Like many of the wartime ‘temporary lady clerks’, Doris Janie Elvidge had a family connection with the bank she went to work for. Her brother was a clerk at National Provincial Bank of England’s Holloway branch.
Doris was born in October 1893, the fifth of nine children of Albert Elvidge, a London meat merchant. She was educated at City of London School until the age of 18, after which she worked for four years as a schoolteacher.
One of her three elder brothers, Jabez, had gone to work for National Provincial Bank of England in 1903. He originally worked at the bank’s Hampstead branch before transferring to Holloway in 1909. In December 1916 Jabez left to go on military service, joining the West Yorkshire Regiment. At about the same time, Doris approached the bank through Jabez’s manager at Holloway branch, to apply for a position on the temporary staff.
She started at the bank in January 1917, working as a Burroughs machine operator in the large Metropolitan Clearing department at City of London office. This was the type of work that banks typically preferred to give to women. As a back-office role, there was no danger of offending customers who might disapprove of female clerks. Machine operators had to be reliable and accurate, but they didn’t need the same degree of numeracy, writing and general knowledge as was expected of traditional bank clerks. There was a widespread belief that repetitive work suited women better than men – and it was even suggested that women’s smaller fingers gave them an advantage when operating machines. For all these reasons, it was as machine operators that the first few women had been hired by banks in the pre-war years.
On 17 November 1917 Jabez Elvidge was killed in action in Belgium. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot memorial, and on National Provincial Bank’s own war memorial in London.
Doris continued working at the bank, even after the end of the war. Her 1924 staff report called her ‘a first class machinist’. She later moved to the Town Clearing Department, where she became the department’s acknowledged expert at finding and resolving ‘differences’ – that is, errors – in the incoming and outgoing records.
She continued in the Town Clearing Department throughout the 1930s and the Second World War, becoming the department’s second-in-command. The last surviving report in her staff file is from 1946, and declares ‘no praise is too high for the manner in which this lady performs any duty.’
Doris Janie Elvidge retired at the end of June 1948, after 31 years’ service in the bank.