Before the war, the most commonemployment for a woman was as adomestic servant. However, women were also employed in what wereseen to be suitable occupations e.g. teaching, nursing, office work. Great Northern Central Hospital, Greater London (1888)
Servants at Hartwell Rectory, Hartwell, Northamptonshire (1902)Office with women packaging booksand promotional posters forLever Brothers products,and processing correspondencesor invoices (1897)
When war broke out in August 1914, thousands of women were sacked from jobs in dressmaking, millinery andjewellery making. They needed work – and they wanted to help the war effort.
When the war broke out in August 1914, suffragists and suffragettes suspended their campaigns for the vote.They believed that the war was more important than their cause. During the war they The white played an active part feather to young persuading British men not in the armed forces men to join the army.
At first, there was much trade unionopposition and the employment of womenhad not increased significantly before the summer of 1915. In July 1915, a ‘Right toWork’ ,march was organised by a leading suffragette, Christabel Pankhurst.
The introduction of conscription in 1916 led to an increase in thenumber of women employed in all sectors of the economy. Women preparing projectile heads at Cunard Shell Works, Merseyside (1917)
Women delivering coal (1917)
Women working as machineoperator in naval factories
Women working asstreet car drivers
A member of theWomen’s Forestry Corpsuses an axe to markfelled tree trunks forsawing during the FirstWorld War.
Female porters A female driver lies on theground as she works on a wheel with a spanner.
Because of naval battles and blockades during the war food supplies from abroad became scarce and food production on the home front had to be massively increased, in Britain 113,000 womenjoined the Womens Land Army which was set up in 1917, to provide a workforce to run the farms.
A kind of revolution was taking place. Women gained access to a whole range ofjobs that had previously been the preserve of men. The armed forces also employed them.
In the Womens Army AuxilliaryCorps, women largely employed on unglamorous tasks on the lines of communication: cooking andcatering, storekeeping, clerical work, telephony and administration,printing, motor vehicle maintenance. Women also became truck and ambulance drivers as more and more of the men were called to the front line.
Nurses on the front line
Women became more visible in theworld of work. They were seen to be doing important jobs.
Wages for women rose as well. Improvedwages did permit greater independence for some women.‘ Palmer’s Munitionettes’: a women’s football team made up of workers from Palmer’s Shipbuilding Company
After the War1 Women were expected to give way to men returning from the forces and return to pre-war ‘women’s work’.2 The assumption that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ returned.3 The percentage of women at work returned to pre-war levels.4 More women than before worked in offices.
After the War5 Shorter skirts and hair became fashionable.6 Women went out with men without a chaperone.7 Women smoked and wore make-up in public for the first time.8 In 1919: being female or married was no longer allowed to disqualify someone from holding a job in the professions or civil service.