Meet the war women who broke the mould at Durham event

Louise Jordan, drawn in the style of a woman during the First World War.
Louise Jordan, drawn in the style of a woman during the First World War.
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A woman who disguised herself as a soldier, female footballers banned by the FA, smugglers, inventors and factory workers are among the inspirational women being celebrated in Durham this month.

No Petticoats Here is a unique musical tribute to the courageous women of the First World War, who challenged mainstream stereotypes.

Singer-songwriter Louise Jordon will tell their stories through a special concert on Sunday, August 14, staged at Durham University’s Palace Green Library – home of the exhibition; Somme 1916: From Durham to the Western Front.

Winchester-based Louise has been researching the stories of these extraordinary women from across the UK and their part in the First World War.

The composer has encapsulated her findings in a collection of songs, diary extracts, group-sung choruses, and anecdotes that bring the stories to life for audiences.

No Petticoats Here includes tales of the Hampshire smuggler Lovey Warne and Scottish doctor and suffragette Dr Elsie Inglis, among others.

It also follows Dorothy Lawrence – an aspiring war reporter who posed as a male soldier using corsets and stolen uniforms to get access to the front lines.

The concert shines a light on Dick, Kerr Ladies FC, the munitions factory women’s football team that threatened the men’s game so much the FA banned women’s football in 1921, and features an alternative version of Sing a Song of Sixpence, which commemorates soldiers in the war.

As part of a national tour, Louise brings the concert to Durham to tie in with Somme 1916.

Louise said: “No Petticoats Here is not a finished project. I constantly come across women from this period who inspire and intrigue me.

“While the stories in the show are from across the UK, this will be a great chance for me to find out more about some of the inspirational women of the First World War from County Durham.”

The Somme 1916 exhibition features a County Durham heroine of its own – Kate Maxey – a woman akin to some of the characters in No Petticoats Here.

The Spennymoor-born physician was severely wounded in 1918 while working in northern France.

Somme 1916 follows Kate’s journey to France in October 1914, and the recognition she received in the Military Medal and Royal Red Cross Medal.

Dr Keith Bartlett, Director of Culture at Durham University, added: “To bring No Petticoats Here to the Palace Green Library is a wonderful chance for our visitors to delve even further into the individual stories of inspirational women from the First World War.

“Somme 1916 is about shining a light on the men and women of County Durham who had their lives shaken by the battle and the war.”

l Entry to the Sunday, August 14, concert at 6pm (£12.50) also includes exclusive after-hours access to the Somme 1916 exhibition between 5pm and 6pm, plus a glass of wine. Booking is essential at www.dur.ac.uk