Women and the First World War
A young middle class English woman named Vera Brittain wrote in her diary ‘knitting...the only work it seems possible as yet for women to do’ but by time the fighting had officially ended there was almost no work that women had not done to aid the war effort.
The defence of women children and of family became an important way to define the reasons for going to war, they were translated through posters and eventually cinema and also became a staple element of wartime media. Women were seen as vital the war, this can be found in innovations such as propaganda produced by governments, they urged women to service and sacrifice and emphasised the importance of the wars success or failure. Posters used an iconic image of a mother putting a baby to bed beneath a picture of its father to hasten to end of war and the return of the father.
Because of the mass number of men going to war it deprived many families of the main source of income, how could the state make sure morale didn’t fall and family members wouldn’t suffer from domestic hardships? The answer lay in ‘separation allowances’ they paid money to the dependents of the soldiers.
One of the more visible changes in women’s lives during the war came with their entrance into wide range of occupations. As males were lost to armed services women found employment on a scale that was seen neither before the war or maintained afterwards. Women entered wartime factories, banks, places of business and government as clerks typists and secretaries. They were also found running trams and buses delivering milk and becoming police officers. Women also worked on land sustained agriculture. The war caused some women to shift jobs and also some women to join the paid workforce.
Within the first year women’s paid employment increased by 400,000 in Britain, this was before a mass demonstration in July 1915 where women organised a demonstration lead by feminist leaders such as Emmeline Pankhurts of the suffragette Women’s Social and Political Union, with the encouragement of politicians like David Llyod George, they demanded the ‘right to serve’. The first world war provided opportunities for working class women to shift the nature of their employment, for short lived changes in kinds of industrial work.…