Women and the War

When the war began in 1914, many men left their jobs to work in the army. This left many jobs short staffed, and these places needed to be filled, to help the war. However with the men away, the only people left to fill these places were women. So women gave up their jobs in domestic service, and went into professions usually dominated by men. This is one of the things that the suffragettes had been campaigning about before the war; that women should have equal opportunities, and should be allowed the vote.

In the early 1900’s, men were thought to be more important than women, and would be paid higher and respected a lot more than women. An example of this is that only men were allowed the vote. Therefore when women started filling the places where men had once worked, women gained greater freedom and more importance in society. This meant that they were paid higher, and therefore their families had a better standard of health, and education. However they were still not granted the vote. Although families seemed to have a better life with women working, the birth rate fell as women were too busy, or they were worried about bringing a child up in war conditions.

During the war, there were no elections, and the suffragettes had stopped fighting for the vote, and started putting their effort into the war. There was an election to be held after the war, set up by the committee who were formed in 1916.

Once the war was over, many soldiers returned home to find their old jobs were taken, and they were left un-employed. Therefore the employers sacked women, and re-employed the soldiers. The soldiers were also now not allowed to vote, as rules state that men who have left the country for more than 12 months are not allegeable to vote. This meant that the amount of men that were not able to vote, was most of the population. This is when the committee decided to re-arrange the rules so that the soldiers could vote. Upon hearing this, the suffragettes decided to cease the chance, and demand that women should be able to vote.

This also meant that many women had lost their jobs, and by 1919, nearly 750 000 women had been sacked after Armistice Day, when the war came to an end. The thousands of un-employed women, were expected to go back to being housewives, or working in the domestic service again.

This is what some women wanted, especially those who were married with children, as they felt that they had not been caring for their children.

However, the majority of the women were unhappy with decision, and refused to go back to domestic service. This meant that they would become un-employed and would receive no benefits. Many women were not amused having to go back to earning less than a pound a week, when previously they had been earning up to and even more than £2 a week. So many women were refusing to return to domestic service that in 1921, the proportion of women who had jobs in domestic service before the war was larger than women who had a job in domestic service after the war. This meant that there were a lot of un-employed women.

Not all women did loose their jobs though, many women who worked in offices and shops kept their jobs.

There was an attempt from the cabinet to change domestic service,

so that un-employment for women would reduce, and women would return to working in domestic service, as women would have

· Reduced hours

· Fixed meal times

· Days off

· Paid Holidays

· Changed Uniform

· Better food

However none of these changes took place, and so domestic service was still a problem, and un-employment was still an issue. The number of employees in domestic service began to decline through out the years. Although there were a declining number of domestic service employees, it still remained the most common form of work for women for the next 20 years. It seems that the war had not changed the attitude towards working and women, and that ‘it is simply a continuation of the old idea, a woman’s place is in the home’

There had been