Women and the War Effort in Britain 1914-1918

Sources B and F show that there were a range of attitudes towards women in the war. They are therefore both useful in showing evidence of attitudes to women during that period.Source B is a propaganda source so it is not completely reliable. It was created to show that women and men were united and of equal stature in the war effort and thus encourage more women to enroll as they would not be discriminated against. It was intended to indoctrinate the general public to believe that women and men were both useful for the war effort and should not be discouraged from joining it. The source is limited in its value by its bias and prejudice and also because it only shows the official government policy, which was that women should be encouraged, not discriminated against. Source B is from a magazine called ‘The War-Worker’ which suggests that it may be either a guideline for war-workers and people wanting to become war-workers or a magazine for those people about general happenings in the war effort. This means that either way it will not publish any negative information about women being discriminated against as it would not want to discourage women in anyway, even thought there were cases of women being negatively discriminated against and also using their new job positions to strike and disrupt the war effort in an attempt to twist the governments arm over women rights.Source F is taken from a book called ‘War and Society in Britain 1899-1948’ which covers the era of women’s rights and the First World War. This book is reliable and there should be no emotional bias as the book was written a long time after the events took place. There is a lot of detail in the passage and it shows that attitudes were different to different groups of women and shows various reasons why men were fearful of women taking jobs and vitriolic towards them. The source should have no biases or limitations as it is a secondary source, and therefore should include information from a range of primary sources. The tone of source F, in contrast to source B, is that women were not united with men at all in the workplace and men still thought themselves to be superior.I think source F is more useful then source B because it hold more information about attitudes towards women workers in the war and reasons for them, has no biases or limitations, and was not written for any purpose other than to inform. Source B does not show a range of attitudes or reasons for them. It is simply a propaganda picture designed to indoctrinate the general public into believing that if they joined the war effort they would not be discriminated against, not matter who they were. There were a wide range of attitudes towards women in the First World War, from men and women alike. Source B fails to recognize this and also fails to give any reasons for men discriminating against women, for example women not allowed to be given the rank of officer and not being allowed to perform duties in the front line. Source F however does give reasons for discrimination and it goes into some detail on why men thought women should not be in the workplace, as many women’s rights protestors thought themselves.Source I has both strengths and weaknesses in its assessment of the gains women made due to their work in the First World War. It is a secondary source designed for schools and entitled ‘The Impact of the war on Women’s Status’.It comes from a book intended for use in schools so it is diluted information and easy to understand at a young age. It should be reliable as it was written a long time after the events of which it talks so there should be no emotional attachment and should draw from a number of earlier sources. It is a good assessment for the level it is intended for but does not go into much detail and only states what gains women made, rather then explain what the terms were and who the more important individuals were in the women’s rights campaign for example. This may also be because the book is about the First World War generally and not specifically about the gains women made in and after the war.The biggest flaw in the source, though, is its failure to recognize that there were many problems with women workers in the First World War and how there were many people who thought that women were not up to the job and caused friction. Source I seems to suggest that there were few problems and that women didn’t have to struggle for the vote after the war. There were also those in the suffragette movement who disagreed with the armistice with the government and saw it as a betrayal. Whilst Emmeline Pankhurst declared, ‘What would be the good of a vote without a country to vote in!’… Her opposition, for example Sylvia Pankhurst Hannah Mitchell, felt betrayed. Source I does not address this factor at all. Source I’s main strength though is that it gives a general synopsis of what women achieved during and after the war and does it in such a way that children would understand.Sources A to J do show that there was a great change in the status of women after the First World War and different changes of attitude to women during it. There is a wide spectrum of views shown in sources A to J.Sources A and C, taken from the Daily Chronicle and the War Illustrated Magazine, both praise the effort and spirit women displayed in the war. Source C says that the women has, “…ably proved that she can do her share in times of crisis” and Source A says that the processions women held was, “…so overwhelming a demonstration of its unconquerable and undivided spirit. The two picture sources, B and D entitled “Men and women unite in a common cause” and “Doing a mans job”, are both propaganda sources but both show the official view, which was that women were of equal stature to men and were able to work. This support of women was used to encourage more women to work but also instilled the belief in women that they were equal to men and deserved equal rights. These propaganda sources cannot be used to show the gains women made because they were created for the purpose of recruiting women and are not reliable.Source H shows that the percentage of female workers in all jobs rose during the war and this means that women were being taken more seriously and were not being so widely discriminated against in the workplace. But there were only many more women in the workplace because very few were given jobs on or behind the war front and the men who previously occupied those jobs were at the front. It also does not show the attitudes of men, many of which did not change. Source I shows that women were employed in a wide variety of posts, that they did valuable work and were given the vote as a reward for their endeavours but once again does not show that many attitudes had changed and men still regarded themselves far superior to women. Women though were treated as equals to men in some jobs, although men were given many advantages, women worked hard to ensure that they would be taken seriously by the government.Other sources, though, show that women were treated very negatively and not given privileges that men took for granted. Source E suggests that women used there positions in factories and jobs to organize strikes and disrupt the war effort. This behavior may have been isolated but the source is reliable and should hold no emotional bias. Women’s rights protestors prided themselves as “the peace-loving sex” and were pacifists in their protestations but there were a minority of women who believed that they had no choice but to disrupt and riot in order to get their rights. Source F is from a book about society in Britain which includes this period of time and is a reliable source.It states that some women were, “…restricted to less-skilled operations and were the victims of hostility and even sabotage.” This shows that the attitudes of many men were unchanged. It does say though that some women did have the full co-operation of male employees. Source F suggests that women had not taken a huge step forward as some of the sources suggest and had invited hostility from men due to being cheap and undermining traditional male roles. Source G shows that women doctors were treated as inferior to men and were not given the rank of officer, even though it may have been in Britain’s best interest to do so. Winston Churchill claimed it was because there were duties which they were incapable of undertaking. These sources suggest that women did not enhance their position in society despite whether they deserved to or not.In reality women were given the vote after the war and were eventually given the vote at the same age as men but were not treated as equals to men. The stand women made was greatly admired and led to support from men as well as women but they were continually treated as inferior and even now some signs of this are seen.

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