Kate Adie should now be renamed Kate Hay-die, Queen of the Festival. She was here to talk about the home front in World War One, but her views were very much informed by her time as a war correspondent in the Balkans, where many of the first British women fought on the front line. These women – like Flora Sands – are remembered and celebrated in Serbia today though all but forgotten at home.
Kate tried to get into the mindset of the minds of people entering the war in 1914 in ‘a world run by men for men’. The suffragettes had made their mark but not achieved their goal, and it was still legitimate for an MP to claim that ‘making decisions may overheat their brains to the point at which they may boil.’ But the war simply could not have been won without the contribution of women. They not only ran hospitals, joined the army corps, worked in factories and put up posters, they also – horror of horrors – wore trousers. They proved what they could do: but attitudes did not catch up, and there was still serious concern about what women should do.
Television doesn’t do justice to Kate’s facial expressions, ability to perform or comic timing and the audience could happily have sat listening for another hour. Interestingly, Adie doesn’t want statues, memorials or monuments to our lost heroines – instead she argued for endowments made in their name to train women in order that they can become living tributes. I hope there is already a Kate Adie scholarship bringing up the next generation of thoughtful and passionate journalists.