On this page you can find novels, autobiographies, paintings, adverts, poems, videos, songs, and newspaper articles that feature war widows. These materials give us a better idea of how war widows were perceived by society in different periods in history, and what their experiences may have been like.
If you click on an item, you will find a short discussion of its context and relevance as well as the item itself. Some of the material comes from the Imperial War Museums‘ collections. Where this is the case, we have provided the description given in the IMW’s catalogue as well as any relevant contextual notes of our own.
The library items are ordered according to their date of publication, with the newest items appearing at the top of the page, and the oldest at the bottom of the page.
In July 2015, memorial ceremonies across Britain marked the end of the Second World War seventy ago. According to the Imperial War Museum’s catalogue, the image below shows a widow of a Second World War serviceman. She is wearing his medals at the Victory and Freedom parade in Newbury, Berkshire.
The Falklands War lasted 74 days and claimed 907 casualties during this time. The British forces counted 255 among their dead, plus three female civilians from the Falklands. This image, according to the Imperial War Museum’s catalogue, shows Mrs Sarah Jones, the widow of Lieutenant Colonel “H” Jones VC, and her two sons as they […]
“Child Welfare” is a television broadcast by the Central Office of Information from 1962. It advertises the positive effects of new benefits on the wellbeing and security of a new generation of British children born after the war. The fourteen-minute programme explains the financial and practical resources available to mothers for the purpose of bringing […]
On 22 July 1960 the BBC World Service broadcast a programme called “The World of the Widow”. It was edited by Peter Marris, a sociologist who two years earlier had published Widows and their Families, one of the first studies on adults’ experiences of grief. “The World of the Widow” is based on this research. […]
This image from the Imperial War Museums’ collections shows, according to its catalogue description, Mrs Walker, the widow of Captain F J Walker CB, DSO, RN, ACE U-Boat Fighter, casting a wreath into the sea after the body of her husband had […]
Women’s employment was hotly debated during and after the wars. During the wars, their labour was needed to keep the country – and the war effort – functioning. But the majority of widows during and after the Second World War – with or without children – had to work to survive, not just because their […]
A striking portrait of villager Mrs Redmond, now a widow, who wears the medals that her late husband won during his service with the navy during the First World War. Four of her sons are serving in the navy, whilst a fifth is in the army. She fights […]
A widow of a civil servant seeks advice about her delayed pension from volunteer Mrs Wraight at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Croydon. Mrs Wraight was one of 12 volunteers working at […]
This photo from the Imperial War Museums’ collections shows Mussammat Jugri Begum, widow of Jemadar Rao Abdul Hafiz Khan, with her three-months-old daughter. Her husband died on 6 April 1944 […]
This article from the Manchester Guardian records a debate that took place in the House of Commons on 14 April 1938. Labour MPs questioned the administration of pensions, particularly to ex-servicemen […]
War widows often faced severe financial hardship as well as having to deal with the grief of losing their husband. Sadly, the interwar period sees a significant number of reports of war widows’ suicides. […]
“Widows Are Wonderful” is a song that gained fame across Britain as part of an exceedingly successful musical called “Yes, Uncle!”, which premiered at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre in December 1917. […]
Ethel M. Dell’s The Bars of Iron (1916) is a melodramatic romance published during the First World War. Public expressions of mourning were swiftly becoming in appropriate because of the huge number of casualties. Unlike in the Victorian period, women were no longer […]
This photograph from the Imperial War Museums’ collections shows Mrs Marion Hughes-Onslow of Laggan, Ballantrae. She was the widow of Major Denzil Hughes-Onslow of Balkissock, who was killed in action in the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
“Female workers of Palmers Shipbuilding Company Limited who typify the many women employed for cleaning and scrubbing on board the ships at Hebburn-on-Tyne. They have all done this work for over three years and are valuable members of the firm. They are also wives, dependents and widows of members of the British armed forces overseas.” Imperial […]
War widows’ pensions – from the armed forced or from the state – have always been intensely debated in British politics. A state-funded war widows’ pensions scheme was not introduced in Britain until the First World War, so the debate reproduced below predates any coherent approach to war widows’ pensions. The debate raises important questions […]
This postcard was published by the Women’s Suffrage Atelier (London) in 1909. The fight for women’s right to vote was in full swing, and the postcard illustrated just how badly English laws protected women, and particularly widows with children. The postcard highlighted that, when it came to childcare, it was a woman’s legal duty to […]
The Crimean War (1853-56) was subject to much public criticism because of the way in which some of its battles were conducted and the amount of British soldiers that lost their lives lost during the conflict, especially in disastrous events such as the Charge of the Light Brigade (20 October 1854). John Harris’s painting highlights the suffering of […]
Rev. Richard Cobbold published Mary Anne Wellington: The Soldier’s Daughter, Wife and Widow (1846) in the hope of raising funds for his subject: a widow who had accompanied her husband on all his postings, and who, after his death, had fallen on […]
In this letter to the Times newspaper, a correspondent criticises the discontinuation of widows’ pensions for boatswains, gunners, and carpenters. “Nauticus”, as he calls himself, goes as far as to suggest that the current regulations regarding widows’ pensions in Navy amount to a war against its servicemen. These issues were […]
Because there was no coherent support system for war widows during the Victorian period, many well-meaning individuals set out to establish charitable organisations to help. In this letter, a correspondent calls for support for his longstanding plan to establish a Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Widows’ Fund. […]