Idle Women

A WW2 memoir of boatwomen on the Inland Waterways


Susan Woolfitt


Ernest Benn, London, 1947
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Printing Details

First edition, first printing. Hardback in dustwrapper. 22 × 14.5cm, 223pp.

Idle Women is a graphic description of the difficulties, discomforts and dangers faced by inexperienced trainee boatwomen during the "war effort" in World War II. The author was one of the women operating cargo-carrying narrow boats on the canals of the Midlands. The women sought to match the inherited skills of the working boat families. The book also reveals the pleasures of country landscapes and the satisfaction of achievement when things went well. The everyday life on "the cut" is described, working in what was predominantly a man's world. Also described is enrolment, first impressions of the boats and crews, a bombing raid on the Regent's Canal, loading at Regent's Canal Dock, being frozen in, and trips to Birmingham and Oxford. The title of the text refers to the badge that trainees were awarded bearing the letters "IW" (for Inland Waterways). The wearers were dubbed "Idle Women".


The book is in very good condition with some age-toning to the paper. The dustwrapper is tatty with small areas of loss along the top edge, taped repair to the inside and general overall wear. However, it has not been price-clipped and is now within a protective sleeve.



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