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The Changing Role of Women Throughout the First World War

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The Changing Role of Women Throughout the First World War Chris Daglow History 232 Professor Kyle November 16th, 2001 "If you asked British women today when their emancipation really began, they will tell you that it was during the First World War, when woman took upon themselves roles that were extraordinary in those times-not only running society at home but also going off to the trenches of Europe to serve as doctors, nurses and spies."1 On the eve of one of the world's most horrific war, families were divided as the men kissed their wives goodbye and went off to fight for their country. At the time, nobody could possibly begin to comprehend the impact women would have in the war, or the effect the war would have on the role of women in everyday society. Throughout World War One, females successfully challenged the notions of women's prewar traditional roles and aided in the reinvention of post-war society. Fighting against the age-old ideals that considered the women's place to be in the home, the female workforce went to work for their country, proving themselves capable to do jobs thought previously only possible by males. During the post war years, though many continued to work in their jobs, a number of women were displaced. However the social effects of the war had already taken place in the minds of the female culture as they recognized that society was going to drastically change after the war, including their place in it. ...read more.


The organizer of the demonstration, Clara Butt, emphasized the power women had to help their country in the war effort, referring to duties from doctoring to factory work. The importance of the rally truly lied within its message as women collectively came together to assert pressure on their government to put them to work. Countless women referred to the momentous event, writing and speaking on its significance to their lives, to their daughter's lives and to their culture.4 By July 1918, nearly 3 million women were employed in British industry. By the end of the war, women munition workers numbered 900,000, while clothing and textile manufacturing had equal numbers as well.5 They were found in munition factories, farms as part of the Women's Land Army, nursing injured soldiers by volunteering for Voluntary Aid Detachment, and even working on airplanes in the Women's Royal Air Force. It was positions such as these that provided the opportunity for women to prove their worth to society. For the first time they received financial freedom and actually gained the opportunity to change jobs, something that would never have been possible in the pre-war era. The "London Gazette" in December 1917 surveyed 444,000 women on their movement in employment. The results showed that 68% of them had changed jobs since the war began in 1914, 23% had moved form one factory job to another factory and 22% were previously unemployed but now had ...read more.


Though the number of female workers from before and after the war may not have changed, it was, as Claire Culleton puts it, "an ideologically different women's working class".9 The culture had already been transformed and women had already realized the power they truly contained after they challenged preconceived notions with success. They understood that as society changed after the war, their place in it would drastically change as well. Women had successfully defeated the notion that their place belonged in the home with the children. They used the opportunities given to them by history and circumstance and made a uniform statement that they could in fact succeed in the workplace previously only seen fit by men. Throughout the war, millions of female workers, from munition experts to agricultural farmers, faced the male dominant ideologies, such as the apprenticeship myth that constituted their lower wages, and proved to their country that they too could work skillfully. As seen through the constant movement of female workers throughout the war years, they were given opportunities that never seemed possible before the outbreak of war. With the media support, women continued to fight years after the end of World War One. Though many were displaced, the social effects of the war had already taken place in the minds of women throughout the country. These working women were fully convinced when they left their jobs that they truly had made history, which they did. ...read more.

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