Noakes L (2011) From war service to domestic service: Servicewomen and the free passage scheme, 1919–1922. Twentieth Century British History. Vol. 22, No. 1, pp.1–27
Based on research conducted in the national and state archives in Britain and Australia, and in the Women’s Library, London, this article examines the migration of women from Britain to Australia and other Dominions in the aftermath of the First World War. The article developed out of work undertaken for the monograph Women in the British Army: War and the ‘Gentle Sex’ 1907–1948 (Oxford, 2006). While there had been some work on ex-servicemen as migrants, and on women who migrated under the subsequent Empire Settlement Act, little or no research had been carried out on ex-servicewomen migrants. By drawing attention to the United Kingdom’s apparent desire to be rid of its ex-servicewomen, Noakes' research engages in the ongoing debate regarding the extent to which the First World War ‘liberated’ women.
Primarily an investigation into state policy, the research interrogated policy-making as a gendered process in the nation's return to ‘normality’ after four years of warfare. It situates this within an existing body of historical research on the processes of decolonisation in the British Empire by demonstrating how, through refusing Britain’s ‘excess’ ex-servicewomen entry, the Dominions were beginning to ‘flex their muscles’ and formulate policies that were often in contravention of those emerging from London.
The research underpinning this article was supported by a British Academy Small Grant and conducted during a Visiting Research Fellowship to the History Department of Macquarie University, Australia. The findings have been presented, discussed and tested at seminars and conferences in Britain (Social History Society), the USA (North American Conference on British Studies) and Australia (Macquarie University History Seminar, University of Sydney). Revised and published as a commissioned article for BBC History Magazine ('Our excess girls'), Noakes' research was also featured in the BBC television series Empire (March 2012).