G Murray was a suffragist and author who joined the Women's Freedom League with her mother and sister prior to the start of the war, and by 1913 had become president of the Scottish wing. She discusses national and local war events extensively in her diary; the extract shown covers the very start of the war and gives a useful insight of 'ordinary' people's reactions to, and thoughts on, the unfolding events:

'Sat 1st Aug - Germany has declared war on Russia.

Sunday 2nd - Mr Maxwell preached an excellent sermon imploring everyone to work & pray for peace. Several of our neighbours consider it unpatriotic as they consider we are already at war. "Save your enemies" said the Master, but love still seems far from the human heart. Helen & J E Allen are here. They are very angry with Asquith making any preparations for war & for the war talk. Certainly if the Liberal party stand for anything it is for peace versus war, but if Belgium is attacked I suppose we shall have no alternative but to fight - misery - misery.'

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D(4)/D64: The outbreak of war, 1914

This is Edmund Morel's account of the reasons for the outbreak of the conflict. This speech was given to the Birkenhead Liberal Association, a constituency for which he was the prospective candidate and later resigned. The highlighted section laments the lack of a clear declaration of British intent during the lead-up to the conflict, a point that has featured in the historiography on the origins of the conflict. It would also be a feature of the build up to the outbreak of the second world war in 1939. A more detailed study of Morel's views can be undertaken using Morel's papers, which are held by LSE.

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D(7)/D72: America and the war, 1914

Christabel Pankhurst's speech at Carnegie Hall in New York was a well-reasoned defence of her support for the war. She viewed the conflict as a fight to protect the freedoms that the suffragette movement was striving to achieve. She was aware, even at this early stage of the conflict, that Parliament would have to acknowledge the role of women, a role that would be significantly altered by the conflict.

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7VJH/2/2/02: Women's Volunteer Reserve certificate awarded to Vera Holme, 1 October 1914

On 1st October 1914 Vera 'Jack' Holme was awarded the rank of Major in the First London Battalion of the Women's Volunteer Reserve. The Reserve was an offshoot of the Women's Emergency Corps, a group founded by Holme's close friend and probably same-sex partner Evelina Haverfield with the aim of supporting Emmeline Pankhurst's call for women to support the British war effort. One of the certificate's signatories is Honorary Colonel Mrs W M Charlesworth.

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OY1915/2: Het toppunt der beschaving : [cartoons of the First World War], 1914

The cartoons of Louis Raemaekers portray some of the horrors of the conflict. They form part of the propaganda war that took place during the conflict. These two cartoons represent the harvest of death that the conflict generated and what life was like for the men serving in the trenches. Raemaekers' work was recently commented on by Dr Heather Jones in the first episode of the BBC Radio 4 programme, The Great War of Words.

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2SWH/3/8/33: Photograph of a female surgical operation at Kraguievatz, 1915

Included in a photograph album documenting the Serbian work of a hospital unit of Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH), this photograph depicts a surgical operation undertaken by a female surgeon with a principally female medical team.

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D(4)/279: Poetry and War, 1915

This pamphlet traces the relationship between war and poetry from the time of the Battle of Agincourt through to the first world war. It cites examples of poetry from a number of conflicts during this period.

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D(42)/C45: L'effort anglais : lettres échangées entre un soldat français et un de ses amis anglais en juin, juillet et aoüt 1915, 1915

The letter is a commentary of British, though referred to as English, involvement in the conflict. It details how the country was slow to prepare for war and did not take steps to help prevent the war from occurring despite the warning signs before the outbreak. The letter goes on to describes the efforts of British troops at Marnes and Ypres but laments the size of the force that has been sent to France and urges the recipient to campaign for the introduction of conscription in order to boost the fighting forces. The writer concludes by noting that Germany would need to be encircled after the end of the war to prevent a future conflict.

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The above summary is based upon a summarised translation of the work by Kathleen Mosselmans.

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WILPF/2009/20/1: Manifesto issued by Envoys of the International Congress of Women at the Hague to the Governments of Europe, and the President of the United States, 15 October 1915

Instigated by the suffragist Aletta Jacobs, the International Congress of Women of April 1915 was attended by over 1,200 delegates from 12 countries including many members of the Woman's Peace Party. The Congress formed an important part of the emergent women's peace movement, witnessing the foundation of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The aim of the congress was to adopt resolutions promoting the end of the war through pacifism and the political enfranchisement of women.

After the Congress ended, two delegations of women travelled across Europe in order to present this manifesto to heads of state outlining the Congress' resolutions and calling for a conference of neutral nations through which peace could be mediated. Signatories included delegates Aletta Jacobs (Holland), Chrystal Macmillan (Great Britain), Rosika Schwimmer (Austro-Hungary), Emily G Balch (United States) and Jane Addams (United States).

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7MGF/E/4/31: Extract from speech notes by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, 1916

This extract is taken from notes produced for a speech on 'Present Parliamentary Position', given by suffragist Millicent Garrett Fawcett at Cambridge on 3 October 1916. Fawcett was President of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). This extract references the NUWSS's decision in 1914 to suspend its campaigning activities in order to support the war effort - a controversial decision that precipitated the defection of most of the Executive and many other members. NUWSS' political activism did not completely end, however, and suffrage agitation resumed in earnest in 1916 with the foundation of the Consultative Committee of Constitutional Women's Suffrage Societies. The aim of the Committee was to petition the government for the inclusion of women's suffrage in the Representation of the People Bill, passed as law in 1918.

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7VJH/5/3/01: Photograph portrait of Vera 'Jack' Holme in Scottish Women's Hospitals Unit uniform, c.1916

Vera Louise 'Jack' Holme was an actress and suffragette who, prior to the First World War, had joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and was friends with figures such as the Pankhursts. On the outbreak of war Holme enlisted in the transport unit of Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH), based in Serbia and Russia, where she was responsible for horses and trucks. During this time she was taken prisoner of war along with other members of the SWH, and held in Austria for several months. This photograph shows her wearing her SWH uniform.

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TWL.2004.366a: Photograph of women painting Hammersmith Station, c.1916

One of a number of Official British Photographs taken of women's work on the Home Front and passed by the Ministry of Information for transmission abroad, this photograph has the inscription 'K.1242. WOMANS WORK. The woman painter at work on the exterior of the district railway station at Hammersmith' and illustrates the varied work undertaken by women.

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TWL.2004.445: Photograph of an x-ray ambulance on the Western Front, c.1916

This photograph shows the X-ray ambulance of the NUWSS Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service (SWH) London Unit. Note that the ambulance driver is female, an unusual role for women at this point in history.

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2SWH/3/4/06: Scottish Women's Hospitals report on relief efforts in Serbia, 25 March 1917

Miss A D Kerr was a member of the 'American Unit' of Scottish Women's Hospitals for Foreign Service, an organisation founded to provide frontline female medical units in war-torn Corsica, France, Malta, Romania, Russia, Salonika and Serbia. Her report describes her unit's efforts to provide food and medical treatment to the children and sick of the ruined Serbian village of Brod.

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3AMS/B/07/03: Report of an interview with an army chaplain regarding prostitution on the Front, c.1917

The Association for Moral and Social Hygiene was founded in 1915 through the amalgamation of the Ladies' National Association and the British Continental and General Federation for Abolition of Government Regulation of Prostitution. One of its stated aims was to secure the suppression and punishment of third party profiteering from prostitution, for example brothel-keeping; this concern is reflected in this extract from an interview with an anonymous army chaplain on the Western Front. The interview describes the activities of soldiers visiting brothels in France that, while under the control of French authorities, were 'tolerated' by the British military.

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TWL.2004.441: Photograph of WAAC members placing wreaths on war graves, c.1917

This poignant photograph is inscribed 'Women gardeners of the British Women's Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) placing wreaths on a grave in France'. The WAAC had been founded with the aim of freeing up experienced soldiers for active service on the frontline after heavy losses in 1916; on joining the WAAC women consequently began working in a number of auxiliary roles previously barred to them, including transportation, administration, printing, cookery and, in this case, cemetery gardening.

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TWL.2004.525: Photograph of German munition factory workers, 1917

This is one of several photographs from The Women's Library @ LSE's museum collections that give a fascinating insight into enemy war work, a somewhat under-represented subject in British museum and archive collections. The photograph shows German workers filling shell cases in a munitions factory that employed men and women in a variety of different jobs.

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TWL.2004.396: Photograph of WAAC members making bread for British troops on the Western Front, c.1917

The inscription of this interesting photograph reads 'Women of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) making bread for the British troops in France; a store place for loaves ready to be sent to the troops.'

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SELIGMAN/10/1: Shell shock case history of Private George Thomas, 1917-1919

This case history is taken from a volume of notes made by the physician and ethnologist Charles Seligman during his work with shell-shocked soldiers in Maghull hospital's specialist neurological unit, which accepted severe or protracted cases from April 1916 onwards. The volume provides a valuable first-hand insight into the psychological damage some soldiers suffered as a consequence of active service. Each case history includes the patient's name and age, regiment, brief life history, account of military service and details of sessions with Seligman up until the point they were discharged from service.

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7KDC/K/05/04: Insignia of the Fifth Class of the Order of Saint Sava, conferred on Kathleen D'Olier Courtney, 1918

This decorated metal and enamel medal was conferred on the suffragist and peace campaigner Kathleen D'Olier Courtney in 1918 by the kings of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes for her work with the Serbian Relief Fund during the first world war. The Order of St. Sava was discontinued in 1921.

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7ASC/5/2/1b: Illustrated presentation album from Belgian refugees, 1913-1929

In the early days of the war over a million Belgians fled the threat of German armies, with approximately 250,000 arriving in Britain - the largest refugee movement in the country's history. Among those who helped the refugees were Amelia Scott, suffragist social worker and author who was on the Tunbridge Wells Belgian Refugees Committee, and her sister Louise. This album, titled '1914 - 1915 - 1916 - Mesdemoiselles Scott Souvenir de Reconnaissance de la Colonie Belge de Tunbridge Wells', was presented to the sisters by the refugees they helped personally, and displays the depth of their gratitude.

Each page in this record has an illustration, testimonial or a 'remembrance' from the refugees, some written directly into the album and others pasted in. These include poems praising Britain, such as the 'Hommage à la Grande Bretagne!', and the accomplished musical composition 'En Ardenne. Esquisse Pastorale' for a solo instrument and piano, written by the published composer Frédéric Bonzon.

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Previous exhibitions

Current exhibition

  • World War One @ LSE

    WW1 @ LSE: a common cause

    WW1 @ LSE: a common cause draws on the Library's collections to feature a selection of digital images related to the First World War.