Women, M&S and the War Effort

A look at the diverse roles of women in the First World War and a chance to find out how Marks & Spencer adapted to wartime challenges are two events from a new public programme at the University.

M&S staff during the Second World War


The free events form part of the University’s Spring into Summer learning-for-pleasure series, run by the Lifelong Learning Centre, aimed at adults of any age, taking place in June and July.  Also on offer is a range of nine six-week courses for the public on a wide variety of subjects, from creative writing to science for parents.

'Women and the First World War' takes place on Monday 16 June (6-8pm) in the Centenary Gallery of the University’s Parkinson Building.  Professor Alison Fell, who heads up the Legacies of War centenary project, will be joined by colleague Dr Kate Vigurs to look at the diverse roles carried out by women both at home and at the battlefront in the First World War.

The academics will introduce participants to key historical debates about the ways the war affected women’s lives, explore primary sources such as images, objects and personal writings and consider ways in which women’s roles in the war have been remembered – and forgotten – in the century since the war began.

'M&S and the War Effort' will be held at the Marks in Time exhibition at the M&S Company Archive on Tuesday 1 July. The event will give attendees the chance to find out how Marks & Spencer adapted to the challenges of the two world wars and how it helped on the home front.  From staff and stock shortages to utility clothing and the Blitz, the evening session (from 6pm-7.30pm) will take an insightful look at wartime Britain through the lens of the 130-year-old retailer.

The event will offer a talk from an M&S archivist as well as a guided tour of the exhibition, with particular focus on the wartime objects from the M&S Company Archive collection.

Tony Ellis, Interim Director of the University’s Lifelong Learning Centre, said: “The Spring into Summer programme is an important part of the University of Leeds’ engagement with the wider community – the University is not a closed campus of ivory towers.

“We are very proud of our partnership with Marks & Spencer and are similarly delighted at the chance to welcome members of the public for this range of daytime and evening events and courses.”

Katharine Carter, Archivist at the M&S Company Archive, said: “The Second World War is one of the strongest parts of our collection, featuring a range of materials.  From original utility clothing and guidelines, to imagery and staff magazines, we are able to gain real insights into the war effort and the impact on the home front.  We are looking forward to opening this part of the collection up to the public as part of this special event.”

For further details see the Lifelong Learning Centre's Spring into Summer webpages or contact Georgina Collins (36892).  The one-off events are free; the courses cost £36 per person (£18 for those in receipt of benefits). Booking in advance is required for all events.

Posted in: