Margaret Wrightson (1877 - 1976)

Mechanic: Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, 1917

SKU: 5352

Signed and dated 1917
25.4 x 10.1 cm

Height – 25.4cm
Width – 10.1cm


David Cohen Fine Art; Private Collection

Little is known about the circumstances of the production of this

charming small bronze figure of a member of the Women’s Army Auxiliary

Corps (WAAC). Another example of it, with darker patination, is in the

collection of the National Army Museum. It is thought to be a model for

a full-size war memorial which was never realised.

In 1917, the War Office formed the WAAC to take on non-combat

military roles, in order to free up more men to fight. The women worked

in key support roles such as administrative and clerical duties, telephony,

catering, storekeeping and as mechanics. The sitter for this sculpture

would have worn a light khaki, single-breasted tunic with a cloth belt

fastened by two buttons. Her skirt had to measure eight inches from the

ground and she would have worn a regulation felt hat with the WAAC cap

badge on the front. Coloured insets in her shoulder straps indicated the

nature of her work. This figure, with a spanner in her hand, shows one of

the mechanics who serviced and repaired military vehicles.

Unlike male soldiers, the women of the WAAC enrolled’ rather than

enlisted’. Their ranks were different too. Privates were termed workers’,

non-commissioned officers were forewomen’ and officers were officials’.

Some 7,000 WAACs served on the Western Front. In April 1918, in

recognition of their valuable service, the WAAC was re-named Queen

Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC). During the First World War,

about 57,000 women served with the WAAC and QMAAC.From May

1917, Margaret Wrightson herself served as a worker in the WAAC and

then the QMAAC.She served overseas before being medically discharged

on 18 November 1918.

Commentary by Emma Mawdsley, Head of Collections Development and Review at the National Army Museum, where she has worked since 1993. She was responsible for curating the Society Gallery for the redeveloped museum, as well as a number of specialist exhibitions on military art.

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Margaret Wrightson
1877 - 1976

Margaret Wrightson studied at the Royal College of Art under
William Blake (1842’1921) and Edouard Lanteri (1848’1917).
From 1906, she exhibited extensively with the RA, the SWA and
the Walker Gallery in Liverpool. 

Gaining prominence during the First World War, she
received frequent commissions for statues of remembrance, such
as the figure of St George on the memorial at Cramlington in
Northumberland (1922). 

Although perhaps constrained by the demands of the
traditional iconography of her period, Wrightson produced a
number of works created from a distinctly feminist view, such as
Spirit of the Garden (1912) ‘ a female nude with a bronze collar
bearing the words ‘Spirit of the Garden, Peace, Hope, Love,
Courage’ and her striking Mechanic, Women’s Auxiliary Army
, 1917. 

She was elected a fellow of the RBS in 1943 and was also a
member of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition Society.


Margaret Wrightson (1877 - 1976)
St George – the original maquette for Cramlington War Memorial, Northumberland, circa 1922
Margaret Wrightson (1877 - 1976)
Mechanic: Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, 1917