How We're The Lives Of Women Effected In The First World War

1714 words - 7 pages

How were the lives of women on the home front affected by the First World War?

WW1 broke out in August 1914 when the great powers of Europe went to war over territorial competition to increase their empires. The war was mainly fought in continental Europe. By 1918, after millions of deaths, the Germans were defeated. The role of women in Britain had changed in many ways during the war.

Before the war many working class women worked in mills in northern, industrial towns, always as a menial labour force - never in any sort of authoritative or responsible position and always supervised by men. However this sort of manual labour, especially after marriage, was frowned upon by many. This ...view middle of the document...

Source 6 is a letter to the Imperial War Museum written by Mrs H. A. Felstead in 1976. She was in domestic service when the war broke out and jumped at the chance of a decent wage doing meaningful work for the war effort. Her letter shows she thought her wages were high for the work she was doing. She wrote, "...I thought I was very well off earning £5 a week." This letter was written many years after the war so the exact figures may not be accurate but her general view backs up my existing knowledge and other sources I have seen. She wrote the letter to tell of her experience to future generations so I don't think she would have had any reason to exaggerate. The main point she makes is that she saw munitions work for women as a positive change.

However, there was a reason for the high wages paid to munitions workers and the way many of the girls used the money as they earned it. There were great risks involved in munitions work due to the nature of the extremely volatile explosives. The worst accident of the war occurred at Silverton in 1917 when the factory exploded. There were 69 deaths and over 400 people were injured, illustrating the terrible conditions of women's war work. This case highlights the huge risks of fire in every munitions factory and shows the bravery of the girls who carried on working for their country. Source 8 is a poem by Madeline Ida Bedford, an educated upper-class woman. It was written in 1917as her response to what she saw around her. The poem is written in character as a working class woman who is happy to live with danger her job entails and to spend all her wages "On good times and clothes." Madeline deliberately misspells words throughout the poem to show the thick accent, which, as a lady she would not have had. The mood of the poem is gung-ho and cheerful in the face of danger. This is a primary source as it was written by someone present at the time, but it is unlikely that Madeline herself worked in a munitions factory so her view may not be representative of many munitions workers. However this point of view does correspond with my background knowledge and is also backed by other sources I have read so I think it is a fair representation of the general attitude of munitions workers.

The work women were doing in all fields during the war was instrumental to Britain's success at home and on the field of war, and in 1917 this was accepted by the government. Source 9 is a quote from Herbert Asquith, a former British PM, speaking to a public audience in 1917. Before the war he was opposed to women voting. He said, "When the war is over the question will arise about women's role in society. I would find it impossible oppose them getting the vote." This shows that the role of women on the home front changed his mind about whether they were equal members of society. I think that this source reflects the views of many middle/upper class men at the time and backs the changing of views which led up to some...

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