Although only men were expected to actively engage in the fighting, the contribution of women in taking an active part in the war was huge. A short article in the Marylebone Record in March 1915 recognised this fact. Women filled the jobs of men who joined up, whether road sweeping, car driving or manufacturing. Others trained as nurses to support the wounded, serving as VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurses both abroad and at home. The hospitals cited above all relied heavily on VAD support and the Marylebone War Supply Depot was started and run by a veteran nurse Ethel McCaul.
The Women’s Emergency Corps opened a centre at the Old Bedford College at 8-9 York Place, now 108 Baker Street. It was founded by Eveline Haverfield and aimed at organising women’s voluntary service to assist the Government in ameliorating the suffering created by war. To this end they created new trades and provided industrial training. One of their schemes was to use the French Chapel in Carton Street from November 1914 to “enable unemployed English girls to learn toymaking, glove making and other things that need to be made in Germany and Austria”. In May 1915, they were given permission to use 122 Baker Street (now McDonalds) to help Belgian refugees and provide meals.
The British Women’s Workers Organisation was begun by a Miss Abby Meehan, a journalist. It opened a depot at 200 Marylebone Road and later moved to Dorset Square. It motivated and mobilised women in the production of items such as lampshades, toys, ladies bags and sachets and was particularly known for the huge range of flags that its workers produced – all sizes and nationalities. The local newspaper boasted that they were sent all over the world but was also at pains to point out that the Organisation helped women get into many types of employment. Organisations and businesses recruited women where formerly the jobs were done by men. The Portman Estate’s employment of two women in May 1915 to help with rent collection was specifically recorded in the minute books.