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Women Workers in World War One and Their Changing Roles

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Introduction

Women Workers in World War One and Their Changing Roles. Jennie Randolph Churchill wrote in her book Women's War Work, 'It is one of the virtues of war that it puts the light which in peacetime is hid under a bushel in such prominence that all can see it'.1 The aftermath of World War One left many people trying to justify so much destruction and death and one such rationalization is that the war helped to bring women's capabilities and contribution to light. There was a shift away from traditional women's roles for a brief period of time by women workers in World War One. In order to understand how the First World War affected women's work one must be familiar with traditional pre-war women's work and the suffrage movement. This enables one to analyze the unemployment period at the beginning of the war and the replacement period that followed. Upon doing so one may question how big of a change the Second World War had on women's lives and examine the long term postwar changes. It is important to understand the type of work thought suitable for women before the outbreak of the First World War. The Victorian era and the Industrial Revolution influenced the feelings and ideas surrounding proper 'women's roles' in society. A powerful middle class emerged in the Victorian era that set the standards of proper behaviour for men and women. During this time theories emerged about how the different physical, intellectual and emotional characteristics of men and women defined their rightful role in society. ...read more.

Middle

They tried hard to organize relief work for unemployed females. They had no idea that in a few weeks Britain would be facing a labour shortage. The labour shortage in Britain created opportunities for women workers. Industries expanded to supply troops with equipment. Leather, hosiery, boot, kitbag, medical dressings and tailoring industries all hired more women. These were jobs that women had already performed during peacetime. In 1915 women began to obtain jobs normally done by men. Women were being employed in non-industrial jobs such as replacing men in offices and in the transport system. "As men enlisted, women were indeed employed as van drivers, window cleaners, shop assistants, etc., but they were often informally taking the places of husbands, father or brothers."11 Many employers were worried about the affects of hiring women on wages and job security. But a practice of substitution soon took affect and employers and unions soon started to accept the use of women in many industries. Women were employed in large numbers in the munitions industry and they were also used in engineering and explosives. Women were so drawn to this type of munitions work that there was actually a shortage of female labour in the textile and clothing trades. By 1917 women also replaced men in other industries such as grain milling, sugar refining, brewing, building, surface mining and shipyards. "In 1917, the Labour gazette estimated that 1 in 3 working women was 'replacing' a male worker in industry."12 The cause of this rapid expansion of women in the workplace was primarily due to conscription. ...read more.

Conclusion

Many historians give World War One the credit for the changes in traditional women's roles that had already been on the way. 1 Churchill, Lady R. (ed.), Women's War Work, 1916, p 2. 2 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 15. 3 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 17. 4 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 19. 5 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 25. 6 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 26. 7 Wingerden, S., The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain, 1866-1928, 1999, p. 143. 8 Wingerden, S., The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain, 1866-1928, 1999, p. 155. 9 Wingerden, S., The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain, 1866-1928, 1999, p. 156. 10 Thom, D., Nice Girls and Rude Girls - Women Workers in World War I, 1998, p. 29. 11 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 45. 12 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 46. 13 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 47. 14 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 47. 15 Wingerden, S., The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain, 1866-1928, 1999, p. 167. 16 Wingerden, S., The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain, 1866-1928, 1999, p. 167. 17 Wingerden, S., The Women's Suffrage Movement in Britain, 1866-1928, 1999, p. 154. 18 Braybon, G., Women Workers in the First World War, 1981, p 217. ?? ?? ?? ?? 1 ...read more.

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