Role of Women in World War 1

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World war one was perhaps the most memorable event of the twentieth century. Without World War 1, memorable wars like World War 2 and the Cold war between the USA and Soviet Union would never have occurred. The main reason for the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria by a Bosnian student among other reasons. World War 1 had a significant influence in the lives of women. Women constituted more than half of the total population hence they had to be part of the war in one way or the other. Since it was a world war, all the relevant factions had to go the extra mile with regards to the war for the sole reason of not falling prey to the enemy. Men took up the roles of fighting in the army. Hence, a job vacuum was created. Furthermore, the 1916 conscription meant that women had to get jobs as mandated by the various states. The involved governments urged women to get jobs through creating awareness on the need for women to get jobs to facilitate their husbands who had already been enlisted in the army. As a result, women took up jobs formerly done by men.

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Women played a major role in the war. Their participation in the war had a lot of impact on the outcome of war. Women were involved in manufacturing ammunitions for their male counterparts out in the field. Women also played the role of medical doctors and nurses and assisted their wounded or sick male counterparts. Similarly, they took up noncombatant military roles in the army. In addition to that, they took women took the role of nurses and medical specialists in the war. Women were used as a tool for propaganda in the war. Governments used women as human shields in the war, violated them sexually just to get back at the enemy. However the role of women in the war had its negative implications as well.

Women in the war took up the role of working in heavy industries to produce ammunitions in weapons. Due to arms demand for the war, governments converted their consumer manufacturing industries to weaponry industries. Furthermore, women had lost their jobs in farms hence the demand for getting another job rose. It is estimated that about 70,000 women were employed in the weapon manufacture industry during the war. The weaponry manufactured by women in these industries included poison gas, artillery fire and machine guns. As the war progressed so did their skills in producing these powerful weapons. Eventually, they started producing tanks to facilitate the war. Women worked in these industries to support their male counterparts who were out on the actual battle field. Munitions factories in Britain reported that 80% of shells and weapons used by the British army were manufactured by women employees. The Briton women handled trinitrotoluene used to manufacture powerful explosives. Whenever this chemical got into contact with their skin, it turned yellow hence their nickname as Canaries. This show the extent to which the women were involved in the war with regards to manufacture of ammunition. Quite a huge number of women working in these industries died due to direct exposure of this radiant powerful chemical TNT.

During the war, women were also used as tool for spreading propaganda. Governments used women as a tool of propaganda against their male counterparts be it a husband, brother etc. Governments dubbed women as vulnerable and easy targets for the enemy. This prompted the men in the society to join the military and fight to protect their women and children. The British and French governments adopted this technique to cast women as defenseless persons in need of protection. The two governments highlighted scenarios when Germans raped Defenseless Belgian women. This basically was propaganda to cast women as most vulnerable and in dire of need of protection. Men who had second thoughts joined the army of these governments with one fixed mind; to protect their women from the enemy. Similarly, governments used women in recruitment posters to spread propaganda. Their main motives were to work the guilt of men who refused to join the army and that blame would be on them in the event of the enemy attacking their women. In addition to that, women were placed in recruitment posters as rewards to trick men into joining the army. Women themselves were also targets of propaganda. During the inception of the war, governments used posters to urge women not to worry and be delighted with their husbands, sons and brothers who were fighting to protect the nations interests and people. Subsequently this turned into exhibiting the actual compliance that was supposed of men. Henceforth women became symbols of the nation during the war (Fox, 2015).

Few women also took up the role of fighting in the front line together with their male counterparts. Women such as Ecaterina Teodoroiv and Flora Sands are perfect examples of front line women fighters. The former fought in the Romanian Army while the fought in the Serbian army rising through the ranks in the process. The Russian Women Battalion of Death was a Russian women army unit formed after the February Revolution of 1917 and fought in the war (Wilde, 2014).

Women also took the role of nurses during the war. These women were always close to the front line in the battle and responded immediately a soldier was injured. This same women also drove ambulances to rush the injured to hospital during the war. An example of military that had women nurses at standby was the American Army. The American army moved to Europe in 1917 to fight the war and came along with its women nurses. The American nurses were based in evacuation centers, field infirmaries, mobile units and recovery hospitals.

Women also took up the role of spies in the war. These spies in many instances were undercover and posed as pursuing a different profession like nursing etc. An example of a spy in World War one was Edith Cavelli. Cavelli was an English nurse working in Belgium at the onset of the war. She is termed as a spy because she worked undercover and assisted English, Belgian and French soldiers flee from the marauding Germany army. She was eventually executed for her actions after her undercover activities came to light. Another woman spy of World War 1 was Mata Hari. Mata was born in the Netherlands and she posed as a club striper with fake roots from India (Fox P. , 2015).

Women also served in their capacity as wives and mothers and provided the soldiers with food stuffs and drinking water. For example women in Australia made ANZAC biscuits to and shipped to the Australian Army on duty. The biscuits were edible and could go fresh for a long time hence were a better option for the soldiers out in the field. The Australian women also doubled up as nurses who went overseas with the military to assist in health related issues. Unfortunately, a large percentage of these women died while in the line of duty. Australian school girls were encouraged to raise money to facilitate patriotism campaigns. The school girls responded by selling vegetables from their gardens, made cakes and knitted to raise funds for this course.

Finally, women took up non- combatant military roles. By so doing, they gave men the opportunity to go and battle in the front line. In the US women were employed as yeoman. An estimated 30,000 women were enlisted in the military during the war. On the other hand, Britons employed women who worked as Womens Royal Air Force Service even though they were denied access to weapons (Wilde, 2014).

The role of women in World War 1 helped shape the normal European woman. Prior to the inception of World War, women were struggling for gender equality against their male counterparts. The involvement of women and their devotion and bravery earned them their place in the community. Women were able to air their views and commanded audience from their male counterparts. In short, European women gained independence immediately after the war came to a halt.

Unfortunately, the role of women in the war came with its own fair share of negative implications. During the war, women were exposed to a myriad of opportunities while men were at war. These opportunities exposed them to more incomes hence giving them financial independence. Thus the aforementioned weakened their morals hence many broken marriages were imminent after the war. In addition to that patterns in women dressing changed to date. Prior to the war, women wore skirts that reached up to the ankles. After the war, the skirts sizes were never the same. Their lengths shortened.

In conclusion, the role of women in the war contributed to both positive and negative implications. The positive side of it was the European women plights were considered. On the contrary, their role in the war led to weakened morals among women.


BIBLIOGRAPHY \l 1033 Fox, J. (2015). British Library. Retrieved from

Fox, P. (2015). Retrieved from about education.

Grayzel, S. (n.d.). World War One. British Library. (n.d.). Retrieved from web clark.

Wilde, R. (2014). about education. Retrieved from

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