'All The Nice Girls' - women in men's roles on stage 1914-1918

Two women dressed in male first world war uniform at family event
Two members of Behind the Lines give children at the family picnic a flavour of the show

Heritage Grants

FORDINGBRIDGE, Dorset, South West
Behind The Lines
First World War LGBT project looking at the lives of women working on stage in male roles.

Ella Shields, Hetty King, Vesta Tilley and Gwen Farrar were women who, like their many off stage counterparts, took on traditionally male roles in the First World War. Dressing as soldiers, sailors or young men about town some of their work involved recruitment but quickly changed to take a more satirical and critical look at the way the war was progressing. 

Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney met each other in 1915 while performing for British troops in France and Belgium as part of Lena Ashwell's Troop. They became household names during the war, as well as living together openly. Project volunteers researched and recorded the work of these women who were challenging entrenched sexual and gender stereotypes.

A group of mostly LGBT volunteers produced a play featuring the songs and costumes of the time. They took the story of Gwen and Norah to community audiences and LGBT festivals nationally and their play was award nominated. The group also produced information online, school materials and talks.

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