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Ethel was born in Wolverhampton in 1888, the daughter of John and Alexandra Amelia Arnold. In 1891 she was at 19 Alma Street, together with her parents and sisters Leila and Clara and brothers Lionel and Frederick. In 1901 she appears with her aunt and uncle (Thomas and Selina Cooke) at 46 Pound Street, Heath Town. In 1911, she was listed as living at 18 Alma Street, Wolverhampton, together with her parents, brothers Lionel John and Sydney, and sisters Hilda, Dorothy, Freda Doris, Ida Adelaide, Marjory May and Norah Cathleen. Ethel was listed as a dress maker.

She used her dress making skills during the War, and there is a Red Cross card for her, stating that her duties were “knitting, sewing & cutting out”. She spent a short period with the “Q. M. N. G.”, which was the Queen Mary’s Needlework Guild. Her address was still given as Alma Street.

Ethel does not appear to have married, as there is a death registered for a 91-year-old Ethel Mary Arnold in Wolverhampton in June 1979.