But one fact is beyond dispute: the conflict opened up a far wider range of occupations to women than had been available to them previously.
Before 1914, many women found their job prospects restricted to domestic service. Yet, as men departed for the front, women were called upon to replace them in a wide range of workplaces – and did so in their thousands.
- No Man’s Land: Women photographers in the First World War
- Female Tommies: Women in the First World War
Nearly 200,000 were employed in government departments, half a million became clerical workers in private offices, a quarter of a million worked the land, and many more worked in munitions factories.
As men departed for the front, women were called upon to replace them in a wide range of workplaces – and did so in their thousands.
By 1918, the gap between male and female wages had narrowed, and some women were to be given the vote. The suffrage movement had little success before the war, and the militancy commonly attributed to the Suffragettes had been halted so as not to undermine the war effort. But during the war, the fight for women's suffrage was getting closer. Whether that was a direct result of women’s contribution to the war effort we may never know, but there’s no doubt that women’s place in society would never be the same again.
This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine