Women and the Second World War Sources Questions Essay
Essay Topic: War
Paper type: Essay
Words: 4537, Paragraphs: 51, Pages: 19
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Before World War II, not many women worked, and there were certain jobs that people believed women couldn’t or shouldn’t do. Women didn’t have any kind of military role before the war. Most women were used to getting married, having children and bringing them up, and having a husband around the place who would usually be the sole wage earner – in other words, only the man would go out to work. Of course, once the war broke out, the majority of men were away fighting in some way.
So this had a big effect on family lives, and the lives of women. The jobs still had to be done after all. So the purpose of this source is to persuade women to do their vital bit for the war. To get involved in the armed forces, and to work in fields in which men had previously worked.
Source A is a broadcast on the BBC Home Service by a member of the women’s Institute in May 1941.
It is aimed at women to persuade them to do their crucial bit for the war. It is an appeal aimed at women, and has a few elements of propaganda. The authors tone and attitude to the situation Britain faced was very positive, as she knows it’s a great opportunity for women to work together and show that they are able to do any job that a man is capable of doing. The broadcasters main aim is to make sure she brings an emotional approach to her audience, so that women can reflect on the dreadful situation that Britain faced. She seems to be very compulsive towards the entire war effort; she makes it sound exciting, and thrilling. Her speech makes you want to volunteer to join the war effort. She portrays the war effort in an upbeat positive manner.
“We are fighting for our lives”.
The Broadcaster seems very patriotic and is determined to win the war. Seeing as Britain was on the brink of defeat in 1941, she could probably see her whole life flash before her eyes if Britain were to give in to Hitler. Not only would her future be ill fated, but she would also lose her little freedom which she took advantage of. This is why she is hoping to get a constructive response from the women of Britain.
2. Study Sources A and B. Does the writer of source B have a different attitude to the importance of women in the war effort from the author of source A. Explain your answer using both sources.
Source B is an article in the West Ham Gazette. A female member of the Local Council in West Ham wrote this editorial in 1941. Source A is a broadcast on the BBC Home Service by a member of the women’s Institute in May 1941. Both sources are from 1941 just when Britain were on the brink of defeat. They are both aimed at women, are about women, and are from a woman’s point of view. Both sources agree that women should do their vital fraction for the war, to fight. Women, of course, didn’t physically fight, however they did do some very important and skilled jobs. They became involved in the war effort, which helped Britain win the Second World War.
However, both sources not only have things in common, but they also differ too.
“Women should get on with the job”.
The author of source B is more demanding. It is almost like she can give orders, and has more authority over what women should and shouldn’t do. Whereas in source A, the author doesn’t put as much power into her speech, although her dialogues seem to have more enthusiasm. “Isn’t it worth it? Together yes it is”. She gives her listeners more of a choice as to whether they want to help in the war effort she makes the war effort sound amusing and entertaining; source B has a more commanding and intimidating role.
The author of source B has a rather cynical and cheeky behaviour, not only does she want women to work in the war effort, but also she wants the “good conditions” that they are permitted to. As a result she wants to get more out of the war. She wants lasting changes for women. She wants to be treated with more respect.
She also seems to be a bit of a sarcastic feminist. Her opening paragraph suggests that women are only regarded as important when the country is in desperate need of them. Its almost as if the author doesn’t like being used. Her article gets more to the point. Whereas source A is full of passion and interest. It’s more appealing. “We are fighting for our lives”. Source A is more like an unconditional obsessive duty that any woman would be proud to perform.
Both authors have totally different attitudes. The author from source A is much more patriotic and eager, but the author from source B portrays the war effort in a depressing manner.
3. Study source C. In what ways does source C help you to understand the difficulties faced by women during the Second World War?
Source C is a woman speaking in 1941, describing her evening routine at home after working in a factory all day. She is being interviewed, and she seems relatively tense. Her typical daily schedule seems to be very hectic and busy. She doesn’t go into detail about her day because she knows her interviewer knows what’s entailed when she mentions queuing for food, cooking food, washing and mending. Working wives were faced with the constant difficulty of having two jobs, one in the home and the other at work. It was very difficult to fit in cooking, shopping, housework and childcare with exceedingly long working hours required in a full-time job, predominantly at a time when domestic tasks were considered entirely a woman’s liability. Women’s wage rates were usually half of those of men.
Factory hours made standard shopping unattainable. A family’s ration book could only be registered with one grocery shop, and by the time a woman got there after work, it would be likely that she would find the usual queues, and also that many of the goods had already been sold out. Before the war, shops usually opened until fairly late in the evening, but now had been well ordered to close early on to save energy. Working women found they had no time to queue for unrationed goods, and might have to shop in their lunch hour, missing their own meal, or on a Saturday afternoon, when the shops were at their most crowded. This problem contributed to high rates of absence in the factories.
For the woman being interviewed, running a home and bringing up a family single-handedly, her life could be a nightmare of extensive factory shifts, followed by shopping, cooking and housework. Her health probably suffered because of tiredness, stress, pressure, anxiety and inadequate, hasty meals.
Rationing of clothes was introduced in June 1941.This meant women had to buy their clothes with coupons. With the government only supplying 48-66 coupons per person per year, women only had enough to buy a dress, a winter coat, a dressing gown and two pairs of knickers, leaving only 7 more coupons for the rest of the year. This is why women were bombarded with encouragement to make their own clothes, and mend their old ones, as they didn’t have enough clothes to go all year round. Women kept every scrap of material in case it could be used, and made the best out of what was available. They couldn’t afford to throw anything away. The needle was a weapon of the war to maintain old clothes were long lasting.
4. Study Sources D, E and F. Use the sources, and your own knowledge, to explain why the government produced so many leaflets and advertisements about food and cooking during the war.
From the start of the war, women soon become aware of changes when they went shopping. Some goods were unavailable and others were in very short supply. Before the war, 60% of Britain’s food came from overseas. Supplies soon began to decrease as the nazi’s had gained much control of Europe. The nazi’s also bombed ships that were advancing in the direction of Britain. As a result the price of food fluctuated and soared rocket high. This meant that only the rich could afford to buy food, and poor people would starve to death. Soon the government introduced rationing in January 1940. Everyone had a ration book full of stamps that said how much you were allowed to buy of each item each week.
Rationing bought a degree of fairness. Coupons as well as money were needed to buy essential goods that were in short supply. On the whole rationing was popular because it at least meant that everybody could be certain of getting their share of essential necessities even if they were not allowed as much as they liked. Rationing actually worked very well and people’s diets were very healthy although the food was plain and rather boring. It also continued for some time after the war because it took a while for things to get back to normal. Some people managed to get extra food on the black market, if they knew the right people and the money.
The way women managed to feed their families became a subject of national significance in wartime. A programme of advertising and propaganda was aimed at persuading women to attain the complicated aim of saving food whilst maintaining their family’s health and fitness. A good example is source D, a paragraph from a leaflet produced by the Ministry of Food in 1941. It is a mixture of information and propaganda. It is aimed at women because cooking was considered a woman’s responsibility. Source D persuades women to eat more potatoes. This was generally because they were easy to grow and they could save shipping space.
The government persuaded people to grow their own vegetables in their back garden as supplies were running short. The government also used to give out leaflets about using food to the greatest advantage. There was always a new way of serving potatoes, they were also healthy and cheap. Food was VITAL; it was a weapon of war! Food was so important during the Second World War that even had its own Ministry. The Ministry of Food had to try and re-educate women to be conscious of the nutritional value of diverse foods, the importance of a balanced diet, and also to persuade them to use different cooking methods. Without food no one would have had the energy to work! Thus, the message of this source is to convince women to eat more potatoes, whether they are baked, fried, roasted or toasted!
The Ministry of Food, which controlled rationing, spent colossal sums of money on advertisements directed at women. Papers and magazines were full of hints and encouragement for housewives. For instance, source E. An advertisement produced by the ministry of food in 1941, aimed at women. It is an advertisement of propaganda telling the women of Britain how well they are doing in the kitchen-front. It is more like a mini-survey to see how many medals each household deserves from saving the little crumbs to making a variety of different foods everyday. The advertisements aim is too keep up morale and keep people working hard. It seems Britain were in a desperate crisis, and that food supply was running very short!
The key to stretching rations was planning ahead. The government produced many leaflets and cookery notes on planning a week of cooking. A typical example is source F, a series of cookery notes produced by the Ministry of Food during the war. The source doesn’t tell us specifically when it was produced. It is aimed at women, and is a relevant source of information for women on how to cook as well as saving as much food as possible. Source F tells us what was the typical weekly food rations offered to everyone.
The source shows us what foods were available at the time. On the list there seems to be that dairy products are in short supply. This suggests that the farmers in Britain would not have had a good year of produce and that Britain hasn’t been able to import any. Furthermore, the list plan shows that potatoes should be cooked everyday except Friday and Saturday’s. This suggest that the amount of potatoes which were imported were of a very high number, and that farmer and people had been growing a wholesome amount in their back gardens.
The government produced a lot of food and cooking leaflets during the war because it was beginning to run out of supply. The Nazi’s had gained so much control over Europe that Britain had to get its supplies from USA. This was usually a much longer journey, and Britain had to wait ages until ships reached the docks. The governments aim was to make sure women used each item of food wisely, and saved as much food as they possibly could. They tried to convince women to grow their own vegetables, as food was a weapon of war. But in the whole, rationing was a very clever way of distributing food in the country.
5. Study sources G and H. How useful are these sources as evidence about the role of women at work during the war?
Source G is a popular song during the Second World War, which was probably sung by women in factories to boost their morale’s. It perhaps helped them to keep up with work, and to make them realise that everybody was on the same boat. The source isn’t very reliable, as we don’t know when it was written or who wrote it. Therefore anybody could have written this song, whether he/she was anti-war or pro-war. But what we can learn from this source is that many women had sexist attitudes. It is only a song about women.
I think that the amount of propaganda the government produced, indoctrinated all the women into thinking that it was ONLY they who helped win the war, when in fact men also did play a vital part in the Second World War. I don’t think this song is of any value. It’s not reliable enough to be kept as a recollection of the Second World War. To me, the song sounds like a nursery rhyme. The language is very informal. The only good thing about source G is that it could cheer up women at work, boost their morale’s, it livens up the atmosphere at work. The bad thing about the source is that it isn’t very useful. It doesn’t tell us much about the role of women at work during the war. It’s not informative.
Source H is a recollection of a woman speaking about her experiences during the war. She was speaking in 1983. This source is very reliable as she is describing her personal experience of the war. She was in the war the whole time, and knew about the situation Britain faced. Source H shows a negative view of the land army. The woman’s account of the land army was negative. “We had sausages everyday” and “They were horrible”, may be a slight exaggeration of the truth. This may be a build up of all the bad things about the place she was at or where she came from.
The source was written forty years after the event and this could have caused her to
remember just the bad points and she could have forgot important points and made bits up. She has a bad view on physical labour this may be because she hasn’t been used to it. Source H also tells us that travelling to work everyday was difficult. This woman had to bike eight miles to work, and then eight miles back. Women had to go wherever they were sent for work, and this would sometimes mean long tiring journeys. They didn’t have the free will to work in one set place. Women working in farms were sent to one farm one day, and another farm the next. Moreover, this source tells us that some managers made their workers feel unwelcome.
They weren’t treated with enough respect. They were given the same food everyday, horrible boiled sausages, which the woman describes, tasted awful! This source also tells us that women had a variety of jobs to do, from planting potatoes to working in forestry. The only weak point about this source is that it is only a recollection of ONE woman’s experience. Many other women could have the same view about the war as the woman from this source, and many other women probably have different views and opinions. Furthermore, this woman is speaking in 1983. Her memory was probably a little unclear and blurred.
Source H alone, is a very informative and revealing source. If it were to be put together with source G (the song), then it would just be degrading source H. Source G tells us nothing; it’s just a song. We don’t even know who wrote it or even when it was written. Source H alone is much stronger; it is very informative and useful in telling us how women were treated, and what they had to do at work.
6. Study sources I and J. Use the evidence of these sources, and your own knowledge, to explain whether the war brought lasting changes in the role-played by women in British society.
The Second World War had brought many changes for women. They were required to participate in the war effort. They had a chance to prove themselves worthy, by involving themselves in the job industry. They gained a lot of respect, independence and confidence. They had become of major importance during the war. During the war government propaganda had insisted that women should play a full part in the war effort. Their labour was required in wartime industries and voluntary welfare organisations; their housekeeping had to be carefully considered and cheap to run; and above all they had to keep merry. They were not expected to complain in any way. Women had had a position to participate in their own right. With the ending if the war, priorities altered, and women were expected to return to their traditional roles as mothers and wives. Women found they had been laid off their jobs immediately after they had won the Second World War. A classic example is source I. A letter sent to the employees of Tate and Lyle in 1945, just when the war had come to an end.
This source explains how men have come back from fighting in the war, and will need to be replaced by women. The letter is quite sincere, as it does thank women for working happily for last five and a half years. It shows how women have been used, and laid off work. Women were expected to go back, and adapt into their own lifestyles after working in civil organisations during the war. Through the period of the war, women learnt many skills and talents. Hard work had really payed off after winning the war, but women were disappointed, as they couldn’t bring many lasting changes. Many women were offended, but not all jobs laid women off work. A few women still worked part time. But after the war, women weren’t needed to work, as few jobs were no longer required to run.
Propaganda had so successfully influenced women into wartime jobs now changed way to convince them to stay at home. The same broadcasts and magazines that had previously told them how vital it was for them to work now told women how essential it was to be at home with their family. Source J is an advertisement, which appeared in the magazine Picture Post in November 1945. (Just after the war had ended). This advertisement is a blitz of reverse propaganda. It persuades women to go back to their conventional roles as housewives and mothers. It makes simple home life sound so pleasant, and convinces women that looking after your family is the primary priority for any woman. Some women would rebel against this, as they probably want best for their daughters in the future. They don’t want their children to live through the same difficulties and hardship as they did.
The education act in 1944 offered girls more opportunities. It was an attempt to create the structure for the post-war British education system. The act raised the school-leaving age to 15 and provided universal free schooling in three different types of schools; grammar, secondary modern and technical. Girls could now be educated suitably, and could use their knowledge for power, and confidence in the future.
Great social changes did pursue soon after the end of the war with the introduction of the welfare state. Women also felt some changes, as they were treated with much more respect.
Nevertheless, women didn’t lose their confidence. Some women liked the idea of having a good rest, though they were also reluctant to give up what they had achieved entirely. Some women found their wartime independence didn’t seem to survive after 1945, but they had greater self-assurance in their abilities. World War Two put the confidence and expectations of women high and the respect people gave them.
7. Study all of the sources. The writer of source K believed that the most important part played by women in the war effort was in the home. Use the sources and your own knowledge, to explain whether you agree with this view about women’s contribution to the war effort.
Source K is a paragraph from a history textbook written in the 1970’s. The source doesn’t tell us whether the writer experienced life in the Second World War. If he didn’t, then I don’t think he would have known exactly what it was like to be in a war. Only those who suffered during the war would know what it was precisely like to be involved in a war. The writer of source K believes that the ordinary housewife role in the home front helped win the war. I don’t think the source is very reliable. It is more of an opinion stated in a textbook rather than a fact because most people would agree with it, and most people would disagree with it.
All jobs done by women were important in their own respect. Source C suggests that many women did both. They worked in the kitchen front as well as war work. Source A also suggests that war work and the kitchen front are both vital. “It is no longer a question of what is the most comfortable arrangement for each family”. This suggests that family life at home also had to be altered, nothing could be thrown away, and everything must be saved for the war effort. Everybody had to help, and that no time could be wasted relaxing. The quote also develops into the fact that women had to take out precious family time by working in factories, armed forces, the land army, and many other recruitment organisations.
Propaganda made war work sound challenging and rewarding and the life of a working girl exciting, independent- and even glamorous. There were some women who did skilled work such as farming and working in a forestry. However, as source H suggests, these jobs weren’t anything how the government had made them out to be. You often had to work extremely hard in an unfriendly environment. Source H implies that war work was tiring, and awfully difficult. As a result, I think these women would have preferred to be at home looking after their families, a not so challenging task!
Another Kitchen front task women had to keep up with was rationing. Queuing for food, and then making the most out of it wasn’t an easy mission. Source F talks about he hardships of everyone because everyone had to be involved in rationing. However the evidence isn’t solid because there was a black market, and got people around this problem. Source F agrees with the views of the writer in source K. Both sources think that women working in the home helped win the war. BUT rationing wasn’t enough; the government had come out with yet another task for women to do. They were persuaded to grow their own vegetables in their back gardens.
Source D suggest that potatoes were a good vegetable to grow, as they were healthy. This meant that not only did women have to cook, clean, queue for food, go shopping, look after their children, and work in the war effort, they had to grow their own vegetables, plant them, water them and look after them. Source E suggests that women were keeping up with the kitchen front fantastically. It is a message telling women that they were doing absolutely fine, and to keep up with the excellent work. Working life in the home seemed very hectic for the average woman. Working in the home was just as hard as working in any factory, just as source H suggests.
For some women, war work brought greater independence, the opportunity to train for skilled jobs and take pride in what they did. Source B suggests that war can bring a brighter future for women by asking for respect, independence and more freedom in return. Women wouldn’t have been able to gain all this if they hadn’t conscripted or volunteered into the work force. Out of war work, women achieved a lot of dignity, a changing role and a better future, not only for them, but for their children too. They played an important part in the work force too. It boost their confidence and self-conscious.
Some women enjoyed working in the work force. Source G is a popular song that was probably sung by a lot of women in the work force. The song implies that women used to sing to keep up morale’s and that they were really determined to win the war. It also implies that the atmosphere at work used to be fun and merry.
War work and kitchen work were inter-dependant. Both jobs, in and out of the home were vital to keep the country running. Jobs were of the same importance, they were both very hard to keep up with, but working in the factory and not working at home would be impossible. There would always be a little bit of cooking and cleaning to do at home. Working in the civil defence, or the armed forced was just as hard as struggling to feed and clothe your family. Without any income, a family cannot survive. Women had no choice but to work. Not only were they working for their children’s health and safety, they were also helping out in the war effort at the same time. Women were of high importance in whatever they did. Their contribution to everything helped Britain win the war!