In the First World War millions of people died as the Allies, consisting mainly of Great Britain, France and Russia fought the Central Powers, who included Germany and Austria-Hungary. Women’s lives in Britain, on the Home Front, were changed significantly by the First World War. Some of these changes shaped woman’s standing for the following decades while other changes were not permanent or worsened their position in British society. The following five sources all contain individual information about how woman’s lives were affected during the years of 1914-1918 and the years afterwards.
Women replaced male soldiers after the start of World War 1. Women were very far away from equal status to men also the activities of the Suffragettes, who despite having the simple aim of giving better rights, often who often angered politicians with their demonstrations; this is supported by Source A1. Source A1 also informs us of the gaps created in employment due to the war. We are made aware of the fact that after the war women had proved themselves to be equally capable as men.
The Suffragettes, primarily led by Emmeline Pankhurst often organized many forms of protests in order to gain the vote but called off the proceeding due to the outbreak of the Great War. After the war however women’s contribution to the war effort had given a sense of independence while changing many stereotypical male views of them staying within the confines of their household or simply working in low-paid domestic service. This is proven by Herbert Asquith who proposed giving women the vote having denied it in the years before the war.
Therefore women were rewarded with the vote, they were ‘given some form of political representation’ but unfortunately the reason the previous statement is so vague is because they had be over 30 years of age meaning biased still was very much present. The author being the BBC, an internationally recognized source of reliable information, means this particular piece is being made to educate GCSE pupils which suggests it is trustworthy; additionally the author of course has the benefit of hindsight and can reflect on events to further increase it validity.
This means it is very useful as it provides us with key facts contributing too many people’s understanding of the events that occurred during the First World War in Britain. As the majority of men were in the army, women were taking over men’s jobs. Women were often made to the same job as they were considered ‘un-skilled’ and this seems like the case in Source A3 which shows women working in a munitions factory, shown in a photograph. Women were drafted in to work and worked in factories such as this one helping to make things for use on the war front.
This was usually either from a deep sense of patriotism or the needs to gain extra income as food shortages were apparent all over the country. Working in a munitions factory was particular dangerous at that time as the work was exhausting and prolonged exposure to TNT, a vital ingredient in munitions, caused toxic jaundice which turned women’s skin yellow. By the end of the war 300 munitions workers had been killed by TNT poisoning or by explosions at work. The author of this particular photograph is not specified therefore it is not necessarily reliable meaning it could have been taken to convey a certain view.
This means there is a certain air of doubt over this photo and this photograph was taken is South Wales so it does not mean this scenario applied to all of the United Kingdom. If not for other evidence we could not have confirmed that women had worked excessively everywhere in the country during the war by this photograph meaning it is not particularly useful unless it is with other sources. Often women looked at the positive aspects of female employment, such as the woman in Source A7 who starts by saying ‘Earning high wages? ’.
This proves that she considers women in work to be positive despite many flaws and in-equality in the process. She continues with this theme and goes on to say about the extra income funding ‘clothes’ and ‘bracelets and jewellery’. Coming towards the end she explains her verdict is too spend her money in case she is ‘blown to the sky’ . The author was probably an upper-class woman though which introduces an element of controversy as she was likely not to have known much about the reality for women, such as women in Source A8, especially women with families and lower-class not educated women.
In reality many women earned only about 150p a week, a long way from the 5 pound stated in the poem. Many women also had families to care for therefore leaving little or no money for personal use and were often denied jobs because of their gender especially in the first year of the war and before the coalition in parliament. This source is reliable as the author is stated; it is produced by a woman who is experiencing the war first hand but not from the perspective of lower-class women who would have experienced the brutal reality of war more.
It is very useful though as it provides us with an insight into the opinions and views of women in the author’s position. Women were frequently expected to work far more than the legal limit of ten hours a day and were often over-worked to the point of exhaustion. In many trades the pay was poor considering the never-ending ‘toil’ the women were subject to and there was clearly a more negative side of the Home Front for women in the First World War. The account in Source A8 gives us an example of life in this industry but despite the clear flaws in the job, work in the transport industry still went up by nearly 100,000 from 1914 to 1918.
This source is a stark contrast from the previous source which portrays this situation in a more ‘jolly’ light-hearted manner and has phrases such as ‘I ain’t living bad’ in comparison to the awful scenario portrayed in this source, capturing our attention while describing women ‘lying ill on the stones’. This shows how much common opinion varied from woman to woman, depending on their class, job and family. The author was campaigners for women’s rights as this was written at a time were gender in-justice was still very much alive in British society.
This means it cannot be completely trusted as the writer could have had added a biased exaggeration to the account to gain support. As it cannot be considered fully reliable it is not massively useful but it can provide us with evidence of the harsh reality of some professions at the time. Women were quickly removed from their jobs following the end of the Great War but were reluctant to slip back into their pre-war lifestyle, most women firstly tried to avoid the drudgery of domestic service as it left them without companionship.
Source A1 seems to have a different viewpoint to this source, despite them both being reliable. Source A1 tells of women being given political representation and women proving they were just as important to the war effort as men. Source A10 undermines this by revealing the truth, which was the fact that even though the women had been just as important, come the end of the war they were nearly back to the start as they were kicked out of their jobs and many were soon on benefits or working in domestic service.
Source A10 is written by an author of history school textbooks meaning it is likely to be well researched therefore unbiased and reliable, as it is for GCSE students to use, this implies it is completely trustworthy. This source is particularly useful as it contributes to the vast information about the Great War and helps people’s understanding of life in the country at the time. 1910’s and 1920’s society was riddled with in-justice highlighted by the fact that the very same women that were praised were now criticized and by the 1920’s domestic service employment rose by 200,000, a sign of the lost hope.
At this point, despite being granted the vote, it was really 3 steps forward, 2 steps back for the women of Britain. As the heroics of the FANY’s and people like Flora Sandes became a distant memory women all over Britain were soon ‘handing in their notice’. These 5 sources are all helpful in different ways with varying reliability and they all provide information about the woman’s lives in World War 1 and how they changed.