The Order of the White Feather was founded in Folkstone in August 1914 by retired British Admiral Charles Cooper Penrose-Fitzgerald to encourage women to give out white feathers to young men who had not joined the army. The pacifist Fenner Brockway claimed that he was given so many white feathers that he had enough to make a fan. The practice caused considerable discomfort for police, government employees, or demobilized wounded who were somehow serving the war effort.
The government became concerned when women began presenting state employees with white feathers. It was suggested to Reginald McKenna, the Home Secretary, that these women should be arrested for "conduct likely to disrupt the police". McKenna refused, but he did arrange for state employees to be issued with badges testifying that they were serving "King and Country".
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Although he was a serving soldier, the writer Compton Mackenzie complained about the activities of the Order of the White Feather. He argued that these "idiotic young women were using white feathers to get rid of boyfriends of whom they were tired".
Source: Spartacus Educational Foundation