“The Women were marvellous”
: To what extent were the contributions of radical women activists significant in the No-Conscription Fellowship’s ability to maintain a stance of opposition to the First World War?

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study concerns the war resistance activities of groups of women who worked for the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF or Fellowship), a pacifist organisation that operated on mainland Britain during the First World War. It examines how women’s contributions to war resistance, enabled this organisation to sustain its position of opposition to the war, and the government’s policy of conscription.
The contributions by these women to the persistence of the Fellowship’s war resistance, were not fairly acknowledged by their contemporaries at the time, or by historians since. This study uses collective biography to analyse the significance of their contributions to the maintenance of war resistance and goes on to consider how the history of the NCF might be modified, if their contributions were included in the narrative of that organisation, and thereby, that of war resistance in Britain.
In undertaking such a task of recovery, Joan Scott’s work on women and their invisibility in history, has been employed, alongside a gendered perspective, when examining the available sources. Evidence of women’s involvement in war resistance has been recovered from a range of collections which have included, the Catherine Marshall papers, relevant documents at the Friends Library, a repository for sources that relate to pacifism, The National Archives and the NCF’s newspaper, The Tribunal. Marshall’s papers have proved to be a fruitful source of evidence for her own prodigious contribution to the Fellowship’s war resistance, as well as revealing the presence of several previously unknown or obscured women to the work of the NCF. The documents that relate to the work of the Conscientious Objectors Information Board, (COIB), an organisation founded by Marshall and used to assist the political activism of the NCF, which she organised, have proved to be a rich resource for the discovery of women whose contribution to war resistance has been overlooked. The Tribunal has been a fount of evidence throughout the study, as a source which publicised the various war resisting activities of the women involved with the NCF and the anti-war movement (AWM).
During analysis of the research findings there has been some reflection on the nature of war resistance taken by women during the First World War and how this might enhance an understanding of women’s involvement in war resistance activities.
Date of AwardSep 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester

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