Women at work in World War 2

Women in world war two carried out various types of work. These ranged from being fire wardens and working in munitions factories up and down the country, to conducting trains. Women found it difficult to obtain work as they faced some major obstacles. Thousands wanted to work but they faced low wages, insufficient day nurseries and inadequate transport amongst others. To combat this, state-run nurseries were set up, job sharing between women was introduced and they were given better conditions of work in the factories, to encourage them to take up the many jobs the men had left behind.

Source F suggests that the women’s role in the war be much the same as that before the war. They were expected to still take care of the home and provide a meal when their husbands returned from work. However, they were expected by many to provide a service to their country to the best of their ability and still do the same jobs they had before the war. Attitude in society had not changed towards women. They had to prove they could do what the men were capable of. The public felt that the women should only hold down mediocre jobs, as they believed that was all they could do.

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Women were not expected or allowed to have jobs they were good at outside of the home. Sources E and P contradict each other as they come from two different parts of the industrial working sector. Source E is from what appears to be a magazine called ‘the engineer’. This would be aimed directly at the men who worked in the factory industries. This would reflect the views of nearly all the men, mainly employers and employees who have experience of working in those conditions.

Therefore this would be a more reliable source to study for information on attitudes towards women working in the factories. The people who work there and employ would not feel it to be right for them to work in those conditions and women would not be suited to it. Source P says that the unions have accepted the arrival of women into the working sector and factories. This source is taken a year previously to source E. This shows that after reluctantly accepting women into the engineering industry, they are perhaps not satisfied with the work of which they are doing.

This could also show that the industries realised the war was coming to an end and wanted to force women out of their jobs as so that the men could return to their previous employment and continue where they left. The attitudes towards the women have changed entirely in the space of a year and towards the end of the war. This would certainly seem to show that the engineering industry wanted to force women out as they felt they were less skilled and adapted to working life compared to the men.

I feel that the Daily Mail article (source C) is the more reliable of the two sources. This is because it is by a national newspaper, which reports on topics of interest to the whole country. The paper would normally have a fairly impartial view as they were not working for the government. In this case though, censorship would most certainly have been in place to prevent the newspapers from reporting stories which would harm the government or that they felt could create chaos.

The newspaper in question feels that the contribution that the women have made is ‘magnificent’ and that they are the significant people in the war effort by doing jobs not expected of them and the way they applied themselves. Source D is not particularly reliable, even if true. It is a quote from the deputy Prime Minister which would mean it cannot be taken at face value. Clement Atlee would have made the statement to reassure the country and the women that they were doing a fine job. He would not be expected to say anything other than this due to his position.

The source would certainly be looked upon as biased due to its origin. Both of the sources have a similar point. They both praise the women highly for their contribution and efforts and claim that they are working far harder and doing more skilled jobs than expected of them. Source C is the more reliable of the two as the paper can have some impartiality if not a great amount. It would be more accurate in reflecting the views of the people compared to that of the deputy Prime Minister, who in his position, would be expected to praise all government policies and interests.

I do not completely agree with the statement that women and their contribution to the war effort were valued. This is because some of the sources of which I have read are biased, inaccurate or do not tell the entire story to the public. The sources from newspapers are inaccurate and to a certain extent, biased as censorship would have been in place, preventing the papers from printing the true facts, instead using propaganda to keep morale up within the people.

The deputy Prime Minister was quoted as saying ‘ the work women are performing in munitions factories has to be seen to be believed’. As this is a quote from Clement Atlee, it cannot be seen as totally reliable or accurate, especially as only two years later, a magazine representing parts of the working engineering industry condemned them saying: “Heaven forbid that Great Britain should encourage the ‘gentler sex’ to become engineers”. This most probably reflected the feeling and viewpoints of the workers in the country, most of which were men.

Despite the fact women were working in factories or carrying out other demanding jobs, they were still expected to fulfill their jobs they had acquired at home, working or not. They were still expected to put food on the table for when their husbands returned from work. This is shown in source F. the scenario is that the female warden is willing to resign her post in order to provide a hot meal for when her husband came home: “oh dear I’ll have to resign from the wardens post. I just can’t get Jim a hot meal at night”. This was something all working women could relate to at the time, as it would have been familiar to them.

Some all the female workers described what happened as more men returned from the forces after the war: “As the job slowed down, we were told that our services were no longer needed… ” The jobs were for men who had finished their duties as the war had ended. The women had to leave for them as they were still not expected to hold down jobs, as society’s opinion had not changed. If the war effort of the women had been truly valued, then they would have been able to keep the jobs they had occupied for years, or at the very least be able to apply for them along with the men.

The war effort had been valued during the difficult times perhaps to prevent the women feeling that they were not being treated well enough. From reading the sources though, it would appear that the women had almost expected it to happen and just had to accept it. I do not feel that women and their contribution to the war effort was truly valued as their position in society had not changed along with attitudes towards them when the war ended and the country returned to normal.