Both Clara and Harry worked for Charles Hardcastle's empire. Clara was employed at Hardcastle's Mill as a spinner. In 1911, both parents downed tools and joined their fellow workers across Weatherfield in industrial action. Clara went on marches with her neighbours and although their demands for a minimum wage were eventually granted, the Popplewells faced months of starvation and one demonstration got so violent that the police fired shots, and Clara was hit by an officer's truncheon and blinded in one eye.
During the war, Clara was left alone at No.7 and took to drinking in the Rover's Return snug with Pearl Crapper; Harry and Herbert signed up with the Lancashire Fusiliers and Emily volunteered to serve in a field hospital. Only Herbert returned as Harry drowned when he fell overboard while returning home from the war, and Emily married an Italian and stayed in Europe. In 1918, Clara moved in with her invalid parents in Back Marriot Street.