Manxwomen of the Great War

“One of the outstanding features of the great and terrible war… will be the manner in which the women of this country have come to the front. How splendidly they have fulfilled the mission”

Receiver General JT Cowell, 1917

Women and Work

With the impact of the Great War on the island’s tourism industry, many of the women who had owned boarding houses or worked in hotels found themselves out of work, so it was important for them to find alternative ways of earning a living. Unlike the rest of Britain, where women were needed to fill the gaps left by men, the Isle of Man had to find a way to provide employment for women whose livelihoods had been lost.

Despite the labour shortages in the Isle of Man’s agricultural industry there was no Manx Women’s Land Army. Manx traditions strongly encouraged women to work indoors, although some travelled across to work on farms in England.

To help women who were struggling to earn, the Manx Industries Association set up a textile factory in Derby Castle Theatre to make socks and shirts for the War Office.


From early in the war, some Manxwomen travelled across to work in munitions factories in the UK. The hours were long and the working conditions were uncomfortable and often dangerous, with chemical, explosives and occasional Zeppelin attacks.

After 1916, several hundred women worked in the Vickers Factory, making airships in hangars set up in the ballrooms Palace and Derby Castle, as well as Laxey Glen Restaurant and Onchan Head Pavilion. They had to be under 24 years of age and spent a month training in Barrow-in-Furness.


During the Great War, Noble’s Hospital was used to treat wounded servicemen and internees. A number of Manx nurses also travelled to work in war hospitals in various locations.

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