World War 1 was a military conflict centered in Europe after the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand by a nationalist Serb. “The Great War,” which became known as World War 1 after World War 2 ended in 1945, began in 1914 and ended in late 1918. This conflict caused many American men to travel overseas leaving women with many unglamorous tasks. During World War 1 women contributed in nursing, factories, farming, and even spies. However not many women actually fought on the war front. World War 1 was a vital time for women to show a male-dominated society that they could achieve success as well as men had done.
Before World War 1 women were not recognized but when men were fighting in a war for peace their recognition was about to change. With the men fighting overseas there was a shortage of workers in factories and other businesses where only men would work. A woman`s typical job would be to stay at home and tend to their children or domestic service. They would rely on men for their finances. Women would get jobs other than voluntary work to support their families financially. They would work jobs where men usually work including being mechanics, farmers, factory workers, and secretaries. By 1917 the London Gazette surveyed 444,000 women, this survey stated that 68% of women changed jobs since the war began, 16% were out of domestic service, 22% were unemployed and now had a job in 1914, and 23% changed from one job to another. ” (http://www. sachem. edu/schools/seneca/socialstudies/guttman/per5/roleofwomen/link1. htm) Them most common job women had taken were in factories. Women who worked in factories mainly made and shipped ammunition and other supplies for the soldiers in the war. The factories in which women would work in were unhealthy and hazardous to be receiving less pay than men.
Protective gear did not exist putting women in an even higher risk of injury. The supplies they worked with were very dangerous and had a high risk of damage. Some women were exposed to dangerous chemicals which would harm their skin and lungs. One harmful chemical was sulphur which would cause their skin to turn yellow. Also women would work with voluminous bombs and machine guns. Unskilled women would have a high risk of the trigger being pulled or the bomb exploding. Figure [ 1 ]. http://thegreatwarrevealed. weebly. com/womens-roles-in-ww1. tml This was very dangerous because usually if one machine explodes it would trigger off many other weapons to explode also. Women would also take over farms by monitoring crops and caring for livestock. Most women would join the Women’s Land Army (WLA). The WLA was an organization created for women who took over farms. There was such a need for women to help farm that young teens by Figure [ 2 ]. jimmythejock. hubpages. com/hub/World-War-1-Women-At-War the age of 16 would lie about their age to join. They would receive 18 shillings (about 1 pound) a week.
However 12 shillings went to food and their home which left them with 6 shillings for clothing such as stockings. With such a need for gas for men on the war front women would use their hands for everything that could be done. Tractors were never used much so they would plant seeds and harvest crops by hand and horse. Women who chose to not work on farms or factories could help in many other ways including street car conductors, railroad workers, and shipbuilders. The women who worked in offices would answer phones and file papers. Unmarried women with no children did most of the physical heavy lifting.
However married women with children would do what they could do to help. They made such things for the soldiers overseas, such as flannel shirts, socks and scarves. With all of the tasks women did at home they still found time to write letters to their fathers, boyfriends, and husbands. Figure [ 3 ]. www. owensarchive. com/american-hospital-ward-in-blois-france-4199 Women were already known to be nurses but when World War 1 started they were needed even more. Thousands of skilled and trained U. S nurses were sent to France in 1917 to help aid sick and injured soldiers.
Young girls as young as 15 would help save the lives of wounded soldiers. These nurses could never prepare themselves for the kind of nature and work they were about to face. Nurse Juliet Goodrich said, “I knew nothing about nursing and had to learn from my patients, it will be a pain full process for all who will be concerned. ” (Gavin, Lettie. American Women of World War One, Pg 46. ) Nurses faced conditions including harsh weather, tight and dirty spaces, and having a shortage of water for drinking and bathing for weeks. “During a certain time period of war, nurses saw every bed, stretcher and floor space covered with blood and dying men.
Over 12,000 women nurses were active in duty. ” (Gavin, Lettie. American Women of World War One, Pg 45) Jane A. Delano, a nurse who was the founder of the American Red Cross Nursing Service, tried to improve the skill of nurses and provide professional standards. After working tirelessly, she created a group of nurses called the Army Nurse Corps. They Army Nurse Corps soon took up a majority of skilled nurses in World War 1. Many young women would join nursing groups including the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) and First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY).
The women who joined the VADs were unpaid nurses with basic education that could only provide comfort and little help such as small injections to the soldiers on the war front. Women could also join the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry or FANY. The nurses who joined FANY had a less glamorous time doing tasks including disinfecting rooms where soldiers were held, running baths for the troops, and cooking. Many nurses who were on the front line with the soldiers had to bring their own wash board to keep their laundry clean. The women who joined FANY or VAD had a troubled time keeping Figure 4. ttp://www. sachem. edu/schools/seneca/socialstudies/guttman/per5/roleofwomen/link1. htm their stations clean with all of the casualties and when the influenza epidemic spread. Women nurses on the front line did not only provide medical service but also entertainment. The women would hold shows for men where they would dance and sing. They would also keep a journal about their time helping. In their journals, they would write stories and poetry which would be read to some soldiers. They even sometimes would give lectures to them about how the peace they are fighting for would help society.
During World War 1, women were never taken seriously but that never stopped them from fighting. Some women would disguise themselves as men in order to fight which would make it difficult to track who had died. Both the Navy and Army wanted women to join but the Marines were not so quick to let women be enlisted. Many difficulties had occurred when it came to women joining troops however the Navy and Army enlisted as many women as they could. “The first women in the Navy were sworn in by Lt. W. R Cushman at Los Angeles recruiting offices in 1917. ” (Gavin, Lettie. American Women of World War One.
Pg. 19) Thousands of women were enlisted in to both the Navy and Army. These women were given the same status as men. Even African-American women served as yeoman, a junior officer in the Navy. Unlike the Navy and Army, the Marine Corps were not so hurried to have women enlisted into their troops. However, after hearing their reasoning to join they opened there corps to women. Many reasons for women wanting to fight were having a strong desire to serve for their country. Other women kept their reasoning a secret because the only wanted to join to prove to men they are equal and can serve as well.
Women who wanted to join the Navy or Army but never wanted to fight in the front line would enlist to the Auxiliary Army. Many women joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, which later became known as Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps. These women would protect the back of the trenches from any possible on coming enemies, so men could be in the front line. Figure 5. http://jimmythejock. hubpages. com/hub/World-War-1-Women-At-War Women weren’t only need for nursing and on the warfront, but many were sworn into the U. S. Army Signals Corps as operators. In late 1917, General Pershing put at an emergency appeal in many newspapers for bilingual telephone-switchboard operators. Pershing wanted women to be sworn into the Army as an emergency need, because, he stated, women have the patience and perseverance to do long detailed work. He found that men in the Signal Corps had difficulty operating switchboards. He thought the men would serve better in the front lines stringing wires necessary for communication from the trenches to the General in command. The women operators became known as the Hello Girls. (Gavin, Lettie. American Women of World War One. Pg. 98. ) After the armistice a few women were enlisted into the army service. They were recruited as privates for 4 years. Some women opposed participation of other women in the war, Jennette Rankin, the first women in Congress, said, “I want to stand by my country, but not women in war. ” (“Women in the First World War. ” World Book Encyclopedia. ) “Women were the unsung heroes of the war, keeping the industrial wheels turning and the home fires burning. ” (“Women in the First World War. World Book Encyclopedia. ) Even though the women received less pay for their efforts, their equality was starting to rise. By the end of the war women proved they could do the male job which eventually led to women`s suffrage and women receiving the right to vote. Once the war ended and the men returned home, women were dismissed of their service. The working women were given the nickname “canaries” not as a term of abuse but of importance. After the war women found new confidence that made them become more distinguished in a male-dominated society.