Historians have agreed that the outbreak of the First World War was caused by many of different complex factors, especially the tense situation between Europe countries during 1914 that was triggered by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sophie on 28 June 1914. The First World War has not only affected the men that were sent to the war, but also causing women to start changing their role in society and workforce. Before the war, women were expected to stay at home due towards to maintain the annual duties of family and children such as cleaning for the house, cooking for the family and taking care of the children, etc.The majority of women who worked were usually single.

They worked mainly as domestic servants, but also in the factories, and the factories producing textiles were the main employers of women of all the industries. The other common jobs of them were teachers, and nurses. They didn’t have such a lawful for the right to work and also were denied to vote, they were working on gaining these rights even before the war.At the outbreak of the war, women were expected to sacrifice for the war effort and the good of the nation. With many of men were left their jobs to serve the country to fight in the war, women were encouraged and empowered to join the workforce and take advantage of the new world of employment that included to replace the men’s positions. As a result, the number of women employed greatly increased, about 5.9 million (out of the total 23.7 millions of female population) were working in Britain in July 1914 has risen to 7.

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3 million by July 1918, this change affecting in increasing numbers of women in all occupations, except the Domestic Service, it has decreased about 25% which is from 1.6 million to 1.4 million, this number has shown a great change of women who left this job and taking new jobs for the better, but some historians have thought oppositely that even though the number of this job has reduced, they believed the war actually created more domestic jobs because many women who worked in factories and outside their homes were not able to care well enough for their children.

War has opened new employment opportunities for women, they were first time introduced to take the jobs of transportation, factory work, farm laborer.. and even though, in some countries, such as Great Britain, women were not allowed to enlist as the soldiers and fight in war, they were able to experience the war first hand as medicals workers, cooks, and office workers in the armed force. Many acts were passed to support women to get more involved in doing their part of the war effort. Such as Women’s Land Army Act of 1917 that  was created to solve the struggling for labour of agriculture when the millions of men left to fight in the war in Britain, it was to  encourage the traditional farmers who were against the work of women on the farms to see the importance of women’s role and accept them in taking part of this; Passage of the Qualification of Women Act of 1917 Representation of the People Act of 1918, which permitted women over 30 to vote and be elected as MPs.But in some ways, opportunities would come with the risks, women sometimes had to risk their lives working on conditions that were dangerous and unhealthy, such as working with explosives of TNT and Shellite (included the production of shells, cartridges, and fuses) that highly damaged their healths.

The fumes caused 15 or 18 casualties a night and around 400 women were reported to die from overexposure to TNT during WWI. However, women still did not receive the same wages as they were risking their lives and doing the same works as men, women even did more long hours but their pay was still lower as much as half of the men’s. Still, even they got less pay than they deserved, it can’t be denied that many working women who had been doing lower paid jobs during the pre-war time were able to improve their economic status from the opportunities of the new jobs that they were taken during the wartime.

For instance, women who took jobs in munitions factories, were, of course, better paid than they had been in their previous jobs being as the domestic servants, even though it was not fair for them to receive lower pay than men with the same or similar working.Many of women had put up with these worst conditions and the lowest pay because they didn’t really have many choices to choose so, but there were also many of them who refused to accept lower pay. So these gender discriminations led women to often went on strikes in order to receive more money and better working conditions because they received very little for working as hard as they did. The first ultimately successful of their strikes was the equal pay strike of the women workers in Britain in 1918, that demanding the same increase in pay as men. Anyway, by 1931, a working woman’s weekly wage had returned to the pre-war situation of being half the male rate in more industries. At the end of the war, the opportunities that women have gained during the wartime were lost after the men returned, due to the 1919 Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act forced most women to leave from their wartime roles as men and were expected to go back into domestic life. What even worse, when men returned from the war injured in some way, women had to take part of caring for these men.

Life of some of them might never be the same for those who lost their beloved people such as fathers, husbands, lovers, brothers, and sons during the wartime. It is clear to see that not only women’s economic life has greatly improved during the era of war, but also they were able to developed new skills, self-confidence and contacts from their war jobs.  In their pre-war lives, they seemed to have no socio-economic power at all, but by the end of the war, they had proved that they were just as important as men had been to the war effort.

They have showed that they were able to do men’s jobs efficiently and were intellectually more than capable of taking part in society. Although women in the workplace remained in the minority and lost their jobs when men returned, it changed attitudes and proved that women can do ‘men’s work’ successfully. Until nowadays, women still continued working hard and do their best in taking part and play important role in the society, their freedom whether in their workforce or society has improved a lot from their prewar situations.


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