With Remembrance Day on Sunday 11th, we wanted to take an opportunity to think about the impact of the service given by women across the UK during the First World War, and the role it played in reshaping the employment market.
Between 4-5.5 million soldiers were deployed to France in the First World War which accounted for 10-15% of the UK population. Due to the men lost between 1914 and 1918 there was hugely increased demand for labour to work in factories to produce munitions.
It was decided that women, in vast numbers, should join the labour force and take over the places of their brothers, sons and husbands who had gone to fight the war. Vast campaigns were run by the government to encourage women to take the places of their brothers, sons and husbands in the workplace – taking on traditionally male-orientated, physically demanding roles like working in munitions factories this was often on a voluntary basis.
Ultimately, it was the dedication of these women underpinning the bravery, sacrifice and perseverance of all those in combat that led to victory.
Following on from the Great War, the labour force was changed for perpetuity. When the war was over, the skills women learnt during this period became invaluable to the economy and the number of women in the workforce continued to rise.
Many argue that the service women gave in World War One was a huge step in leading to equality and essentially powered the successful campaign for universal suffrage after the war.