“How important was the role of women during world war 1”
The early rush of volunteers and later the conscription of men led to a shortage of manpower on the home front. Women, already working in munitions factories were encouraged to take on jobs normally done by men.
This was the start of major social change. Before the war, women had been content to stay at home to bring up the family and do domestic work. It was considered unbecoming for a woman to work. During the war it was considered unpatriotic not to.
Many changes came about as shown by the quote from A. J. P Taylor English History ” Women became more independent. Women paid for their round at the pub. Fashion changed for practical reasons : never again did skirts sweep the ground. Women’s hats became neater. Not all changes in work lasted after the war, but some did.”
In the early years of the war Britain quickly experienced a crisis with ammunition supplies. The army fired off shells much faster than the industry could produce them. A politician who had a sharp mind and a capacity for ideas, he was quick to exploit the female labor in munitions factories. Initially a mans job but before long 90% of the workers were women.
” The courage of women in the munitions factories has never been sufficiently recognized. They had to work under conditions of real danger to life and limb, and what some of them dreaded still more, of grotesque disfigurement some of the pearls of the shell filling factories was toxic jaundice resulting from TNT poisoning. This turned their faces a bright repulsive yellow. The poor girls were nicknamed “canaries”. They were quite proud of this designation as they had earned it in the path of duty.” From the war memoirs of Lloyd George.
The crisis caused by the second U-boat campaign lead to the creation of the woman’s land army in 1917. Many of those who served were city girls from middle classed families, quite unaccustomed to hard physical labor. Few failed to impress the initially doubtful farmer with their grit determination and in the end they saved their country from starvation. Other women joined the forestry corps and felled trees in shipbuilding and other industries.
At the start of the war almost the entire staff of the Glasgow Corporation tramways left to form a special battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. Glasgow got its first females clippies in April 1915, followed more slowly by Manchester and London. Women also became train drivers and greasers of the railways.
When the war was over most of the women left, or were forced to leave, the paid employment which they had taken. Despite this the war had brought a significant change to their life’s. They began to do things the normally had never done before such as wear trousers and smoke in public. After the second world war their daughter proved to be much tougher to remove from their jobs.
The war gave women, who weren’t yet allowed to vote, the chance to show that they were equal to men. It forced many men to change the way they regarded women. More people realized that women could make a contribution in the workplace as well as at home. The first World War could be said to have begun the movement for equal opportunities for men and women.
In conclution the part played by women during WW1 was huge, If it wasnt for the womans land army the country could have starved. Without the munitioned factorys the war could have been lost and without the transprt the country could have came to a stand still.