Julia H asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 1 decade ago

How important were womens roles in the first world war?

what did they do? how did it help?


16 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    There is little doubt that women's work in the two World Wars of the twentieth century was an important factor in the course of both wars. This involvement changed the social status and working lives of women in many countries from that point onwards.

    Women's contribution to both wars was significant; though the attitudes towards their contribution were typically paternalistic

    Prior to the First World War women's role in society in western countries was generally confined to the domestic sphere (but not necessarily their own home) and to certain types of jobs: 'Women's Work'.

    In Great Britain for example, just before World War I, out of an adult population of about 24 million women, some 1.7 million worked in domestic service, 0.8 million worked in the textile manufacturing industry, 0.6 million worked in the clothing trades, 0.5 million worked in commerce and 0.26 million in local and national government (including teaching).[1] The British textile and clothing trades, in particular, employed far more women than men and could be regarded as 'women's work'.[1]

    While some women managed to receive a tertiary education and others to go into non-traditional career paths, for the most part women were expected to be primarily involved in 'home duties' and 'women's work'. Before 1914, only a few countries (New Zealand, Australia, and several Scandinavian countries) had given the right to vote to women (see Women's suffrage), and apart from these countries women were little involved in the political process.

    More than any previous wars, World Wars I and II hinged as much on industrial production as they did on battlefield clashes. With millions of men away fighting and with the inevitable horrendous casualties, there was a severe shortage of labour in a range of industries, from rural and farm work to city office jobs.

    During both World War I and World War II, women were called on, by necessity, to do work and to take on roles that were outside their traditional gender expectations.[1] In Great Britain this was known as a process of Dilution and was strongly contested by the Trade Unions, particularly in the engineering and ship building trades.[1] Women did, for the duration of both World Wars, take on jobs that were traditionally regarded as skilled 'men's' work.[1] However, in accordance with the agreement negotiated with the Trade Unions, women undertaking jobs covered by the Dilution agreement lost their jobs at the end of the World War I.[1]

    [edit] World War I

    See also: Women in the First World War.

    In World War I, for example, thousands of women worked in munitions factories, offices and large hangars used to build aircraft.[1] Of course women were also involved in knitting socks and preparing hampers for the soldiers on the front, as well as other voluntary work, but as a matter of survival women had to work for paid employment for the sake of their families. Nursing became the one and only area of female contribution that involved being at the front and experiencing the horror of war.

    Not only did they have to keep ‘the home fires burning’ but they took on voluntary and paid employment that was diverse in scope and showed that women were highly capable in diverse fields of endeavour. There is little doubt that this expanded view of the role of women in society did change the outlook of what women could do and their place in the workforce. However the extent of this change is open to historical debate.

    The role of women tended to differ in scope and importance between World War I and World War II.

    Many women worked as volunteers serving at Red Cross and encouraging the sale of bonds and the planting of "victory gardens".

    In part because of female participation in the war effort Canada, the United States, Great Britain, and a number of European countries extended suffrage to women in the years after the First World War.

    With this expanded horizon of opportunity and confidence, and with the extended skill base that many women could now give to paid and voluntary employment, women's roles in World War II were even more extensive than in the First World War. By 1944, more than 2.3 million women were working in the war industries in the U.S., building ships, aircraft, vehicles, and weaponry. Women also worked in factories, munitions plants and farms, and also drove trucks, provided logistic support for soldiers and entered professional areas of work that were previously the preserve of men. In the Allied countries thousands of women enlisted as nurses serving on the front lines. Thousands of others joined defensive militias at home and there was a great increase in the number of women serving in the military itself, particularly in the Red Army (see below).

    This necessity to use the skills and the time of women was heightened by the nature of the war itself. While World War I was mainly fought in France and was a war arguably without clear aggressor or villain, World War II was truly a global conflict where countries were invaded or under the threat of invasion from leaders in Germany (Adolf Hitler) and Japan that had ambitions of world domination. In these circumstances the absolute urgency of mobilizing the entire population made the expansion of the role of women inevitable. The hard skilled labour of women was symbolized in the United States by the figure of Rosie the Riveter.

    Many women served in the resistances of France, Italy, and Poland, and in the British SOE which aided these

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Very important! Women took care of the injured soldiers, had to become the men of the house when their husbands went to war, took care of the children, etc.

    Dishes and laundry? Poor dear, he's thinking the World War was in the 1800's or not because even in the American Revolution, women fought.

    Source(s): I know.
  • 1 decade ago

    I am not quite sure on this myself, however, I would imagine they played a huge, if not impactual role, in, ah, not in a deragitory way but "matronizing" the United States, while many men, had been drafted for war. I believe they played a huge roll in raising their children, perhaps running businesses on the side, while still holding some of the "ways of the past" I suppose. I believe they had rolls as mothers, business woman, possibly politicians in rural areas, and one of the most important aspects, medical aid, being doctors, and nurses. THIS, was HUGE, I believe, in the war, nurses, and doctors were key, and priceless in order to keep the troops "up", healed, and to know when a soldier needed to be sent home, recognized, or retired. They also, I believe delivered, or more so brought, and cooked, food at times for soldiers, as well as providing them with vaccines, and pharmacutical drugs. Aside from this, woman, also, I believe played a large roll in "entertainment" whether it be a singer, or a group, to a musician specializing in a few things, to a "gun slinger" so to speak, such as "Annie Oakley" I believe. OH! ALSO, females played a LARGE roll, in the "educational" system, many being teachers, and forumlating the thoughts, and paths of their students, as well as exacting punishment, legally, at the time. Unfortunately, in the same sense, there was still "segregation" leading to, I suppose "bad" and, ignorant morales, being passed to the students, which, I believe at the time, aside from a few "segregated" school houses, were mostly embodied in caucasions. This is what I recall at the moment, so, I hope it helps, and I believe most of it is in the correct era, however, I could be wrong.

  • 1 decade ago

    we would have lost the war without women going into factories and doing the jobs their husbands did. In particular, they made bombs and ammunition and these factories were targeted by German bombers. Many women died in these air raids. The WAAF Womens Auxilliary Air Force was also very important in the control of aircraft, the radar stations and as plotters in the operation rooms. The Women's Land Army ran the country's agriculture industry. And, of course, women were bringing up families on their own, often in poverty. heroines every one.

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  • 1 decade ago

    What didn't they do, all the jobs previously done by men, and their own. The war involved all, and only by pulling together every man woman and child did we win.

    Check out, the womens land army.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    My great nana RIP, told me that she worked in a packing factory (Soldiers uniforms)

    But when I was researching my family tree I found out that she was in fact in prison (7 years) for Gun running.

    The Prison she was in made them pack the uniforms as a punishment.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    women did make a contribution as there were no men

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    no role for women, only to do nursing

  • 1 decade ago

    we all play a role on this planet

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Nightingale was one lady who helped in caring for the injured....she is the forerunner of today's nurses

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    very important

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