UCL News


UCL in the News: How Two Million Women Survived Without Men after the First World War

9 September 2007

The slaughter of a generation of young men in the first world war left a generation of young women without their normal chance of marriage and motherhood.

What this generation of women made of their diminished lives, and how the rest of the population regarded them, are the questions that Virginia Nicholson's pioneering book [Singled Out'] confronts. …

Nicholson's book centres, however, on women who refused to be overwhelmed by grief and struck out in new directions. One of her heroines is Gertrude Caton-Thompson, the distinguished archeologist. The love of her life, a hussar officer, had been killed, and, like many of the bereaved, she felt at first that it was a treachery to him even to breathe and eat. But after the war she enrolled for classes at UCL, learnt Arabic and studied African prehistory. She braved leopards, fleas, fevers, swamps and crocodiles to excavate Neolithic sites in Malta, South Africa, Arabia and Egypt - where she camped out in a tomb with a family of cobras. …

John Carey, 'The Sunday Times'