Miss Cissy Ann Taylor
Miss Cissy Ann Taylor was at once a suffragette, a munitionette, and a focused independent, as well as stunningly beautiful. That she is a fictional character is irrelevant, for she represents a growing legion of women who came into their own during the First World War. Throwing off the chains of work in family service, and for that matter, servitude in a man’s world, they went to work in factories, munitions plants, as transit drivers and even nurses at the front as millions of men waged war overseas.
Cissy grew up as a foster child, taken into family service as an ‘au pair’ in her early teens by a wealthy Belgravia family who educated her and allowed her keen intellect to blossom. As she came to understand that women can employ new skills in the dominant man’s world of the 1910s, she left service to learn the munitions trade, being promoted to trolley driver (when generally only men could be trusted to drive bombs around the shop). While that work was rewarding in the sense of self worth as well as financial, it was intensely dangerous. Working daily with TNT to build bombs that ranged up to to hundreds of pounds was perilous, and women knew accidents didn’t occur based on gender.
Cissy’s resourcefulness is reflected in her attaining an education against poor odds, learning fashion thoroughly enough to craft beautiful clothes during wartime shortages and nurturing love that was at the same time as passionate as it was understanding of a partner who was away on the battlefield with significant chance of imminent injury or death. Her patience in these matters was exceptional.
Yet there was a strong, ‘don’t cross me’ side of Cissy which emerges when she feels her integrity is being questioned. Presented with questions about whether she had advance knowledge of carrying a sexually transmitted disease, she lays everything on the line. In the storyline, “Take me to my dorm…Now!” strongly expresses this integrity and strength.
All in all, the growth of the relationship between Cissy and my protagonist, Lt. Pitman epitomizes the growth within each of them as the war proceeds. There is nothing like urgency, personal risk and rapid societal change to test commitment and the courage to carry on against frequent and life altering challenges.