Women At Work Ww1 Essay

1869 words - 7 pages

Did life back home change very little for those left behind?When war broke out in July 1914 710,000 men were recruited to the army and by 1915 over 1 million had joined the armed forces. However, volunteer numbers were falling fast so conscription was introduced in 1916. This meant that all men aged 18-41 were required to fight at war unless they had a valid reason. With so many men at war, workers were needed on Britain's home front; so women took on 'men's jobs'. Therefore, I think that during the war, the way women lived their lives had changed immensely. However, it is questionable whether this was a temporary change or one which improved women's lives forever.When the war began, there were vacancies for men's work and less demand for domestic jobs. This was because many men had left for war and so families were trying to economise. Middle class women could not afford to spend their money on housemaids. Therefore, by the end of the war 400,000 less women were employed in domestic service and most had jobs in public transport or munitions, 500,000 others had clerical positions in private offices. 200,000 had agricultural positions and many others worked in governmental departments. Some women even had jobs in heavy work like ship building, furnace stoking and coal loading. Nobody was left without work because Britain needed to keep the home front moving. For instance, even in post offices thousands of women were employed to sort the 12,000,000 letters which were sent to soldiers every week!This proved to men that women were capable of skilled work, were fit enough for heavy work and were willing to work for half of men's wages. One historian explained that they did this because they knew that "their friends, relations, husbands, sons were abroad. They were dying, partly because our army were suffering a shell shortage." Workers back home took on the responsibility of providing ammunition for the soldiers. Some women even took on men's sports, and many women's football teams were set up. Most men were impressed by how capable women were, for example a 1919 report from the government's medical officers stated 'women have with success undertaken work involving the lifting of weights, heavy machine work, and even forge and foundry work.'However, not all men appreciated women taking on 'men's work.' They were afraid that after the war some men would be left unemployed because women were capable of the same work for lower wages. Women even put their lives at risk for war effort.Although soldiers were considered to be the ones putting themselves at risk, work in munitions was dangerous too. For example, an explosion in 1917 at a TNT plant in Silverton, East London, killed 73 people and destroyed hundreds of nearby homes.Not only were explosions a risk; dangerous chemicals which were in ammunition caused various health issues. TNT, for instance, turned many workers' skin yellow and these workers were known as 'canaries.' They also dealt with the...

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