In many respects, war widowhood has changed a lot over the last two hundred years. Women’s roles in society have shifted considerably, and there have been landmark developments in how the state provides for war widows in the form of pensions and other benefits. On these pages, you can find out about what war widows’ lives were like in the past, including what help was available to them and the challenges they faced after the loss of their husbands.

Who Is a War Widow?

Who is a war widow? This may seem an unnecessary question. But who is classed as a war widow in the eyes of the government and who qualifies for the associated pension or benefits payments has changed considerably over the years. When we think of war widows, we usually imagine their husbands died […]

The Post-War Period

War Widows’ Pension continued to be taxed at 50% after the end of the Second World War in 1945. Members of Parliament raised the issue of widows’ pensions again and again, criticising both the low amount paid and its high taxation. But it was not until widows took matters into their own hands as a … Continue reading The Post-War Period

The World Wars

The outbreak of the First World War prompted the British government to introduce a national War Widows’ Pension scheme. All war widows were eligible, be they on-the-strength, off-the- strength, or widows of volunteers. Yet, the weekly payments made to them under this scheme were far too little to cover […]

The Victorian Period

With no universal pensions or benefits system in place, in the nineteenth century for many wives the loss of their life partner also meant the loss of their entire household income, or at the very least a significant portion of it. According to the Poor Law Amendment Act (1834), widows were entitled to outdoor relief … Continue reading The Victorian Period

War Widows’ Pension in the First World War

After her husband Alec was killed in action in May 1915, Mabel Beadsworth was one of the first women to receive a war widows’ pension. She was just 25 years of age and had two children under the age of five. A third child, Amy, was born in January 1916. However, less than a year later, rumours of Mabel’s ‘immoral’ behaviour reached […]

War Widows During the English Civil Wars

In October 1642, the Long Parliament took the unprecedented step of allowing the widows of its fallen servicemen the opportunity to claim regular state pensions, rather than letting them fall onto parish relief. This became an enormous commitment because 3% of the population died in England and Wales alone […]

Scottish Widows of the Thirty Years’ War

he role of Scottish officers and soldiers during the Thirty Years’ War has received considerable scholarly attention in the last two decades. Some 50,000 of them served in the anti-Habsburg alliance alone. It is a sobering point that the vast majority of these men, whether generals or private soldiers, lost their lives during service. […]

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