A private income, or independent means for a young woman in the years between 1910 and 1930 gave her the perfect escape route from the boredom of home, whist drives, garden parties or cleaning the church brasses.
Surprisingly enough, many of these young ladies opted to travel alone very far from home with seemingly very little parental restraint.They had little need of female emancipation; instead they had financial freedom. Armed with money, their choice to do as they pleased was extensive; and the ladies we listen to this week all lived unexpectedly exciting young lives:
"I went back to my headmistress after I had left school about a year and said, look, this isn't working out, mother and I aren't getting on at all well together and I really want to do something more than sit around at home..."
'Something more' turned out to be a stint alone in Budapest, working with a Hungarian family in the 1920s. One job led to another for the young lady from Outgate, near Hawkshead:
"Having taken a bite of the cherry I then got myself various jobs. I was a chauffeur-gardener to an old Quaker lady for about 18 months. And then I decided I really must get some qualifications so I went to the London College of Secretaries and did a secretarial course and I was never very good at typing or shorthand but it gave me an entree into jobs."
A series of chance encounters brought her to take up the cause of the miners during the depression years, and great fun was had with a girl friend running round Southern England in a small van, selling traditional Durham quilting done by the miners' wives to the rich and sympathetic. And if her story sounds more likely to be one of the 1980s, remember it was the 1920s, and eventually duty to the family brought her freedom to an abrupt halt:
"The change really came when my mother became ill and my father couldn't really cope on his own so I came back to help nurse her and she died eventually, and at the same time I met my husband.... and we got engaged and so we were married about six months after my mother died."
Some of the most dedicated voluntary work during the First World War was performed selflessly and fearlessly by young ladies - much of it by women of independent means, with no particular training, who were only able to give themselves for service abroad because they had a private income and no financial needs. With amazing courage and self-confidence, many of them were required to make their own way by train and boat over the Channel, paying their own fares and eventually buying their own uniforms. This lady was already working voluntarily when the call came to go to France:
"My father, after the War had been going on for some time, came across a friend of his whose daughter was in France, not a trained nurse but desperately short of help - couldn't I go and help them? And they pleaded and explained how we could help, and so away I went. They didn't want trained nurses but we had to wear uniform and we were under the hospital control.
"I couldn't even call myself a VAD because I had no training whatsoever and we were there for non-nursing jobs; all the odd jobs that have to be done behind the scenes... and we had to buy our khaki - we had to be in uniform which we paid for ourselves. And you took yourself over as best you could - and paid to get across."
The realities of trench warfare, bombings and mutilation must have been overwhelming for such a young girl, alone, and untrained. Her duties included everything from organising entertainment for the troops to helping to bury the dead. She was bombed at Etaples, comforted the shell-shocked, brought provisions for the camp kitchens from the French, manned the tea-urn during raids, and did every extraordinary job she was asked to do. Further voluntary work after the War took her back to the battlefields with bereaved relatives, and the service she gave others continued back in England helping the unemployed.
But there was one vital factor which gave her the freedom to choose her life of service - a father who provided for her future:
"...I had my own investment and I never needed anything....it was wonderful for me, I didn't have to worry about it because he made it possible for me to do these things, he always paid in the background while he was alive - I mean, when I went to London or anything, he knew that I was alright and he would see that I was; I had my own banking account, he made me do that and look after it. I couldn't have done it all without him. No, I couldn't."
Even for the most independent young women, both in spirit and means, the call back home to help a parent always took precedence over personal ambitions. No matter that one was having enormous fun, or a course was only half finished - one's duty to home and family had to prevail:
"I hadn't been trained to do anything, but I had decided, before I thought of being married, that I wanted to go as a missionary but I was told that I shouldn't go to a tropical climate, but only to a sub-tropical, so I had in the back of my mind to go to China. And I was in the middle of training to do this when my father became ill, he became paralysed, so I broke off what I was doing; I'd had a year training in a womens' settlement in Canning Town in London which was very good for me, I'm sure, I loved it. And then I was going to Edinburgh University to do a course there. Well, I never got to Edinburgh because my father became ill and I stayed at home to help my mother."