The National Registration Act 1915
Information about more than 2000 women from the Cirencester area
During the recent work undertaken by the Cirencester volunteer group researching a collection of Cirencester solicitors documents, files relating to women from the town and surrounding villages were discovered. They have now been catalogued as D181/box 96612/1-8 and D181/96613/1-8
The 2409 individual forms were part of the 29 million filled in by both men and women aged between 15 and 65 in August 1915 as a result of the National Registration Act of July 1915.
That these documents have survived is quite rare as the authorities ordered that they be destroyed in 1921, but they were not kept in one place, so thankfully some did survive.
The information written on the forms has now been transcribed by David Drinkwater, and is available to download from this page. The details recorded are very interesting in a number of ways. The women were required to give their age, marital status, the number of children they had and their occupation.
The age range of 15-65 also shows how the role of women had evolved over the years as those older women were most likely to record their occupation as "Household Duties", whereas younger women were often teachers and domestic servants of various descriptions. The form also asked if you were able or willing to undertake any other skilled work. As the war was on many said they were willing to do anything they could to help the war effort, though there were also a surprising number who wrote "no" to this question.
One of the other interesting facts recorded on the form by the authorities was the code the occupation was given (in the range 1-30). This was done to collect statistics about the numbers of women who were in employment and either single or married. These forms were maintained until 1919 so for some women who got married between 1915 and 1919 not only their status changed; so did their coding. Household duties, for example was number 28 for single women changed to no. 30 when then were married.
For those single women who were working and then got married the forms generally show that they had to give up their employment and undertake household duties instead.
Overall these surviving records show us a snapshot of both the how women saw themselves to be of value in society in 1915 and the attitude the authorities had towards them at that time.