Why Women during the World Wars?

The World Wars will always live throughout history. It lives in infamy as it led to the rise and fall of fascism, the first use of chemical weapons in war and the decline of the “old world”. A key aspect that led to something magnificent is the role minorities played during the World Wars, more specifically; women. Women experienced an increased role in society and never looked back. The women of the world before the World Wars were of unquestioned loyalty to their spouses and laws but after, they demanded a voice and an increased role after helping their country when the men were fighting imperialism or fascism abroad. It used to be a “man’s world” before but once World War I began, the country needed to maintain their economy, which resulted in them recruiting more women into the workforce. Women were the first minority to gain full rights before any other peoples could, so without women, many minorities wouldn’t be able to express themselves in the way they do today. This change of roles showed that the 20th century would be a century of change. Women in the work force helped not only to legitimize a woman’s reputation, but it allowed for women to be taken seriously by professionals, which gave them more rights in aspects like politics and in medicine.

Women Before the World Wars

Women during the industrial era of the 19th century acted like any other century. They were subservient to their spouses, which was custom in all societies, whether it was in Britain or the U.S. Women didn’t question their role in society as they thought that it was natural that a woman did the everyday work inside the household. During this era as well, it was perceived that all societies were ran by the men of the society, which was true. The century was somewhat a forerunner for the 20th century as already ideas like Marxism & anti-slavery were becoming popular among the citizens of the world. The abolition of slavery played a key role in expanding more freedom to minorities but it wouldn’t be fully solved until the second half of the 20th century. Women weren’t very useful in a nations economy because they had accepted their role as household worker for the “man” of the house. The man went to work and brought money to the family, while the wife cooked and cleaned inside the house for the entire family. She would also do any other work that involved the cleanliness of the home so that the husband could come home to a clean house with a faithful wife. The perception was that woman couldn’t understand the “mans” world because she was too used to what she knew best, which according to society in that era was household maintenance. At the end of the 19th century however, women saw an increased role in which they played in their country’s economy. They were confined in the professions in which society thought that they were best at. These professions included textiles, fabric, clothing etc. Some countries had granted democratic rights to women like in New Zealand and Australia but there still was that gender bias in which businesses of a certain profession hired more males than females or more females than males.

Women during the World Wars

In 1914 when the First World War started, thousands of men from both sides went to the frontlines as they fought on both fronts of Europe. Meanwhile back home, there had to be someone who would takeover the duties of the men in the workplace. Women were the largest minority who could fill the roles of the men perfectly, which they did in a increasing manner. By 1916, most women were working in large factories trying to provide for their families as well as help send weapons and food to the soldiers fighting in the trenches. This was the first time that women started to have an increasing role in not only the workplace but also in society where it became acceptable to see women workers in factories and offices. Some remaining men
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were somewhat furious at this sudden change because they felt that they were the ones who needed to keep the "status quo" of their society so that the soldiers could focus on fighting the "enemy" in Europe. Trade Unions immediately were angry at the women workers and demanded they be removed from their positions. The women workers disagreed with the unions which led to the Dilution in countries like Great Britain which meant that women were allowed to work to support the soldiers but as soon as the war was over, companies were allowed to immediately fire their women workers so that when the men came back, they would have a chance o having a secure job and not be jobless.
Women also saw a increased role in their participation during World War I in the camps of their respected countries. Women were being drafted to work as nurses primarly because that was the only position that the military felt that women should do. Still, wars before WWI saw women provide little to no help to the military, this war was the starting point when women began to contribute to their respected countries and resisted anyone who demanded they stop. The most significant of these services was during the final years of the war, the Russian provisional government allowed women to fully serve on the frontlines as soldiers, a huge leap for women in the world because it meant that women were just as qualified as men were at being soldiers. This policy would be soon altered as the Bolsheviks took over and exited the war.

World War II started and again women began to work outside their "sphere" to hep soldiers throughout the world. During the inter-war period, women began to gain more democratic rights as countries like Canada grant women the right to vote in elections. Work however more than any other aspect of society, helped increase a woman's role because it solidified their positions as factory workers or mechanics because those were typically a man's job. When increasing amount of employees in these fields became women during World War II, it was clear throughout the world that women could do almost anything a man can simply based on their work supplying the soldiers, which eventually led to the Allies' victory against the Axis. Women even saw an increased role within the military as more position were being filled by women rather than men. It meant that equality among the sexes was becoming more apparent among various societies like the U.S. and Great Britain. Women went even further as more women were fighting on the frontlines as opposed to WWI where they served primarily as nurses. By 1948, the U.S. passed the Women's Armed Services Integration Act, which meant that women were now fully able to serve in the military.

Why should this be important in Woman's history?

The World Wars were all about ending fascism and trying to create the League of Nations but the fact that women having increased roles in society doesn't cross
the minds of many individuals. Without their services, many weapons and vehicles wouldn't have reached the soldiers in time to fight. Most people even think this was constricted to a certain area of the world like many social advances in the 20th century. The thing with the advancement of women's rights and freedoms is that it was a worldwide phenomenon. Women in America were building massive tanks while female Nazi members were guardingAuschwitz. Women in Japan were preparing bomb shells for their aircraft while women in Britain were getting ready for the frontlines. Women were also the first major minority group to gain full rights before any other minority in the world. Women got the vote before any immigrants in Canada and women were slowly allowed to work wherever before any African-American person was allowed to eat in the same restaurant as white people. Without women, many minorities wouldn't have such rights like voting and arrest with justification.

Women also brought many men into what was perceived as "female jobs". During the later half of the 20th century, many men became leading figures in the fashi
on industry such as Calvin Klein and Christian Dior became multi-millionaires through the fashion industry. Women had broke down the social barriers that constricted them to certain jobs and careers which benefitted men as well. An individual proves themselves best through their work. It's a known fact that humans look at one's work to judge whether or not that person should be accepted or not. Society saw that women could easily be capable of working in a men's environments as well as men's being able to work in a women's environment. Women during the World Wars was the key factor in distinguishing the 20th century from any other century previous and to give a preview of such massive changes throughout the century like the end of Communism, end of segregation and many more. It was the first time that the opposite sex actually rose to the occasion and succeeded where there were no men to stop them from trying. If the men had not have gone to war twice, then the success of women in the workforce would've been hindered for a few decades.
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How it succeeded is another aspect. Some people might ask: Why did it succeed in the World Wars but not during any previous war? To answer such questions, we must look at the magnitude of the World Wars compared to other wars before and after. Before WWI even began, only a few nations would be involved in conflicts with each other. In the modern era, only the Seven Years War and the Napoleonic Wars could compare to the First World War. WWI was on a another level than these wars because it truly was a World war. All the world powers involved and actively fighting each other and the "loser", and "winner" were a collective group as opposed to before. In this type of high scale war, most men were taken to fight, which left a large gap for the workforce. Women come to play here since they were the largest minority, they emerged as the workers who kept the economic wheel spinning while Europe would be destroyed in the World Wars. WWI was the "test run" for the world to see if women could actually provide for their respected countries which they succeeded. The Second World War was the true expansion as women served in the military as well as working for their countries.

One would say also that women workers during this era did little to expand the rights and freedoms of women, in which our group highly disagrees on. First, women in the work force happened before women got to vote in countries like U.S., Canada, Britain & many more. Women proved that they can work as efficiently and hard as men, so how did this not show equality. A persons work is what we judge that person on, so what difference is it if a good is made by a female or male if the good is the same. This is what women solved before Feminism, Sufferage or "the pill" came to be. Work is the oldest form of expression in our opinion and what better way for women to show their role in society by helping the soldiers focus on fighting for their respected countries. None of the topics given provides a better explanation on why women have such large scale rights because all of the reasons are because of women workers during the World Wars. Women started to gain voting rights after the First World War. Women became feminists because they saw the inequalities men posed to them when they worked. The pill was partially created for women avoid being fired intentionally because men didn't want to see pregnant workers. So to say that this was a minor event during the infamous wars is the most ignorant statement one could say about womens rights. All these womens advances happened due to working. This was the first chance that women were given, before this no women on Earth would've been allowed to work with each other peacefully.

To conclude, women gained massive rights and freedoms most predominately from working in the place of men during the World Wars. They broke down bias' and social standards as they proved to the entire world that women are capable of working and serve on the frontlines with men. The soldiers even started to accept this equality as their weapons wouldn't have been made if it wasn't for such a large women workforce. Women had led the way for more minorities to stand up for their rights and freedoms, which they also succeeded in the years during the 20th century. The product in which the women made were equally durable and secure as when the men made it, therefore solidifying their place among men as together they worked from then on. The 20th century was all about change and what better way to exemplify this than seeing women become integrated into the workforce, which led to breaking down social bias' throughout the world.

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