Ok, I got the idea for my novel after hearing about some elderly ladies’ magazine’s short story competition, where they wanted people to submit historical stories and were offering £1000 as prize money. Well, a grand is a grand, so I set about racking my brains for a historical setting for my story. I decided upon the early 1900s, as I had written my A-Level History coursework on the economic and social position of women at the turn of the twentieth century (many moons ago) and felt like I remembered enough about the period. Then I started researching suffragettes and suffragists and somewhere I read that when World War One broke out, the suffragette movement was sort of put on hold. I then started thinking about what did these women do during the war? Did they lose that political zeal? Were they resentful or patriotic, and so forth. So I decided to write about a young suffragette and her role during the war. I’ve discovered that there isn’t much written about the Great War from the ordinary woman back home’s point of view, so it’ll be breaking some rarely trodden ground. Anyhow, I fell sick with the flu (in the middle of July, ridiculous I know!) and the short story never got sent to the women’s magazine. But my novel was born.
I have decided to focus the story on two sisters, Esther and Katy Fletcher (though ‘Katy’ might become ‘Emily’, I’ve not decided yet), who during the war get jobs at a munitions factory in Leeds. Esther, the elder sister, was a suffragette before the war, though not a ‘famous’ one (I’m trying to decide what social class the family are, so if she is working class, she wouldn’t really be in a position to speak at meetings or take part in and organise campaigns, like the Pankhursts), and is enjoying the freedom that has opened up to her now that most of the men are away fighting. Katy/Emily is the younger sister, who idolises her sister and follows wherever she goes, but as she grows up, she begins to find her own identity. There is a reclusive young ex-soldier, Stephen, who lives with his elderly aunt near to the Fletchers and who befriends Katy/Emily. At the moment, his story is that he was wounded in an accident during training, so never got to France, and was so embarrassed and ashamed that he has basically locked himself away.
So right now, I am researching the suffragette movement and also women’s roles at home during World War One. If anyone knows any good books/websites, please let me know!!
The picture above is a picture of women munitions workers in 1915. I got it from a website (I think it was one about the history of Leeds), so hope I’m not breaching copyright!