A History of the Ministry of Information, 1939-46

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1. Is it generally realised that all women must register with their age group even if they are unlikely to be put into war work?

15% believed they would not have to register, and 17% were uncertain whether or not they should do so. The impression that registration is not compulsory was much more common among the older age groups, and was generally associated with the woman’s conviction that she was exempt. Class and occupational differences exist.

Three-quarters of all women hoped to be exempt. The intensity of hope varied in the different occupational groups; the managerial and professional group were almost convinced of exemption, and the domestic servant and independent group were least hopeful.

Generally, the reasons given for the expectation of exemption were foreseen in the regulations, although there were exceptions - for instance, 10% of clerical workers who hope to be exempted on the grounds of family ties.

74% of those who had not yet registered did not know the next step after registration; they had not made themselves familiar with any regulation not bearing on their own immediate interests.

(Evidence: pages 7-10)

2. Do women feel that registration procedure is curt and official, or that facilities should be available on registration days for discussing the possibilities of war work?

19% of those who had not registered expressed the wish to discuss problems registration day. Women already working were more eager to ask questions than those not working.

The most common questions in order of popularity were:

Particulars of exemption.

Details of essential work in locality.

Stating preferences.

Possibilities of part-time work.

Of the women already registered, half had been able to have their queries answered on registration day.

(Evidence: pages 10-11)

3. Do women generally understand there are likely to be individual differences in the period between registration and interview? Do they understand that not all women will be called to an interview immediately after registration?

The overwhelming majority did not expect to be called up immediately. Only 5% expected an immediate call-up.

(Evidence: page 11-12)

4. Is there any feeling that the interviewing accommodation is in some places not suitable?

Almost 50% of the women who had registered thought the accommodation good. On 46% it had left no impression, and 5% complained mainly about lack of privacy and cold, unfriendly rooms. The problem of privacy is more important to the A and B class than the C and D class.

(Evidence: pages 12)

5. Are women in general satisfied that the interview procedure is fair, and that interviewing officers are doing their best to help them within the framework of their instructions?

One-sixth of the sample were not satisfied with the interviewing officer.

(Evidence: page 13)

6. Do women feel that in general the exchanges note special qualifications and place them in the war jobs to which they are best fitted? (Only women who had been interviewed were asked this question.)

49% of the women thought that they have special qualifications. But only 16% out of the 49% (22 out of 138) thought that their qualifications had been taken into account.

33% of women in the Sample who had been interviewed expressed preference for one or the other kind of war work available, and three-quarters of these found that their preferences were considered.

(Evidence: pages 13-14)

7. How many women are prepared to take war work, either whole or part-time? Have those, who are prepared, done anything concrete to get war work? Do women in the non-registration age groups who come to offer their services voluntarily, feel they are well received at the exchanges and that everything is done to place them in employment?

The second part of the question could not be answered. When collecting material for the first part, we found that 7% of the older women were prepared to do whole-time work, and 42% part-time work. Of this 49%, less than 6% had taken concrete steps to obtain work. 1.5% of the 6% taking steps had obtained work, 1.7% were still waiting to hear, and the rest had given up.

(Evidence: pages 14-16)

8. What do women think about being tied to their employers under the Essential Works Order? Does this militate against recruitment, or does it help by producing a feeling of greater stabilisation of employment? Do women appreciate that release may be granted if their domestic circumstances change?

Is there any feeling that other negative factors are operating against the recruitment of women, e.g. any feeling that there is differentiation against married women in some of the insurance schemes? Or in income tax?

The questions were formulated to cover a wide variety of replies and to discover the general difficulties women experience when actually entering, or intending to enter, war work.

It was found that unfavourable discrimination against women in insurance schemes was no hindrance. Income tax was of very little importance; only 2% of the women mentioned it, and then only as a subsidiary reason. The condition of being tied to one employer was not of great importance, and only 3% talked about it. This result is certainly significant. A list of possible disadvantages of war work were read out to the informant, and she could choose as many as she liked.

The difficulties which really mattered were care of home; children; and health.

(Evidence: pages 16-18)

9. Do they feel that many women are successfully evading conscription, and what do they think about it? In particular, is there any grievance against wives of servicemen, civil servants or local Government employees, or any feeling that the idle rich are getting off with voluntary or soft options?

One-fifth of the women believe that possibilities exist of evading national service. There is not any special grievance against any of the groups mentioned above. Many appeared reluctant to attach blame to members of the group to which they themselves belonged. Blame is put on several other groups, to which the individual does not belong at the moment, although she might have belonged to it, or will belong to it in future. Elderly married women blame young girls who marry and have babies. Hard-working girls and girls in jobs blame girls who stay at home. Workers’ wives blame officers’ wives.

(Evidence: pages 18-20)

10. What is the general view about private domestic service? Is there strong feeling about the large households? Is it thought that domestic service in small households, such as the one-maid-household where man and wife are in war jobs, or where there are a number of children, is in itself a form of national service?

Opinion on this question is equally divided between those who do not believe that any form of domestic service is of national importance and those who think it can be of national importance. Clear class differences exist; 64% of the A and B class consider certain forms of domestic service of importance, and 42% of the C and D group.

There is not a strong opposition to the large house; in fact an equal number of women in the A and B, and C and D classes allow for “somebody to do the heavy cleaning”.

Otherwise, the households considered in greatest need of domestic help are: first, those where people cannot do for themselves; secondly, the household with many children; thirdly, households where the employers are doing war work; and fourthly boarding houses and doctors’ houses

(Evidence: pages 20)

11. What do women feel about the Control of Employment Order for women in the 20-30 age group?

46% of the women agree.

27% agree conditionally.

13% have no opinion.

14% do not agree.

No group differences exist on this question.

(Evidence: pages 21)

12. Are women in favour of conscription for the women’s auxiliary services, and the freer use of directions under the defence regulations to do specific jobs?

97% of all women in all groups agree emphatically that the conscription of women is a necessary and just measure.

(Evidence: page 21-22)


“Have you road the half-page announcement of the Ministry of Labour in the papers, which was headed “How the Call Up Affects the Women of Britain”? Was there anything you did not understand? Have you still got it?”

67% of those who had registered had read the half-page announcement, and 55% of those who had not yet registered. It had been real more by A and B class women than by C and D class, and also more by younger than by older women.

28% had kept the paper. (This was a month after appearance). 12% thought they had learned something new from the announcement.

(Evidence: pages 22)

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