Essay on The Change of Gender Roles During the First World War

1227 WordsNov 10, 20105 Pages
The Change of Gender Roles During the First World War When the First World War began in 1914, there was much discussion regarding the proper gender roles for British men and women. For men, the course of action seemed clear that they should enlist and fight. Yet, many men struggled under the pressure of warfare. For women, it was unclear how they should be involved in the war effort. Many men wanted the women to keep their traditional gender roles of taking care of the household. However, the lack of male workers on the home front required women to take on different work roles. The women received a great deal of praise and positive attention for their work as nurses, munitions workers, and military auxiliaries. However, men were critical…show more content…
Many women longed for a more active role in the war effort. Suffrage leaders criticized the government for not involving women more. So, when a shortage of shells was revealed in the spring of 1915, certain government ministers concurred. Munitions Minister Lloyd George encouraged the leader of the British suffrage movement, Emmeline Pankhurst, to organize a massive demonstration and march on the theme 'Women's Right to Serve' (Grayzell, 1999). As more men entered the armed forces, women needed to replace them. By the war's end, hundreds of thousands of women had entered the workforce, many of them in traditionally masculine occupations such as engineering, munitions, transport, business, and eventually even the military. The war produced a leap in women's employment from twenty-six percent in the workforce in 1914 to thirty-six percent by 1918. One million women worked in munition industries, forty-thousand served as nurses, and twenty-thousand joined the Women's Land Army as agricultural workers (Marwick, 1977). For the young and the middle-class, work outside their homes was indeed a new experience. On the other hand, working-class women were used to paid work, but the type of work was new. Many left low-skill, low-wage jobs, especially in domestic service, for better paying skilled labor in factories and workshops (Kent, 1993). Nursing, unlike other forms of
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