Courseworks

Attitudes towards Women in World War II

Source C is a source written in 1991 by a female British historian, Anne Valery. She wrote a book about the history of women during the war called, ‘Talking about War’. Source C is an extract from this book containing the authors view point on the way women were treated during the war. Valery mentions an editorial printed in 1939, regarding women ambulance drivers and she also includes information about a cartoon which was offensive towards women. Valery puts across a very biased view and this must be taken into consideration when discussing whether a source is useful. Anne Valery is a feminist and writes a lot of books on attitudes to women, putting in her views and thoughts on the treatment making the source useful as it’s a women’s opinion.As the source is biased there is a possibility that the sources could get twisted because Valery may have a point to prove – that women were treated badly and the attitudes were sexist in WWII. Valery could also have twisted sources to cause conflict, the fact that this source is from a book must be kept in mind and so twisted sources could make the book more enjoyable and also get publicity if it’s particularly ‘scandalous’. The source is very limited in its usefulness as it is only one perspective on the attitudes towards women in WWII but this is very useful to find out what women thought about their new position in society and the workplace.Source D is a speech given in September 1942 by the Deputy Prime Minister of Britain. He comments on how well women have been working, complementing them by comparing them with skilled male workers. When thinking about how useful this source is the question ‘why?’ must be thought about. I believe the speech was made to encourage women to work and help them along by complementing them. This is a good source for finding out about the attitudes to women but the deputy prime minister may be lying to get women to work. The source is also limited in information because we don’t know what Atlee went on to say, or said before. The speech is propaganda and isn’t really a trustworthy source but could be useful in finding out how the government thought about women, and what they could do with the women’s new found position.I think Source C is the more useful source for finding out about the attitude towards women in WWII. The source is biased but it gives the view point of a women and although this women was not alive during the war, she was a historian and so had access to a lot of sources from the time and she gave her opinions on these. Source D is a piece of propaganda which does give an attitude towards women but cannot be trusted. The sources are very useful when finding out about other different views and thoughts on women, but not about the attitude towards them.2.Source G is an advertisement for ‘Mrs Peek’s Puddings’ and it involves a cartoon strip with a story on it, produced during WWII. A wife has a job in the Wardens Post but she works so late that she is not able to cook a meal for her husband at night. She feels that she has to quit this job but her friend tells her about a food in a tin which is simple to make. Then the woman makes the pudding and her husband is shocked. The final caption is, ‘I’m still helping my country and Mrs. Peeks is looking after your dinner.’These advertisements, although somewhat ‘cheesy’, are a reliable source in the fact that this was how women thought and were expected to act during WWII. A typical housewife would always have a hot meal for their husbands, ready when they came home; during the war a lot of women had to work in factories which meant no time to cook meals at night. The fact that this source is an advertisement must be taken into consideration. Although advertisements do reflect current trends and themes of the time, their main aim or purpose is to sell their product, putting the point across that it is ‘easy to make’ and encourage people to buy it; it puts a message across, telling people to buy the product and that it can save a marriage or a job. This does affect the accuracy of the source as it is not designed to inform readers about attitudes to women during WWII.Overall this source is not reliable, just by looking at the end of the cartoon this is obvious; the husband thinks the pudding is homemade. Home made puddings, and ones that come out of a tin are not the same, this advertisement makes them out to be. If the advertisement is lying about its own product, then what’s to stop it lying about other topics? The only sense that this advertisement is telling the truth in is the fact that a lot of women had to work, yet were still expected to cook, clean and wash which was the typical attitude of the time.3.’The second World War created big changes for women in Britain’ Do you agree or disagree with this statement?I think during WWII the situation for women changed greatly. The war was a major step for women who wanted the vote. WWI hadn’t really brought changes for women, some worked but not to the extent that they did in WWII. WWII did not necessarily bring about actual changes but it changed the way women thought and were thought about.The war created working opportunities for women that had never been explored before. Women were expected to sit at home looking after children, cooking and cleaning before the war. Those that could work, which was anyone without a child, could only work in textiles factories and work with children. When the war started millions of men were sent away to fight leaving their jobs and family behind. Women played a major part in the war as they were sent to work in place of all the men that had left for war. Any job was filled, including working on busses and in the munitions factory and this was dangerous work for anybody, which needed a lot of skill; women were paid up to �10 a week.Source F reads, “My first impression of this great all male domain was not a good one, (it) awed and scared me.” This source came from an autobiography of a woman that worked in factories during the war, she may have made the factory worse in her book for good reading but it is likely that she could remember her feelings and so it is a reliable source. It damaged women’s health severely but the work had to be done to keep England in the war. Women filled in all kinds of work and they were even conscripted to work in the armed forces. One source from a working woman during the war reads, “At the end of the war (the women) were not so keen to let go of their new independence. The end of this war brought many unheard and undreamt of changes.”Women were conscripted in 1941 to work in the armed services and in theory they could choose which force they wanted to be in and the choice was that of the navy, the air force or the land force. Most women would pick the navy due to the fact that they had ‘nicer uniforms’. In practice women had no choice to where they went, once the air and navy force were filled up, most women were put into the land services. By 1944 over 450,000 women worked in the armed forces and over half of them were working in the land forces.The land forces were women’s worst fear, it wasn’t helped by the fact that the toilets didn’t have doors on them for this was common practice with men and no one had given them any thought for women. In fact, women hated the ATS so much that they would deliberately get pregnant to leave. In the armed forces women found themselves doing work that they thought they would never do: welding, pilots, carpenters and even gunners on anti aircraft guns-although they weren’t allowed to fire them. The ATS was definitely the most dangerous force for women, over 300 were killed. The traditional sexist attitudes did not disappear at the beginning of the war; women still found themselves working as secretaries, cleaners and cooks. Not all men thought of women like this, one source explains that when the Americans came over to fight, the British soldiers told them to respect the women working with them as they had ‘proved themselves in this war’ Sexist attitudes in the Air Force were blatant.When women flew as ferry pilots they weren’t allowed a radio in their plane because it was thought that they would gossip with each other! Flying without radios was more difficult as there was no way to communicate; one woman got lost in the clouds but was too embarrassed to ‘bail out’ and when she landed in an unknown air field she was too embarrassed to ask where it was. Although some women had a bad time in the armed forces, many had a good time and it changed their lives. One woman was quoted, “The Women’s Auxiliary Air force made me stand on my own two feet. It was all a wee bit of an adventure in the hope always we were doing a little but to finish the war.” Women brought a good feeling from all their work and trouble and it changed their attitude to life, they realised they could do more then cook and clean.Women did more then just work in the army and in factories, many were sent away to work in the field and on farms. There was a desperate need for farm workers at the start of the war. 80,000 women joined to work in farms at the beginning of the war to make up the difference of men that went away. A film was even made on the experiences the women had mentioned in Source H. The film was called ‘Land Girls’ and portrayed life on the land as an adventure, the film is mainly a love story but it is very factual and portrays the way the women worked well. The male attitude was still strong amongst the farmers; they very much doubted that women would be able to work in the land driving tractors and sheering sheep.In fact, source B tells us about the attitudes the women did receive, “The people were very resentful in the country, they didn’t make things easy for you.” This source was written by a woman that gave an interview 40 years after WWII. She has no reason to lie, but her memory may be a bit vague, although something as important as the attitude towards her is unlikely to be forgotten. What made it even harder to believe was the fact that most of the women that went away to the country had no previous experience with country land or animals. Women who were sent to work the land had no choice where they were to go; they were billeted to remote areas in basic conditions with low pay. Although the conditions were bad the women learnt new tasks and gained new experiences and new respect.In conclusion I agree with the statement, that the WWII created big changes for the women in Britain. During the war, women were given the chance to prove themselves to men, showing that they could do any job men could do and in some cases-better. It also gave women a chance to become more independent; women went away, for the first time in many cases, to work on the land or in the armies. They gained new independence and experience. By the end of the war, although women were pushed out of their jobs, they had gained a respect which was a step in the ladder to equality.

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