Her name was Charlotte “Lottie” Meade, married, mother of 4, and a munitions worker in a British factory during World War 1.
On October 11, 1916, Lottie Meade died at the age of 27 in the Kensington Infirmary after a difficult illness.
Her autopsy concluded that Meade’s cause of death was “coma due to disease of the liver, heart and kidneys consequent upon poisoning by tri nitro toluene [TNT].” This was directly attributable to her work in the munitions factory.
On June 21, 2016, the British Royal Mail honored Meade by placing her on a first class stamp in their World War 1 commemorative series.
During the Great War, countless women went to work in munitions factories on both sides of the conflict, and many were poisoned slowly by the chemicals with which they worked, or killed quickly by accidents and explosions. Many who survived were unable to have children.
In Britain, female munitions workers often were called Canaries, because their skin turned yellow from constant exposure to the deadly chemicals they poured into shells destined for the front.
,*But it was through the power they gained through their indispensable work and the experience they earned through collective action that women suddenly were in a position to push their governments for one of the key freedoms denied them, and in the years immediately following the war’s end, one by one, almost all of the warring nations finally granted them the right to vote.