When war broke out in 1914, most people in Britain expected that it would be over in a matter of months. Accordingly to the slogan of the government, it was ‘business as usual’. Only gradually did the full horror begin when to dawn, and with, the mobilization of the nation to win the war at all costs.
One of these was to allow women to replace mens’ places at work. This was not very popular with the men, but with the women it was.
Source A, a letter written in 1976 by a woman who lived and worked through the First World War, explains why. In the source she writes how there was a pay increase from £2 a month to £5 a week. This was obviously popular with the women as they can now afford to buy the essentials that themselves and their family needed. She also tells of how her working hours were cut from 6am to 9pm to working just 12 hours a day. This is also popular with the women because they were working less hours a day for more pay. The source is very reliable because it is a primary source. This helped Britain win the war as the men could go and fight for their country while the women do their jobs.
Source B, part of a book written by Sylvia Pankhurst in 1932, is about poor working conditions for women. In this extract she points out how the women were expected to work late and not get payed for it.
‘They were frequently expected to work on until 8pm and were only paid normal rates for this overtime’.
Sylvia Pankhurst also points out that it was common that ‘6 or more of the 30 dope painters were lying ill outside the workshop’. This shows that the women were put into poor working conditions to help win the war. However, this source is not reliable as Sylvia Pankhurst was a suffragette so the source could be bias. This also shows that the women were dedicated to help win the war as the conditions were so bad they could have gone back to the work they did before the war, but instead they kept at their jobs so that the men could fight the war.
Source C, part of a book written in 1917 by the owner of a factory in Birmingham, States that ‘Women refer factory life’. His reasons for why women prefer factory life are ‘newfound earning power, the social life’. He goes onto say that the women say that there are children are better off, better fed, clothed and housed. Again this source could be bias as it was a statement made by an employer while the war was still on and women had to work.
This statement probably gave women enthusiasm as there was a man making it and in it stating that the women feel good about supporting their families. Therefore this made the women work harder and also boosted the home morale which supported the British soldiers which in return helped Britain win the war.
Source D is a photograph taken in a munitions factory during the First World War. In the photograph, women work on and in the background there is a blackboard with a message on it. The message reads ‘when the boys come back we are not going to keep you any longer- girls’. This shows that women, in some eyes, were not needed to help win the war. This source is very reliable as it is reality. However if the girls had not of been working in that factory Britain would have lost the war because they would of ran out of munition.
Source E is propaganda. It is a poster published by the British government in 1916. It was to encourage young women to working munitions factories. The picture is of a soldier walking out of a door as the women is putting on her overalls as if she was going to work. There is a message which say’s ‘These women are doing their bit’. I don’t think that this source is very reliable as it is propaganda published by the British government. It is not reality; it is a message to play on womens’ minds and make them feel guilty if they do not work. However this worked and if it had not then fewer men would have been able to fight the war as they would have had to stay behind to work. Therefore women help Britain to win the war.
Source F is the number of women employed in some industries in 1914 and 1918. The source shoes that the number of women working in domestic service decreased, whereas the number of women doing mens jobs, such as manufacturing industry, increased.
I think that this source is reliable because it is facts and figures and not just someone’s opinion. This also proves that women were dedicated to helping to win the war that they left their jobs in domestics to do a mans job.
Source G is part of an account of a womens experiences during the First World War, it was written in 1919. The women talks about how the men who had remained at their jobs used to play tricks on her just because she was a women working to help win the war. She goes on to say the foreman gave her wrong directions, the men lent her no tools, and they nailed the desk top shut. This source is very reliable as it was written by a woman who helped during the war. This source could also be linked to source B as evidence of poor working conditions. However the bad working conditions were mainly caused by the selfish behavior of men.
Source H is part of an article in the ‘engineer’, published in August 1915. It is stating that women can handle equipment satisfactory. This sounds like women working during the war, and being able to, has given them a boost of confidence. If the women were more confident then they would probably work harder and produce more good work. I think that this source is reliable because; (i) it was written by a women journalist (ii) it is for women working and help winning the war.
Source I is part of a report on ‘womens work in wartime’ published in 1918. It was probably written by a man as it sounds as though the person is disgusted with the fact that women are working. It says that everywhere ‘he’ goes there are women working- doing mens jobs. I think that the source s reliable as it is a primary source. However, I do not agree with the source as the ‘man’ probably did not see the reason why there was women working everywhere. They were just helping Britain to win the war by filling in for the men as they fought the war.
Source J is a painting ‘for king and country’ by E.F Skinner, 1917. The painting shows women working very hard in dresses. I think that the source is not very reliable as the women would probably not wear dresses to work in a factory. However the name of the painting, ‘for king and country’, suggests that the painter also thought that the women were paying a vital role in helping Britain to win the war.
From my point of view, ‘Without the work of women on the home front, Britain could not have won the First World War’. I agree with this statement, as do several of the sources, because who could have kept the munitions factories going to keep producing the munition for the men at war? Who could of tried to keep routine things such as buses and trains e.c.t to running as smooth as clockwork? Some men may not agree with this statement because they do not see it through a womens point of view, but if women had not of been able to work Britain would probably not be an independent country today because there would have been a shortage in everything including soldiers, workers, munition e.c.t.