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Why did the number of women employed in Britain begin to rise significantly from mid-1915?

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Assignment One: Objective 1 Why did the number of women employed in Britain begin to rise significantly from mid-1915? In 1911 the government census revealed that 11 million adult women did not have a paid job. The main reason as to why many women in Britain were not employed is that women were expected to marry and become housewives. Their job was to care for their husbands and raise children. However working class women had no choice other than to work. The most common job for working class women at the time was domestic service. 1.5 million women worked as domestic servants working long hours as cooks, cleaners or chambermaids. 500,000 women worked in the sweated trades and 900,000 women worked in the textiles industry. The textiles industry was a major employer of women. Women were usually paid two-thirds of a man's wage or less. When the First World War broke out in 1914, women had to fill in jobs that men had left behind them to go and fight. More and more men went to fight in the war and by mid 1915; Britain's workforce was seriously depleted. In the spring of 1915, Herbert Asquith (famous for his "business as usual" motto), went on a speaking tour of Britain to talk to the 'Workers of Industry.' ...read more.


After this women were allowed to working the munitions factories. This showed that women were prepared to work, could work and they weren't extremely fragile and unintelligent. One of the most important areas where women were needed was in munitions factories, and during the war about 900,000 women worked on munitions. They made bullets and shells, assembled detonators, polished time fuses and filled the shells with gunpowder. Munitions work was one of the best-paid jobs for women. Their weekly wage ranged between 30s and �5. If you compare this to the average weekly wage of 11s 7d paid to women industrial workers before the war, munitions work must have seemed very attractive. The employment of women was not always popular. In 1915 there were strikes against workers and the government was forced to sign agreements with unions that stated that women would not keep their jobs at the end of the war. Between 1914 and 1918 the number of women in the labour force increased by almost 1.5 million. They started doing many new jobs, some of which had previously been considered unsuitable for them. Women worked in factories, on the land, in offices, and in transport. They became post women, policewomen and nurses, and they cleaned roads, swept chimneys, dug graves, heaved coal and worked in breweries and gasworks. ...read more.


Women had to deal with many other hardships in both their working and home lives. At work they often experienced hostility from both the men they were working with, and the men that they were replacing. Since they were usually paid less than men, it was feared that when the men returned from the war the women would be kept on instead of them. Male workers showed their disapproval by refusing to help women workers. They also played practical jokes on them, or gave them confusing instructions. The First World War caused many men to leave their jobs and fight for their country. Women filled these jobs, and without the women, Britain would have probably lost the war due to the lack on munitions. Many people disapproved of women working, but the majority soon realised that it was essential that they did work. The events of 1915 (shell shortage) and 1916 (conscription) made people realise that more workers were needed, and that women were the answer. Despite this, women faced many hardships while working, and were frowned upon by society. The overall picture is that women were not appreciated but the war proved that women were tougher than everyone thought, "The great war has proved to men that women can share men's dangers, privations and hardships and yet remain women." 1 ...read more.

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