Women in World War One
Before World War One
Before the beggining of the First World War in 1914, women traditionally would stay at home and look after the children or work in a menial job. If a woman was unmarried and in the working class, she would generally have a job as a maid, be in domestic services or in work in a repetitive job in a factory. The women who were unmarried and worked in the middle class were able to get a higher level of job such as sale assistants, teachers, nurses, typists and telephonists. The income women earned in any of these jobs was an extremely small percentage of what any man would earn in the same position. The picture on the left demonstrates the average working women before the war.
During World War One
During the First World War women began to work in what were before considered ‘men’s jobs’. Some of these jobs included mechanics, working in the munitions factories, farming, supporting the front line in the auxillary army, nurses on the front line and many more. This was taking place as there was a huge skill shortage caused by the men leaving to go to the Great War. The biggest concern that forced women to begin working was the lack of food being produced. Food and ammunition were in desperate need for the war so women began to take up jobs to produce these essential items. This spark meant that women were finally able to prove themselves in a male dominating society. The picture on the left is a poster that would have advertised and encouraged women to join the workforce in the United States.
Disputes Between The Classes
Women from the middle class were the main people to start fundraising and charity events to fund the war. This resulted in conflict between the working class and the middle class, as the working class women had to put in many long hours at work just to support their families and the middle class felt that they should be participating and in charity events. The middle class also expected the working class to donate large sums of money that obviously didn’t exist for the working class. The photo on the left shows the working class working in a factory to produce airplane machine parts.
Women At War
Although very few women went to fight on the front line, many did go to work at the Western Front. They mainly worked as cooks and nurses, serving in the supporting trenches. There were two types of nurses the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and the FANY (First Aid Nursing Yeomanry).The nurses that worked for the VAD were generally unpaid volunteers and were part of the higher classes so they could afford to give up some of their time to serve their country. They were given basic medical training and were able to provide comfort to the injured soldiers as well as basic medical treatment. The nurses that were part of the FANY had a much tougher job as they were in charge of cleaning the rooms wounded soldiers were kept in, taking care of bodies, providing food for the soldiers, running baths, organising a schedule for the soldiers to bathe, and driving ambulances. Many nurses were injured on the front line and occasionally even killed. Some women did join the Navy (around 13 000 in America) but women posed too much trouble to enlist into the Army. There were also women in the Air force, however; they were neither taken seriously nor recognised. As many women weren’t taken seriously some women disguised themselves as men in order to fight. The picture on the left shows some women working as nurses at the Western Front.
After World War One
After the end of the First World War in 1918, the job level of the middle and working class changed dramatically. After the Great War ended, women had found a new confidence that compelled them to push themselves to become more prominent in a male dominating society. It also provided the spark that caused women to be able to vote and have a political opinion. The Image on the left demonstrates women developing their political opinion and being allowed to vote. However, after the war around 600 000 women gave up their new found jobs, most of them voluntarily and women still received a 54% lower wage than the average man.