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But the dreamed-of moment turned suddenly to nightmare.

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One hazy morning in 1917 the senior mistress of Bournemouth High School For Girls stood up in front of the assembled sixth form and announced to her hushed audience: "I have come to tell you a terrible fact."Only one out of ten of you girls can ever hope to marry. You will have to make your way in the world as best you can. You will have to struggle." Scroll down for more...

"The war has made more openings for women than there were before. Sitting in the assembly hall among her shocked and silent schoolfellows was 17-year-old Rosamund Essex.

She was never to forget those chilling words, recalling: "It was one of the most fateful statements of my life." When Rosamund, who never married, wrote her memoirs 60 years later she accepted that her teacher's pronouncement had been prophetic. "Only one out of every ten of my friends has ever married."Quite simply, there was no one available.

In 1919 a generation of women who unquestioningly believed marriage to be their birthright discovered there were simply not enough men to go around.

The make-up of British society had changed irrevocably - as Isie Russell-Stevenson discovered to her horror.

Towards the end of the war in 1918 she received a message to say that her husband, Hamilton, would be returning home from the Front.

Wearing her prettiest dress, Isie waited eagerly at the docks for his boat to arrive.

We had to face the fact that our lives would be stunted in one direction."We should never have the kind of happy homes in which we ourselves had been brought up.

"There would be no husband, no children, no sexual outlet, no natural bond of man and woman.


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