WWI had a far reaching
impact on many aspects of women’s lives and experiences in Britain. It is
inevitable to say that, World War I, in another saying Total War, has
profoundly affected every single aspect of British women’s lives; from fighting
for enfranchisement to traditional female roles. Specifically, the most
essential and radical change in women’s lives was perhaps about getting a start
in business and, in my opinion, further crucial developments had been heavily
relied on this basis. However, contrary to popular belief, transferring to
public life had been painful for most of British women. The mainstream opinion
and majority of people had took a stand by an idea that referred women were
nonpermanent workers and when the World War I was over they would go back their
homes and families, where they belonged. On the other hand, from the women’s
point of view, transferring to the public life was a turning point and could be
considered as a milestone for the beginning of changed position of them. So, in
the light of the introduction, this following essay will be addressing changed
women position during World War I by comparing life styles of British women
traditionally and post-war period in terms of their contribution in economy, politics
and social life on the basis of reshaping gender roles.

          First of all, I
want to start explaining pre traditional life of British women before the World
War 1 began in order to understand the differences clearly between pre and post
life styles of women. Until the 1900s, almost all men and women believed that
home was the place of women and they belonged to their homes and also families
primarily. In Britain, especially married women were not expected to work. This
might be also related to the welfare of Britain in generally speaking because
Britain economy and politics was considered as remarkable due to being an
imperial power around the world. So, working or having a career were not a
fundamental aim of British women lives. Moreover, women who had a professional career such as
teaching or nursing were forced to give up work when they married frequentlyG?1 . However, there were few British women, belonging to
working-class, had to go on working to reinforce the family income and fulfill
needs of them. Predominantly, these working-class women worked in unqualified
jobs, such as textile industry. By virtue of gender inequality and continuous
folk tradition, even if they did the same job they were usually paid less than
men workers. The situation relating to working was even worse for single women,
in other words unmarried women. Many of them worked in daily services, working
as servants or cleaners in the houses of upper-class families. Few young women
could receive qualified education. Also, chaperones were considered as a common
tradition in daily life socially. So, people expected that women had to go out
with their chaperones and especially these chaperones were selected between
older female relatives. That means, single-handed activities were not been
normal and fitted especially for young ladies and unmarried women. Naturally,
there was also a strict dress code. In other words, options for clothing was
very limited; they were only allowed long skirts and tied-up hair styles.
Lastly, drinking or smoking were not even been discussed for women during that
time period.

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          Although live
styles and living conditions did not require working for women before 1914, the
situation has dramatically changed when the Total War began. Women have started
a new life besides raising children and caring family; and, this was the most
explicit and notable consequence of severe economic and social conditions
emerged within war. As we know from the lectures, the main employment area for
women was the munitions industry which were factories that made guns. This was one of the key roles
women has played as the need for munitions grew. Progressively, women
began working in munitions factories and there was a “greatly increased numbers”
of female munitions workers on 1915 onwards (Woollacott, 36). “Whereas in 1914
there were 212,000 women working in the munitions industry, by the end of the
war it had increased to 950,000” (Simkin, 2015). Also, approximately 60 percent
of all workers including men and women worked in the munitions industry, 12 hours
shifts and 7 days a week. The work was dangerous and very different in terms of
comparing traditional female roles versus new caring roles. Unlike their pre
female roles such as kitchen work, cooking etc., they had have new
responsibilities in business life; and unfortunately, they had to work in areas
which had death risk stemmed from accidents and explosions. For instance, they
worked with chemicals that considered poisonous and as a result of it, women
had been dyed their hair and skin yellow and they were called Canaries. Another
radical development related to the women and working life was created by the
government; by establishing Women’s Land Army to replace agricultural workers from
men who’d gone to war to women. Women’s Land Army also numbered over 16,000 by
1918, in other words, “WLA numbers had risen from just under 6.000 to 16,000
over the same period” (Verdon, 13). Additionally, women were even allowed to work
in army forces called WAACs during war period. After all, it can be definitely
said that women were involved in different occupations voluntarily like Land
Army, munitions industry, WAACs and so forth. Although many women got used to
working during the World War I, things did not go as planned for them when the
war was over; because, they faced the risk of losing their jobs and returning
their homes as a housewife and mother. They forced out of work and back to
their traditional female roles by the society and government because the
government believed that soldiers who came back from the front should and
deserved continuing to work. For those staying in business, it was continued to
paid less money than men like before the war. So, unfortunately, many women
lost their jobs even if played a crucial role on the Home Front during WW1. By
1920, the number of women included labor force was less than it had been in
1914.

          However, it is not possible
to argue that women had the similar fate with regard to political and social rights
because their political and social position had changed significantly and permanently
together with growing independence of them. First of all, there is no doubt that
the most important change for British women was the right to vote, given by
Representation People Act in 1918. Even though minimum age was determined 21
for men, this act provided that women who wanted to vote would be aged 30 and
over. So, consequently, most of women reacted against age restriction arguing
that this procedure stopped and deprived them from voting. However, they did
not succeeded against the age limitation and government during given time
period; but, they has have the right of vote as a very crucial step for further
developments about political rights and position of women. This was the
milestone for their further rights.