Women at War 1914-1918 (2014)

Introduction

A 2014 documentary about women during World War One.

Outline

Trace the overlapping journeys of exceptional women swept up in World War I and hear their tales of bravery on history’s front lines.

Background

During WWI (1914-1918), large numbers of women were recruited into jobs vacated by men who had gone to fight in the war. New jobs were also created as part of the war effort, for example in munitions factories. The high demand for weapons resulted in the munitions factories becoming the largest single employer of women during 1918. Though there was initial resistance to hiring women for what was seen as ‘men’s work’, the introduction of conscription in 1916 made the need for women workers urgent. Around this time, the government began coordinating the employment of women through campaigns and recruitment drives.

This led to women working in areas of work that were formerly reserved for men, for example as railway guards and ticket collectors, buses and tram conductors, postal workers, police, firefighters and as bank ‘tellers’ and clerks. Some women also worked heavy or precision machinery in engineering, led cart horses on farms, and worked in the civil service and factories. However, they received lower wages for doing the same work, and thus began some of the earliest demands for equal pay.

By 1917 munitions factories, which primarily employed women workers, produced 80% of the weapons and shells used by the British Army. Known as ‘canaries’ because they had to handle TNT (the chemical compound trinitrotoluene that is used as an explosive agent in munitions) which caused their skin to turn yellow, these women risked their lives working with poisonous substances without adequate protective clothing or the required safety measures. Around 400 women died from overexposure to TNT during WWI.

Production & Filming Details

  • Release Date: 2014 (US).
  • Running Time: 93 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

YouTube Link

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