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In what ways did the First World War change the employment opportunities of women in Britain?

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In what ways did the First World War change the employment opportunities of women in Britain? There is no doubt during World War 1 women were employed in much larger numbers and in more areas of work than ever before. Initially, they had to fill the gaps left by the death of so many soldiers in the trenches. When Conscription was introduced in 1916 and all men between the ages of 18 and 41 were forced to serve their country, this widened the amount of work open to women. In May 1918 there were even more jobs open to women when conscription was raised to include men up to 51 years of age. It was not just that men went away to fight but also there were more jobs in the munitions industry as ammunition was needed to beat the Germans and there was a shortage of shells as was seen in 1915. When the war ended women accepted that those men who survived the war would return to their to their old jobs and in many cases they were forced to return to their old jobs as domestic servants. However, there were more jobs for women after the war than there had been before the war firstly because so many men of working age had been killed and secondly because women had proved they were capable of doing many jobs that only men did previously. ...read more.


During the war, 750,000 women worked as clerks and although women had worked in offices before the war, there had never been so many female clerks. Some of the jobs were replacements for men who were away but with new technology, in such things as telephones, introduced during the war, which men had not used, they were able to keep these jobs after the men returned from the war. Although men had been secretaries before the war after the war women kept this kind of job. The employment of women in offices was never a real problem it was in industry that problems came after the war. During the war women had earned much more in munitions factories than they had ever earned before the war in factories or domestic service but it was less than men earned. By 1918 men were earning on average �4. 6s 6d a week but women only got �2.2s 2d for doing the same job. Men were worried that they would lose their jobs because women were cheaper and had proved they could do the job. Men did all they could to show the women were not as good as them, including playing practical jokes on them. ...read more.


In reality this only helped the rich because divorce was too expensive and complicated for the poor. Although in real terms there was no immediate huge revolution in the work opportunities and attitudes of men to women, the First World War was the beginning of the modern life that women have today. Poor women's working life and their wages did not really improve in the years just after the war in fact by 1921 there was world wide economic decline and there were actually less women in work than in 1911. Attitudes had to change also because these were so many war widows with families to provide for and they needed to work or the government would have had to spend more money keeping them, the allowance they got was not enough without the women working. Perhaps the biggest change was that women of all classes had more personal freedom. All women wore more practical clothes, such as shorter skirts and they cut their hair. Middle and upper class women could go out unaccompanied and working class women had more opportunity to change their jobs to improve their lives than they had before the war. Women had more freedom but it was still a world dominated by men and this would not change for decades. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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