Women in the War
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Women Before the War
Prior to the war, women were seen as homemakers. Their duties in life were to look after the house, children and her husband. Few women actually had paying jobs, less than a quarter of the job force included women. A woman’s priority was their family. Their jobs were to cook, bake, clean, sew, work in their yard and make sure their husbands needs were met. At the time, women were thought to be incapable of performing a ‘mans’ job and, like today, women were judged on their appearance not usually how hard they worked. Before the war women had few rights, they could not vote, did not have the right to own land or their own possesions, the could not divorce their husbands and if they did get divorced they did not get to keep their own children. Also, few women were able to get an education(6)


Pacifism to Nationalism and Women's Propaganda
Instead of outright hating war women joined in the enthusiasm many young men had. They did not completely abandon their pacifistic views but turned them into nationalistic ones, encouraging the men into fighting for their country, believing that the war would end soon. In some cases, women had such pride in their country that any man of age that wasn't in uniform was said to be a coward or a traitor. There was one women's group in particular called the Order of the White Feather who made their thoughts apparent by placing a single white feather on the man's chest embarassing and dishonoring any man who had one. This lead to women being a part of the war.(1)
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During the War
At Home
The War Effort
In the War
During the war, women had new roles.
Instead of just keeping the house they
went out to make the bread and butter.
After their husbands left the women
joined the men who stayed at work.
Some women joined the labor force
and were employed as factory workers.
These jobs required little skill and paid
even less. A lot of women took over the
family farm as men were scarce to help
with the harvest. As more and more
men left women were hired as secreteries
and clerks, they worked in the post office
and with public transport, filling any
position as needed. By 1915 women were
found in all Canadian industries. (6)
While all the men left to war, the
women were left to raise funds
for the war effort. Many women
joined committees so food could
be sent overseas and letters
would reach their loved ones.
Some of the
women who went to
work in factories were involved in
food and munition production to
be sent overseas. Over 30,000
women were involved in munitions
production. (7-9)
Some women were not content to sit at home while
their men went to fight for their country so they joined
organizations such as the red cross, became nurses
or ambulance drives and traveled to aid directly in the
war.Thoroughout World War One, approximately
3,141 women aided directly to the war effort.These
women had to be brave, strong, independent and
willing to make hard decisions. They constantly had
to choose between a soldier who was about to die and
one who had a chance to live. The average age of a nurse
from Canada, called 'a nursing sister or Blue Birds,' was
24. The nurses cared for bleeding gashes, broken
and/or missing limbs, and any other injury.They
constantly had to work with little to no water, and
sometimes the water was poisoned so they had to try to
control infections from spreading. Most nurses were
stationed behind the front lines but select actually
accompanied the soldiers at the front. Many died in their
Women working in a factory during World War One (3)
Women working in a factory during World War One (3)

An example of womens propaganda during WW1 in an attempt to help with the war effort(5)
An example of womens propaganda during WW1 in an attempt to help with the war effort(5)

La Panne, Belgium, June 12th, 1915

Last night we had a perfectly terrible time. Patients came in in a rush, and were so awfully wounded. My operating room was going all night:
I never experienced anything like it..... I am not telling you how many we lost last night, because the censor might not send this letter if I did. We are told
not to give details or numbers.
The surgery is more like a butchery, but of course it is necessary. They cut away any flesh or bone with which the shell has come in contact,
leaving huge holes, and making no attempt at suturing. Then they cleanse the wound with ether and cover all around with iodine. This radical work is
necessary on account of poison and of gas gangrene.

Source: Bertha Merriman. Merriman Family Papars (Ontario Archives)
An account of one nurses experiences in the fields of World War One(7)

Nurses attending wounded soldiers during World War One(4)
Nurses attending wounded soldiers during World War One(4)

The noise was so terrific, and the concussion so great that I was thrown to the ground and had no idea where the damage was. I flew through the chest and abdo [abdomen] wards and called out: ‘are you alright boys?’
‘Don’t bother about us,’ was the general cry.
All the hospitals’ lights were out and there was a faint moon, but the sky overhead was full of searchlights and fragments from the bursting anti-aircraft artillery. I passed the cook running for an adjacent paddock, swearing hard and complaining that the bombs had put his fire out.
I shall never forget the awful climb on hands and feet out of that hole that was about five feet [1.5 metres] deep with greasy clay and blood (although I did not know then that it was blood).
I cannot remember what came next, or what I did, except that I kept calling for the orderly to help me and thought he was funking, but the poor boy had been blown to bits. Somebody got the tent up, and when I got to the delirious pneumonia patient, he was crouched on the ground at the back of the stretcher. He took no notice of me when I asked him to return to bed, so I leaned across the stretcher and put one arm around and tried to lift him in. I had my right arm under a leg, which I thought was his, but when I lifted I found to my horror that it was a loose leg with a boot and a puttee on it. It was one of the orderly’s legs which had been blown off and had landed on the patient’s bed. The next day they found the trunk [torso] about 20 yards [18 metres] away.

An account of a nurse in a casualty clearing section in the front lines during World War One(13)

Female Soldier
Dorothy Lawrence was a 20 year old woman who disguised herself as a man so that she could enlist in the british army. She was a reporter from Britain who wished to go to the front lines to be a war reporter. It was 1914, early in the war, so women still had few rights, no women was allowed to be at the front lines and few were hired for good jobs. It is said that with the help of two of her friends that were soldiers she obtained a uniform, learned the basics of the military, cut her hair and disguised herself as a man. From there she faked identity papers, her new name was Denis Smith, and rode on bicycle to Somme were she was immediately placed in the front lines. After ten days of army work the toil of disguising herself as a man and being a soldier became too much. When she confessed she was placed under military arrest and interrogated at the British Expeditionary Headquarters. After being interrogated and accused of being a 'camp follower' (or prostitue in modern day terms) she was taken to many other places and interrogated again. Finally she ended up in London when she promised to tell no one what had happened, it would be an "emabarassment" to the British Army. So, in the end her efforts were in vain as her first mission, to write about the front lines, was taken from her. After the war she was able to write her stories but was not published for many years. She died at Freirn Hospital in 1964. (10)

Dorothy Lawrence disguised as a male soldier(11)
Dorothy Lawrence disguised as a male soldier(11)
A potrait of Dorothy Lawrence(12)
A potrait of Dorothy Lawrence(12)

"Why should women be treated differently from men?"
Lucretia Mott
How Female Roles Changed after World War One After World War One females were seen much differently. Instead of being incapable they were now demanding equality with men and wanted more rights, including suffrage, a chance to get an education and to find work. During World War one they had proven themselves to be capable and in the Election of 1917 the women partially won the right to vote. All Canadian women won the right to vote in 1918. After the war, many women went back to being the homemakers but for those who were not satisfied with that they were now able to go to school to school and get a full education and be a strong part of the work force. And look where women have gone today!(7/8)

(1) "Women and World War I." Marshall Cavendish Digital. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2010. <http://www.marshallcavendishdigital.com/articledisplayresult/27/6283/64168>.
(2) Mcleod, Susanna . "Canadian Nurses in World War One." suite101.com. suite 101.com, n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2010. <http://canada-at-war.suite101.com/article.cfm/canadian_nurses_in_world_war_one>.
(3) "Female Factory Wokers." infobarrel.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Feb. 2010. <www.infobarrel.com/media/image/1383.jpg>.
(4) "nurses with soldier." nursing virginia education. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2010. <www.nursing.virginia.edu/research/cnhi/collection/10.%20WWI%20RC%20nurses%20with%20soldiers1.jpg>.
(5) " Google Image Result for http://www.songsofwar.com/wp-images/fight-or-buy-bonds.jpg." Google Images. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <http://images.google.ca/imgres?imgurl=http:www.songsofwar.com/wp-images/fight-or-buy-bonds.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.songsofwar.com/&usg=__jyhURoNX_2HhPIi1N2kKL-Qzl3s=&h=456&w=336&sz=27&hl=en&start=1&itbs=1&tbnid=sVze_sqSyVxtbM:&tbnh=128&tbnw=94&prev=/im>.
(6) Godwin, Randy. "A look at 1900s men and women roles – by Randy Godwin - Helium." Helium - Where Knowledge Rules. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <http://www.helium.com/items/785688-a-look-at-1900s-men-and-women-roles>.
(7) Cranny , Michael, and Garvin Moles. "Canada and World War One." Counterpoints. Toronto: Mark Cobham, 2001. 33. Print.
(8) "Re: how world war 1 affected women." War and Gender. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. http://www.warandgender.com/forums/WarGen/posts/515.html.
(9) "Canadian Women at War." Suite101.com: Online Magazine and Writers' Network. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <http://www.suite101.com/article.cfm/canada_for_kids/111866>.
(10) "Dorothy Lawrence - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorothy_Lawrence>.
(11) "photo of disguised dorothy lawrence." wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/54/Dorothy.Lawrence.soldier.jpg>.
(12) "Portrait of Dorothy Lawrence." wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/47/Dorothy.Lawrence.woman.jpg>.
. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <http://www.anzacday.org.au/history/ww1/anecdotes/casualty.html>

(14)" YouTube - Women of World War One ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself.// . N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2010. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IfqMokRnolE>.