Tuesday, 21 June 2011

How war affected women

• Women sacrificed their husbands, sons, brothers, fathers and sweethearts to fight for their country
• Women were left behind to keep the home and family going, managing on rations and shortages
• Women were left to mourn for their lost husbands and sons
• Women and children were often homeless from bombings
• Women are seen as “spoils” of war
• Women were allowed for the first time to work outside of the home
• Women, often in the wrong place at the wrong time and suffered the atrocities of the prison camps in the Far East
• Captured women used as “comforts” as prostitutes etc., for Japanese/German soldiers.

No Job for a Woman?

Building rubber tyres
Chimney sweep
Cleaning railway carriages
Glass workers
Brewery workers
Women carrying coal
Timber worker (Women's Land Army)
Shell filling
Caustic soda workers
Howitzer factory

Women trade unionists

Women's trade union membership increased by about 160% during the war, but apart from the National Federation of Women Workers, the Workers' Union (WU) was the only union to make a serious commitment to organising women. By 1918 the WU employed twenty women full time officials and had a female membership of over 80,000.
This was more than any other general union and represented a quarter of the WU's own membership. In 1918 the Equal Pay strike was led and ultimately won by women tramway workers - starting in London and spreading to other towns.

In 1914, the Women's Social and Political Union abandoned the suffrage campaign itself and ardently supported the war effort and urged all women to do the same. Sylvia Pankhurst's organisation was one of the very few to maintain the fight for the vote until its first instalment (to women over 30) was granted in 1918. The National Council for Adult Suffrage also kept up the pressure for the vote in the war years.
This organisation was established in 1916 and held its first meeting at the Daily Herald offices. It was a broad based activist adult suffrage campaigning group linking the left wing of the women's movement with the left wing of the labour movement.

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