Pictures of World War I

Each Worth 1000 Words…

Women in WW1: Behind Every Great Man Is An Even Greater Woman

During World War 1 a woman’s role in society continued in the same way as before the outbreak of the war in 1914. That is she was the bearer of children, the wife, the homemaker, etc. But within that continuum it became necessary for changes to be made. Virtually overnight women were being employed in the positions vacated by the manpower now marching off to war. Not only was it necessary to maintain commerce, but the manufacturing industries needed to increase production to keep up with the wars demands. This required a larger work force.

Gone was the image of the delicate lady; she now delivered coal, built ships and worked in the munitions factory. “Munitionettes” produced eighty percent of the weapons and shells used by the British Army. The Government offices and the farms were run by women as were the buses and trains.

Women were enrolled in the armed services of all the involved countries. In the First World War, approximately eighty thousand women served in the three British women’s forces as non-combatants. Women knitted socks and volunteered, emulating the example of Florence Nightingale, as nurses, canteen workers and ambulance drivers with the Red Cross. Hundreds of thousands of casualties returned, from the war, injured in some way and women bore a large part of the burden of caring for these people. Patients were nursed behind the front lines, cared for in the hospital, and nurtured at home.

First World War Women And Their Families

Children lost their parents and siblings, wives lost their husbands and women lost their loved ones. In Europe few families were unscathed and their lives would never be the same. Family demographics underwent a massive change. The young boy now became the “father” and the wife the “breadwinner” of the family.

Children also went to war – in some countries children as young as eight worked in factories. Young boys lied about their age and enrolled in the services, often with parental approval as it was regarded ‘the patriotic thing to do’.

In 1915, thirteen year old Crown Prince Leopold of Belgium joined the Belgian Twelfth Line Regiment. King Albert introduced his son to the regiment and said; “No preferential treatment. Let him work in the trenches. He has to know how it feels to have blisters on his hands.”

At the fronts there were families, the French and Belgians whose homes were invaded by friendly and unfriendly troops. Also, families were displaced becoming refugees and settlers in distant places. There were the professional entertainers and “camp followers” that all armies had. During this war the birth rates dropped but illegitimacy rates increased.

There were women politicians and leaders, the Tsarina Alexandra of Russia assumed many of Tsar Nicholas II’s duties whilst he was away at war. This Royal family was executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in 1918.

WWI Women’s Peace Congress

The Women’s Peace Congress was convened in The Hague (Netherlands) in 1915. Twelve hundred delegates from twelve, warring and neutral, countries discussed proposals to end the First World War through negotiation, mediation and arbitration. This congress was in part responsible for the emergent women’s peace movement and two of the American delegation, Jane Addams and Emily Greene Balch, would later receive the Nobel Peace Prize.
The congress was also important in ensuring that women could vote in America and Britain in 1918.

Contained within the manifesto statements were these words:

“We grieve for many brave young men who have lost their lives on the battlefield before attaining their full manhood; we mourn with the poor mothers bereft of their sons; with the thousands of young widows and fatherless children, and we feel that we can no longer endure in this twentieth century of civilization that government should tolerate brute force as the only solution of international disputes.”


World War 1 Women and Family