Women’s lives changed immeasurably both during and after World War 1 in Britain and Germany.
Women’s lives in Both Germany and Britain and Germany changed immensly during and after the course of World War 1. Women experienced huge economic, social and political changes, which became the foundation for change for generations of women to come.
Because the majority of men were off fighting in the war, there was a large demand for workers in agriculture, factories, particularly munitions, and offices, and women swiftly took on the vacant positions; they left the house to take up roles traditionally performed by men. Women proved to be just as efficient as men in the workforce, and in some cases, production costs decreased. Employment of women meant that women’s roles were no longer in the ‘home’. Also, women were earning wages, allowing them to be financially independent, for the first time ever, meaning that many young were able to leave home.
Conditions in Germany were growing desperate, and by the 1920’s, eleven million women were employed on the railroads, were hired as guards, worked in coalmines, drove trams and filled banks and insurance companies. While the war did create new employment opportunities for Germany, it also caused great hardship and suffering. The conditions of most fields of work, especially in munitions factories and in the mines, were deemed unhealthy and dangerous. Also, as Germany was affected severely by the Blockade, essential necessities, especially food was in short supply, and many women went to work starving. This resulted in the German women’s death rate increasing during the war, with more than sixty-eight women dying during the course of the war. This was also caused by prices rising by four hundred percent, with a major decrease in wages, leaving people dying of poverty.
In both Britain and Germany, major social changes occurred. Things became more relaxed for women; they started smoking, cut their hair short and wore more casual clothes, including pants and shorter skirts. Also, the divisions between social classes reduced as the war effort was drawing in women from all social levels. Wealthy and middle class women took on voluntary work, as well as work in factories and agriculture, often meaning they would have to work with women from lower socio- economic groups. As all the women had come together working towards the same goals, these social barriers were gradually being decreased.
Also, by the end of the war, the divorce rate increased by three hundred percent in , some suggest this is due to the taste of freedom women experienced on the home front.
Arguably, the most important change for women was the organising, and practicing of politics women created for themselves. Women in Britain and Germany organised many political groups. In Germany, many protests were held by those women who opposed the war, and for many, these demonstrations were their first experience in politics.
In Britain, there were many political groups organised, such as the Women’s International League For Permanent Peace, which promoted the end of the war, publishing pamphlets and holding regular meetings. Also, the Women’s Peace Crusade formed in 1916, organised huge anti-war demonstrations, allowing women to actively take part in expressing their concerns of war. This political involvement has paved the way for women’s involvement in politics right up to today.
In recognition of women’s effort in the war, both the British and German governments granted women the right to vote. In Germany, women first voting in an election in 1919, and British women over thirty years were granted the vote, with the age limit lowered to twenty one in 1928.
World War One brought about many economic, social and political changes for women during and after the course of the war in Germany and Britain. Although women faced many hardships during and after the war, the war was a fantastic leap of independence for women These changes affected women’s morals and attitudes, still leaving lasting effects on women today.