“Our Excess Girls”: women after the First World War

After the First World War, the government, with strong support from the media, encouraged thousands of women to quit Britain for a new life in the colonies. Lucy Noakes explains why so many were deemed surplus to requirements

Hard labour: a woman tarring and flinting in Oxford Street, central London, 1919. (Getty Images) 

This article was first published in the March 2012 issue of BBC History Magazine 

In 1923 the Australian Farmers and Grazers Association sponsored a leaflet calling for the emigration of “large numbers of girls from Great Britain” to Australia where, after spending the voyage out learning “the making of beds, cleaning of glassware and polishing of silver,” they would be placed in “well chosen homes” in the rural districts of New South Wales.

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