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What was the impact of the war on the women's lives and experiences in Britain? Discuss the social and economic changes in the role of the women in Britain during World War I

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Introduction

What was the impact of the war on the women's lives and experiences in Britain? Discuss the social and economic changes in the role of the women in Britain during World War I The First World War witnessed a significant change in the roles women played within society in Britain, At the onset of the war the government was not willing to mobilize women - so they settled for the traditional tasks such as raising money for the war effort, helping in hospitals where trained nurses already worked, and knitting garments for soldiers. However, as they war strained on, the fortitude of the nation increasingly became dependent on the efforts of the women. The large number of munitionettes, the common name for the women who worked in munitions factories, became responsible for much of Britain's armaments output. Women progressively had an active role within the economic life of the country - working in fields such as transport, agriculture, and clerical work. World War I also saw the creation of women's auxiliary organizations within the armed services, as well as improvement in the wages and working conditions - although these gestures were far from a step towards equality. The nature of the impact the war had on women is debated among historians - while some argue that socially, the war created significant and long lasting change in lifestyles for women, others also argue that the war had a revolutionary effect on their lives and society's perception of them - although, there does not seem to be much evidence supporting such ideas. ...read more.

Middle

It was evident that most women preferred to work in the city. Other jobs, once male- dominated, where being taken up by women - including blacksmiths, gravediggers, managers, and ambulance drivers. Women took on board a variety of transport roles such as tram drivers, ticket collectors, rail guards - and any other jobs that has been vacated by men. Women filled the office and bank jobs as they worked as clerks and tellers. However, some areas remained totally off- limits to women for instance train drivers, iron and steel industry, and they rarely worked in jobs such as shipbuilding, accounting, or architecture. By the third year of the war, women began to participate in the armed services. Each branch of the armed forces formed a women's auxiliary service so that women could take over the non- combatant roles - freeing me for fighting on the front. In the WRNS (Women's Royal Naval Service), women did 'their bit' as electricians, gas- drill instructors, telephonists, coders, and decoders. The women, however, were given no full military status - they were enrolled, not enlisted. If the women broke the rules they would be tried in a civil court as opposed to the military one. They were not given ranks - rather than Sergeant, Corporeal, or Privates- they were simply called workers. Soon also, women had entered the police force - helping with crowd control and assisting in air raids. The Ministry of Munitions used women police in factories to ensure the munitionettes obeyed regulations. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, as supported by the evidence - even though the media played up female patriotism they were often extremely patronizing, at the beginning of the war female employment actually fell by 10 percent in October 1914, and munitions workers had switched from other jobs - so the talk of sudden increase in employment is incorrect. After the war, women were encouraged to return to the home or traditional female jobs. The 'Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act' tried to actually take the jobs from the working- class women - and while the Sex Discrimination Removals Act helped - it only benefited middle- class women. Despite this dispute to the traditional views, however, the First World War did witness a significant change in the roles women played within British society. From the traditional tasks, such as volunteer work, to the munitionettes, who became responsible for much of Britain's armaments output, to active roles within the economic life of the country - including fields in transport, agriculture and clerical work, and to the creation of women's auxiliary organizations in the armed services, and general improvement in wages and working conditions - the fortitude of the nation increasingly became dependent on the efforts of the women. Although for some women the war was far from revolutionary - all the lives of women, and the social and economic changes experienced by them, whether for better or for worse - were impacted greatly and perhaps even profoundly by the occurrence of the First World War. ...read more.

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