Surplus Women

At the end of the Great War, the British called them the surplus women. They were the more than 2 million women who had no hope of finding a husband because a generation of men lay dead in the fields of France, of Belgium, Gallipoli. At the end of 1919, only 1 in 10 women were going to marry.

The surplus women had to find their own way. They had to find jobs, housing, ways to get along in a world designed for marriage and children. More than that, they had to find meaning. In a world that wasn’t what they hoped, what they planned and what they dreamed of, they had to find a way to find joy in an unexpected life.

I, jokingly, told my niece that there used to be a place for single women. They wore cardigans and pearls, they arranged the flowers at church, gardened, had a few cats and wrote handwritten letters to their nieces and nephews.

Well, this is what I imagine the surplus women did. I suspect the truth is both more pedestrian and profound. Some of them played to cliche, some of them went and found their own way. Looked at tradition and custom and the dramatically changed world and they forged their own path.

It comes up in so many ways. Right now it’s Christmas. I have photos for the Christmas card. They are fantastic, but I haven’t sent my final selections to the photographer, because I just don’t know. Do single women send a Christmas Card to everyone – or I guess the half the list that is mine and the people still talking to me. Do I decorate? Where do I go for Christmas dinner?

What’s the new path forward?

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6 Responses to Surplus Women

  1. Scientistmother says:

    Yes single women totally send out Christmas cards. I would love to have one. If you enjoy Christmas and would like a decorated home go for it! And if you don’t, don’t. I’d invite you for Christmas dinner but I’m a province away.

  2. Mary P says:

    You do exactly what you want to do. You don’t need permission from anyone!

  3. Jane says:

    Yup. Single women send cards to whomever they fancy sending cards to.

    And they have a tree. Covered in sparkle (I used to call mine Bling Crosby). And string cards about the place. And set out the nativity. And put fairy lights up. Or maybe that was just me on the various years I was single? Whatever. I enjoyed it. I still do.

    Christmas Dinner? Depends what you fancy. So that can be inviting, or going to see friends, volunteering at a shelter, lounging about in pyjamas and eating Kraft Macaroni while teasing the cats, heading to the pub, crawling under the duvet and pretending it isn’t happening, or running round the centre of town dressed as a reindeer. Whatever shakes your bananas.

  4. Barbra says:

    I sent out cards as a single woman. I just loved it so much. If you don’t love it then don’t. 🙂 I also love decorating and always did even when living on my own. I did it because it makes ME happy. 🙂

  5. loribeth says:

    Do whatever you want to do. 🙂 But I would sure like to get one of those Christmas cards. 😉

  6. Debby Hornburg says:

    The answers to all your questions for now on have become ‘yes, if I want to’. I’d love to be on your Christmas card list as well.

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