Bias & Reliability Fact or opinion? Selection or omission? Untruth or distortion? Propagandist? Natural or unintentional bias?
Jan 14thPembrey is the back of beyond, a little coal mining village with a minute harbour, & the remains of a large silverworks. The factory is 3 ½ miles from the town... The factory makes TNT, G. cotton, cordite & ballistite.March 10thThe girls here are very rough, so are the conditions. Their language is sometimes too terrible. But they are also veryimpressionable, shrieking with rage one minute, & on quite friendly terms the next. The previous Sub Insp had onlyone sergeant & three constables under her, & they managed to get themselves heartily detested by the workers, withthe result that for a policewoman to so much as show herself was a signal for all the girls to shriek & boo. They severaltimes threatened to duck the Sub Insp, & did once throw a basin of dirty water over her.– The ether in the cordite affects the girls. It gives some headaches, hysteria, & sometimes fits. If the worker has theleast tendency to epilepsy, even if she has never shown it before, the ether will bring it out. There are 15 or 20 girlswho get these epileptic fits. On a heavy windless day we sometimes have 30 girls overcome by the fumes in one way oranother. Girls who show signs of epilepsy ought really to be discharged, or found other work – Some of the girls have12 fits or more one after the other. It generally falls to our lot to take the sick girls to the surgery – In this way we havebegun to win their confidence, & some who are most aggressive at first are beginning to be friendly.The girls here are much more interesting than those at Chester. They are more full of life, & there are so manydifferent types down here. There are about 3,800 women workers in all sections on both shifts. Some of them comedown from the sheep farms in the mountains, & speak only Welsh, or a very little broken English. Then there are therelatives of miners from the Rhondda & other coal pits near. They are full of socialistic theories & very great ongetting up strikes.From the 1917 diary of Miss G.M. West, a middle-class woman who enrolled as a munitions policewoman in 1916. Her jobwas to control the women in munitions factories. 1917 she was made a sergeant and sent to Pembrey in South Wales.
British Women’s Police Service during WW1. From http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/Wallen.htm
The outward signs of their freedom were flaunted gaily. Many used language thatwould have shocked their mothers; many started to wear cosmetics; smokingbecame widespread; and women bought drinks in public houses. Before the warshort skirts and brassieres had come in. During the war they completely ousted longdresses and camisoles. Well-meaning committees tried to discourage Land Girlswho, like most women doing heavy work or working outside, wore trousers fromwearing them off-duty, but without success.In defiance of the ever-present casualty figures, England was gripped by a feverishgaiety. ‘Give the boys on leave a good time’ was the universal sentiment. As onewoman remembered it, ‘If these young women who, as they read the casualty lists,felt fear in their hearts, did not seize experience at once, they knew that for many ofthem it would elude them forever. Sex became both precious and unimportant:precious as a desired personal experience; unimportant as something withoutimplications.’ Young girls were gripped by ‘khaki fever’ and hovered around armycamps. By the end of the war the illegitimacy rate had increased 30%. The marriagerate also increased sharply. Many marriages swiftly contracted, swiftly broke up.There were three times as many divorces in 1920 as in 1910.Black, L., ‘Women at War and Work’, in Taylor, AJP and Roberts, JM (eds), History ofthe 20th Century, Purnell, London, 1968, Vol. 2, p.627
Women in factories were given new freedoms, but worked in dangerous situations. Fromhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/worldwarone/hq/hfront2_02.shtml
Lancashire, England. Women war workers at an asbestos factory making asbestos cylinders forsmoke shells. British Official Photograph BB604/AWM/H07763
A group of women who volunteered their services as ambulance drivers pose around a Buick ambulance(AWM/H08740)
Women have still not brought themselves to realise thatfactory work, with the money paid for it during the war,will not be possible again. Women who left domestic serviceto enter the factory are now required to return to their potsand pans.From the Southampton Times, 1919, cited in B. Walsh, ModernWorld History, John Murray 1996, p.56
HOMEWORKRead the letters of Miss Ada McGuire athttp://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/worldwarone/sister/(You need to click on the picture of the letters to access)1. Analyse these letters as a collection. Consider the points of source analysis we have covered in this lesson.2. Write a paragraph about what these letters tell us about life for women on the British homefront.