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German women in 1917, working as assistants to the war effort

As one of the first total wars, World War I mobilized women in unprecedented numbers on all sides. The vast majority of them were drafted into the civilian work force to replace dead or conscripted men. Many served in the military in support roles, e.g. as nurses, but some saw combat as well.


Home front

In 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and many men left their jobs to fight overseas. Women were called on, by necessity to do work and take on roles that were out side their gender expectations. Many women took on jobs that were traditionally classed as men’s work.

As well as paid employment, they were also expected to take on other unpaid, voluntary work such as knitting clothes and preparing hampers for soldiers on the front. This proved that women were capable of taking on work in the employment front and therefore forced the voting controversy that was later to come. Jobs they participated in included working in factories making ammunition that would be sent to the front and also farming the land to keep up food supplies.

During World War I, women had a big role to play. Coal was necessary in Britain, in homes, factories and offices and public buildings and women helped to mine this coal. This was a different scenario from World War II because most of Britain was then run by electricity. This was a dramatic change because women replaced men in power stations. Women replaced men in many factories, farms and other jobs as the men were at war with Germany and Japan and their allies. Coal was important for heating houses and for businesses. The women’s job was to pack up coal into sacks for distribution to where it was needed. Women were motivated to work for the good of the country.


The only belligerent to deploy female combat troops in substantial numbers was the Russian Provisional Government in 1917. Its few "Women's Battalions" fought well, but failed to provide the propaganda value expected of them and were disbanded before the end of the year. In the later Russian Civil War, the Bolsheviks would also employ women infantry.[1]

Notable individuals

See also


  1. ^ Reese, Roger R. (2000). The Soviet military experience: a history of the Soviet Army, 1917–1991. Routledge. p. 17. ISBN 0-415-21719-9. 
  2. ^ Wheelwright, Julie (1989). Amazons and Military Maids. Pandora. ISBN 0044403569. 
  3. ^ a b c Salmonson, Jessica Amanda (1991). The Encyclopedia of Amazons. Paragon House. p. 18. 
  4. ^ Mayo, Katherine. 'That Damn Y' a Record of Overseas Service. Bibliographical Center for Research. Retrieved 2009-10-09. 

Further reading



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