IN the Imperial War Museum hangs a painting Called Women’s Canteen at the Phoenix Works in Bradford.

It was by Flora Lion, a war artist, and shows female munition workers in good spirits queueing in the the work’s canteen, a wartime innovation. Two women are arm in arm and another in blue overalls carries a mug.

The Phoenix works were owned by Phoenix Dynamos Manufacturing Company of Hubert Street on Leeds Road. In 1895 it was manufacturing arc lamps and electrical instruments. By 1900 it was producing small motors and dynamos for driving machinery, particularly for the textile industry. When the First World War started it turned to making large motors, turbines and turbo-generators for the Admiralty and War Office. It also produced millions of shells and machine tools for sea planes and flying boats.

Flora also painted workers in the Leeds factory where wooden flying boats were made. Both paintings were completed in 1918, by which time the Ministry of Information which had commissioned them had been wound up. The IWM had taken over the MOI’s artists scheme, but had little money for new works so refused to accept these paintings, offered at £150 a piece. Flora was bitterly disappointed but a patron stepped in, bought the paintings and donated them to the museum in 1927.

Flora was born in London on December 3, 1878, of Jewish and Anglo-French parents. She studied at St John’s Wood Art School in 1894 then the Royal Academy and the Julian Academy. She became recognised for her portraits and landscapes. In 1915 she married Ralph Amato, a journalist and artist. Realising she had more talent, he took her surname, unusual for that time, and became her secretary and press officer.

Flora was commissioned by the Ministry of Information and painted factory scenes in Bradford and Leeds. After the war she focussed on portraits. One was of the young Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, who became the wife of King George VI and mother of our present Queen. Flora Lion had a distinguished career; her portraits hung in the National Portrait Gallery. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement and in 1936 painted Flora Drummond, a leader of the Women’s Social and Political Union. She died in 1958 and is remembered for her portrayal of factory life in Bradford and Leeds.

Phoenix Dynamo Manufacturing had a women’s football team which raised money for charities including wounded servicemen and the families of those killed in action. Around the time two other Bradford women’s football teams, Hey’s Brewery and Manningham (Lister’s) Ladies, were also raising funds. In 1917 a match took place at Bradford Park Avenue between Phoenix and Thwaites Brothers Ltd, an iron works on Thornton Road. The outstanding women’s team was Dick, Kerr’s from Preston, an engineering works which switched to munitions. In 1930 it closed down and its electrical designs and manufacture was transferred to Phoenix at Bradford. It later merged with Lucas Aerospace and left Bradford in the 1970s.