Who is Poppy? That is for you to decide! We want you to bring our fictional character to life.
– How old is she?
– Where does she live?
– What did she do during the Great War? Was she a nurse? A volunteer? A factory worker? A mum at home trying to cope with her husband away fighting at the Front?
– How did the War affect her mental health? Did she feel empowered by going out to work for the first time? Did she feel discriminated against because she was earning far less money than men for doing the same work? If she was a nurse, how was she affected by the often horrific injuries she had to treat, the long hours? Perhaps she lost someone close to her – a husband, father, friends?
– What are her hopes for the future?
– How does Poppy’s life compare with yours?
🌸 Watch this video about Women’s roles in the First World War
We want to work with you to tell the story of how women experienced the First World War and how it affected their mental health.
Our students shared their thoughts on who Poppy is. How does your Poppy compare?
I imagine Poppy is like a home front nurse in her early 20s. She lives with her brother in London. But I also imagine she wears one of those long nurses’ aprons with the red cross on the front and those little cloth headscarves. And that made me think how difficult it must have been to work in one of those because – where it’s so long and so cumbersome – it must have been so difficult compared to modern scrubs.
I feel like she would have enjoyed the sense of community that came with the war and also working as a nurse, I imagine to be quite fulfilling and helping people most of the time. But then also there’s obviously the fact that some people would die. So that would also obviously have a devastating effect on her mental health that she couldn’t control.
I think that Poppy’s helped me to understand the First World War because she’s unique to me. And that means that I can have her represent what I am personally interested in. I’m interested in how being a nurse would have been, and so I can make her relatable to what I want to learn about rather than sort of a stock thing that other people are interested in.
Maybe she wasn’t someone from the front, but like, she did work behind the lines. But then something happened – she was maybe a mother, but what’s happened is that her sons have been shipped out or that her husband’s left her, and she has to take care of the children during the war. And she’s also has to help out with the war effort. I feel like it would be a bigger responsibility than what she would have had back then. Then suddenly it’s just you have a whole new and different responsibility that you have to take care of.
I feel like it’s opened my mind more than what it would have been because we don’t learn much about women in our lessons in history. So the project really kind of expanded what women were doing and how women felt in the First World War.
I picture Poppy as a nurse, in her 20s, and I think of her dealing with working properly in that kind of job for the first time. And she’s just young and maybe middle-class, not really used to hard work or manual work, you know, when you get dry hands from washing all the time. She would have had lovely hands before; they must have been quite rough.
Up until quite recently, I was working in a pub and I was just washing the dishes. I remember when I first started, because there were in water all the time, and my hands got really dry. So as a nurse imagine constantly, like every day. On one hand, she could have felt a bit more like liberated in the sense that she could go off and be independent.
She didn’t have to worry about all these expectations that she would have had, like getting married or being a proper lady. That probably wouldn’t have really mattered to her as a nurse. Of course, she probably suffered from loss, maybe her father or her brother or even some friends who may have died in war, that could have affected her quite badly, I imagine. And also, seeing a lot of people on their deathbeds can’t be nice. It would be a bit traumatic.
Just imagining her as a real person helps with empathy, putting myself in her shoes because, you just hear about these people from the olden days and you think, oh that’s a bit sad, but in anything, in books and movies and even this project, when you imagine them as real people, you can put yourself in their shoes, see how they were feeling and really imagine what they were going through a lot more. It’s not really a topic you cover so much in school.
I knew about the men and their shellshock and how mental health wasn’t such a well-known thing back then. so how they were all discovering what that was. But it hadn’t really even occurred to me that the women would get shellshock or PTSD from working on the front line.
🌸 Use this template to start to fill in details about who you think Poppy is.
🌸 Design a logo for this project.
Below are some project logos designed by students at Hove Park School, Brighton.