At the beginning of the 1900s, a women’s life was very restricted. They were given defined roles and rules that they must follow throughout their life. In this time, it was deemed ‘improper’ for women to have a job. Women were to stay at home at all times: ‘A woman is to be from her house three times: when she is christened, married and buried’ (Thomas Fuller, 1732). World War One changed the lifestyles of women forever and proved that they were worthy to work and to be treated with as much respect as men.
What extra things did women have to do to care for their family?
Before World War One, it was the woman’s job to clean, feed their children and care for their house. When World War One began, women on the home front were left by their husbands, brothers, sons and lovers as they went to war. When the men left to war in 1914 they had no guarantee to return, meaning that it would be the last time that many women and children could see their loved ones alive and well. Women were then required to do many extra things such as getting a full time job in a factory or other industrial area and earning an income for their family which limited their time to care for their family still at home and to up-keep their houses. On top of this, women volunteered at organisations such as Red Cross and helped sew clothing, make food and provide other necessities to send to the men on the other side of the world, fighting in the war.
How did women earn money when it was a 'Man's Job' to work?
Before World War One, it was considered that men were only capable of doing jobs in factories and on farms. The famous quote ‘Woman’s place is in the home’ (J.Slick, 1844) describes the thought of the issue in a men’s perspective. When World War One began and most men old enough to have a proper job left, women fought the government and many companies to have the right of working where men generally worked so they could earn money and keep their family alive. Eventually, women took over roles such as secretaries and clerks though some occupations were still apparently ‘too strenuous and difficult’ for a women. Women also began growing and making food to sell to other families in order to receive the required money. At the conclusion of World War One, there was a huge increase of women in the field of work ‘By 1914, a quarter of all clerks were women, double the number of ten years earlier. At the outbreak of war, just over three million women were employed in commerce and industry’ (Stevenson, 1914).
Women working in a clay-mine during World War One, Australia.
Women working at a cotton factory during World War One, Australia
What did women have to do to look after their children during this time?
Whilst men went to war, they left behind their wives and children. As money was little and many were struggling, education and childcare became difficult to have and became less important to many families. While juggling housework and a job, women also had to look after all of their children at home and many took them everywhere that they went including their meetings at the Red Cross and CWA (Country Women’s Association).
Would it have been hard for the women to cope?
It would have been extremely hard and difficult for the women to cope during World War One. As explained earlier, they were juggling many important things to try to keep their family healthy and well with the possible loss of a husband or known man affecting them also. Although many men went fighting overseas for our country, I believe that these women did an equally important job. They kept everyone alive and well.
In conclusion, women would have had a very difficult and challenging time during World War One. Not only did they have to care for their family and house, they also had to start a job to earn money. They also had to face the prospect of possibly losing many loved ones in war. During this time, women were given more respect from the community and were given more opportunities than what was available before. Not only did World War One change women of that time, it changed the roles and expectations of women for many generations to come.