Kate Adie wants recognition for North East women's role in First World War

Sunderland-born broadcaster highlights "forgotten" work on the home front as nation remembers WWI

Kate Adie
Kate Adie

Sunderland-born journalist Kate Adie says the role played by women in the First World War is often forgotten - and it’s time we honoured some of our own.

On Monday, the former war correspondent was at Glasgow Cathedral for the remembrance service commemorating the centenary of the start of the First World War as the Commonwealth Games’ host city held a special service for commonwealth leaders.

There she gave a reading highlighting the vital work of women during the conflict, a subject close to her heart and also the focus of the talk she gave at a war-theme event during last month’s Sunderland Airshow.

The veteran BBC reporter gave a vivid account of womens remarkable behind-the-scenes efforts during the Great War in her book Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One.

”We couldn’t have won the war if it wasn’t for the women who went into the munitions, engineering and factories,” said Adie. “The war changed women’s lives forever.

“Before the war, Sir Armstrong’s engineering factories [on Tyneside] had no women employed, except maybe two or three clerks.

“This is the kind of position they were starting from but by the end of the war they proved they were capable.

“But then they found themselves ‘tipped out of jobs unceremoniously almost overnight’.

“But they had proved in the North East and around the country they could do them so they were determined to get better jobs and more pay.”

She uncovered lots of individual stories during research for her book at Newcastle Central Library, adding: “So many women from the First World War have been forgotten”.

She also found tales of female football teams on the rise. Women in sport had been previously unheard of but the Journal and sister paper the Chronicle reported it seriously, she said.

“There was a Blyth Spartans ladies team which I’ve done a TV documentary about and interviewed the grand-daughter of their terrific striker and top goal-scorer.

“Many women played matches to raise much-needed funds for their menfolk returning home wounded from the war, rather like the work of Help For Heroes today.

“I spent as lot of time reading the Journal and there were pages and pages every day, both official news on how the war was going and a huge amount of information about a very different kind of life. They’re full of interesting stuff; an invaluable archive.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
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