What did women do on the home front in the war?

Life for women changed a lot because men were away at war.

Many women took paid jobs outside the home for the first time.

By 1918 there were five million women working in Britain.

The money they earned helped the family's budget and they made new friends in the factory, office or shop.

An illustration of working women from offices, farms and others during World War One
Watch our video to find out more about women's work on the home front.

What jobs did women do in towns?

Lots of women took jobs in shops and offices

Some women were so good at typing that they became known as 'typewriters' - named after the machines they used!

Two women operate a telephone exchange switchboard during World War One

Clerks dealt with letters, filing and typing

As more women started to work in offices, they were trained in more complex tasks like bookkeeping (keeping a log of money) and working a switchboard (a telephone control centre).

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What jobs did women do in the countryside?

Women worked in all areas of farming, including operating ploughs, a large machine which prepares soil for growing crops.

Food production became very important due to shortages because of the war.

Two milkmaids loading a large milk can onto a horse and cart in the early 1900s

Dairy maids milked cows to sell milk, cream, butter and cheese

Women sat on small wooden stools to milk the cows by hand. Sometimes they also delivered milk using metal churns carried by a horse-drawn cart.

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A poster showing an A to Z of the different roles women worked in during World War One
An A to Z poster showing the different roles women worked during World War One.

How did women on the home front help the war effort?

Like the women who went to help on the front line, women in Britain also worked for the war effort.

The war created lots of new jobs. Other jobs focused on protecting people.

A woman at work in an armaments factory during World War One

Women worked in munitions factories making bombs and missiles

This work could be dangerous. There were accidents and women got killed or injured. One explosive called phosphorus turned skin yellow and women in some factories were called 'canaries'.

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How did life change for women?

Despite doing the same jobs as men, women were paid less.

Shop workers were paid around half as much. Teachers earned less than 80 per cent of a man's salary.

Only British men were allowed to vote to choose a government.

This was unfair and lots of women protested to demand better rights.

Women's rights

In 1918 many women over the age of 30 were given the right to vote.

In 1928 this was extended to all women over the age of 21.

Life on the home front during the war let women prove they could work as hard as men in a wide range of jobs. They deserved the same rights.

A large carriage full of suffragettes campaigning in London in 1910
The Suffragettes were one of many groups asking for better rights.
Young women raking hay near Northmapton in 1915

Where next?

World War One