Secrets of the Homefront Girls
Although England may be at war, for the young women working the lipstick production line at Yardley’s cosmetics factory in East London, it’s business as usual. Wearing bright red lipstick went from being seen as risqué to patriotic. A slick of red was an easy way to create an accessible flash of glamour in an otherwise grey, tiring and frightening world. British firm Yardley cottoned onto this and took on the big boys of the cosmetics world like Max Factor, telling girls that ‘good looks and good morale are close companions, so put your best face forward’.
For headstrong and flirtatious Renee Gunn, that means taking Esther, a young Austrian refugee, under her wing and teaching her how to be a true cockney. But when Lily, Renee’s older sister, suddenly returns home after six years away, it’s clear that life in Stratford is changing for good. In the face of the Blitz, could the secrets that Renee, Lily and Esther are keeping be the most dangerous weapon of all?
The richly colourful characters and events in Secrets of the Homefront Girls are inspired by Kate’s research, speaking to those who worked at Yardley, and even reuniting factory friends after 70 years.
“My research has taken me into the homes of so many women and I have listened rapt as they explained how they lived through cataclysmic times. It is often the quiet voices, which are the most revealing. Working-class women and their unassuming thoughts and feelings tell us so much about how difficult, but also how rewarding it was to be a woman in pre-welfare state Britain.” Kate Thompson