INSPIRATIONAL women who challenged expectations by serving in the First World War are the focus of a show coming to Bradford.

Award-winning singer, songwriter and musician Louise Jordan shares their stories through songs, photographs and narrative in a production called No Petticoats Here.

Written and performed by Louise, the programme includes Women, Toil, a marching song inspired by the army of women workers at Priddy’s Hard in Hampshire, Queen of Spies, about British agent and French national Louise de Bettignies, and the haunting Endless Days about Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, who set up a First Aid post on the Front Line in the bombed-out village of Pervijse.

“The research, songwriting, composition and delivery took 18 months and has taken me from Portsmouth to Pervijze and from Ulverston to Ypres by way of many museums, battlefields, private collections, libraries and research centres,” says Louise. “I have also been fortunate to have the support of the women’s families and leading historians.”

It was discovering the story of 18th century female smuggler Lovey Warne that led Louise to No Petticoats Here. Louise told the story of Lovey - a Hampshire heroine with a beer named after her - through song on a successful tour of the UK, Holland and Germany. In search of other female heroes, she began researching women who played a part in the Great War. Her research took her to Flanders, and the Somme battlefields.

Women featured include Vera Brittain, who wrote Testament of Youth about her experiences as a nurse at the Front and the loss of her brother and fiancé, both killed in action, and Phoebe Sarah Marks, who invented the Ayrton fan to clear poison gas from trenches -104,000 fans were issued to British troops on the Western Front. Hertha, as she was known, was the first female elected a member of the Institute of Electrical Engineers and the first woman to win a prize from the Royal Society. But, although her research into motion ripples in sand and water and into the electric arc had her proposed as a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1902, as a married woman without legal status she was rejected.

"While researching individuals I was also drawn to stories of women footballers such as Lily Parr, Jennie Morgan and Bella Raey. They had a phenomenal impact on their communities," says Louise. "When the FA suspended men’s football teams from competing in 1915 it was women who kept the sport alive. Encouraged to play during factory breaks to build morale, munitionettes’ teams organised fundraising matches. These women raised thousands for POW and soldiers' charities, only for women’s football to be banned by the FA for 50 years, until1971."

Last year Louise was awarded Arts Council funding to develop her show, with a pre-recorded soundscape and props, taking it to wider audiences.

* No Petticoats Here is at the Topic Folk Club, Glyde House, Little Horton Lane, Bradford, on Thursday, May 31.

* Visit For more about the show visit

Emma Clayton