Although the First World War had improved the lives of many women by opening up employment opportunities, for others it caused unforeseen difficulties. The Military Service Act passed in March 1916 had imposed conscription on all single men between the ages of 18 and 41 across the country except in Ireland, and two months later a second act had extended conscription to married men barring certain professions such as teachers and clergymen. In many households women were left on their own to tackle tasks generally allocated to men. In the first week of February 1917, Mrs Armstrong and her daughter Jess put down a carpet, put up cupboards and carried heavy furniture in and out of the house. They like many others did not feel empowered by war but merely regarded it as an inevitable evil which demanded sacrifices from men and women alike.
Monday 29 January
Did some tidying etc, & did some accounts. Muz & Tom went down the town. I helped Heppie to bring down some furniture etc. After lunch, we put down the carpet in Ione’s room, & helped Heppie to put up the cupboard. A letter came from Ione by post, written on Thursday. She is at Etaples, & says the work is frightfully hard. After tea went down to the post office with Heppie. Algie has got extension of leave, & they think they will come down here on Wednesday. Sorted newspapers all evening, Heppie put a lovely fire in my room, so we didn’t go to bed till about 12-30.
Thank you so much for your letter, darling old Pat, saying you will pay all the expenses if we go away for a bit, but you mustn’t do that. We were to have gone to Kitty Baird’s today, but Muz has got a cold, so I think it would be better for her not to travel for a few days, till she shakes if off a bit. Zooie wants us all to go up to Cantreyn too, but going to Abbot Hill1 will be just as good really, any kind of change will be the same. I enclose a letter I got from Reenie last night. I wonder if your photographs are alright? They sent nine front face & three side face ones. But we are wondering if you ordered as many front face ones, as the others are so much nicer. Reenie has got one side one, & Muz sent one to Lenaghan from you. She also sent the three of Reenie, so as they can see all the different ones together, & get a better idea. I hope she sends two to Poppy, as it will make all the difference to people seeing it for the first time, & he will show it to all the people round. I asked her to, so I hope she does. I heard from Jimmy yesterday, he said he had seen you, & that he had seen the photographs! He expects to be getting back sometime soon, so Zooie will be over anytime. I must fly to catch the post. Heaps of love, Pat darling.
Your loving Jess.
Tuesday 30 January
Worked at the newspapers for a bit, then helped Heppie to put up the cupboard in Ione’s room. After lunch Muz & I went down the town & did a lot of shopping. We got a man to come & take away the furniture, that we took out of Ione’s room, to the auction rooms. Wrote, & then did papers again, so didn’t go to bed till about 12-30.
Wednesday 31 January
Left out silver, & laid the table, did the flowers & got things ready etc, then Mr Ectors came, he is going over to see Ione on Monday. After lunch got tea ready etc, then tidied some of my room, & then got dressed in case Algie & Kitty came. Tom went to be photographed this morning, & then went to bed feeling sick. Muz wrote letters. Algie arrived at about six, he left Kitty at the St Clements to lie down, as she has had flu, & been in bed, & she only got up, to come down here. Algie stayed till seven. We had dinner in the smoking room, then gave out things2 etc & went to bed at about 12. There was quite thick snow today but much warmer. Mrs Battiscombe came round this morning, for a few minutes.
Thursday 1 February
Left out things for lunch etc, & got tea ready. Then Muz & I went round to the Hotel to get Algie & Kitty but Kitty had only just got up, so Algie came down the town with us, & then we went back to her, & sat there for a bit, then Algie walked back with us. She wasn’t feeling well enough to come for lunch, but they came over afterwards & stayed for tea. Mrs B-W came to call, & Colonel Holmes & Mr — came later, they are in the Sussex. It snowed a bit, & the rest still on the ground, but it is much warmer.
Friday 2 February
Got tea ready etc. Then Algie came round for us, & we went down the town & then down to the Harbour & back by the front. Then went in to get Kitty, & went out on the front again. They were coming back for lunch, but Kitty was tired, so they didn’t, but they came round afterwards, & stayed for tea, & a man in the Sussex came too. Then we changed, & went round to dine with them & then sat in their room for a bit, & then went to the theatre, “Razzle-Dazzle”,3 it was very good. Then we walked home. I gave out things etc, & we went to bed at about 12-30.
Saturday 3 February
Algie and Dusky
Gave out things etc, & got things ready, then went round for Algie & Kitty, & walked about on the Front, then they came back here for lunch, & we talked till nearly tea time, & then they went back, for Kitty to rest. We had tea early, & then Muz & I went to York House4 & Manor Court,5 & then went to the town, to shop, & Muz had her hair washed, then we got some fruit & brought it to Kitty. We had dinner in the smoking room, & went to bed at about 11-30.
Sunday 4 February
Muz & I went to early service. Algie & Kitty were coming too, but she had a bad headache so stayed in bed all day. I got things ready for lunch etc, & then followed Muz & Tom in to church, & went out on the Front afterwards. Algie had met them at the church, to say he would meet us afterwards, but we missed him, so went to the hotel, & sat & talked to him for a bit. After lunch Muz & I had a bath, then Algie came round, but went before tea. He goes tomorrow by the early train, & goes over by Southampton. I wrote letters. We had dinner in the smoking room, & went to bed at about 11. We got a letter from Ione this morning, she is still at Etaples, & very comfy in a little hotel, with a sitting room. She wants to stay there now instead of Boulogne.
Abbot’s Hill was a school at Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, founded by Mrs Armstrong’s cousins Alice, Katrine and Mary Baird ⇑
The Armstrong family were contributing to the war effort by providing food to soldiers residing in Folkestone ⇑
A revue by Albert de Courville, which had had its London premiere on 19 June 1916 ⇑
York House in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War ⇑
Manor Court in Folkestone was a nursing home which had been turned into a hospital at the start of the First World War ⇑