During World War 1, the media portrayed the recruitment of women war workers as a huge success. Women were employed by the thousands, faithfully fulfilling their patriotic duty in support of the men fighting in the war. My research will show the downside for women working in the munitions factories: the dangers they faced from accidental detonations, their contact with chemicals, and the dangers to themselves and their families, the harsh conditions they faced within the factories and their dismissal from these factory positions after the Great War.
World War 1 created labor shortages particularly in factories. Formerly women were not allowed to work in munitions factories, but to fill vacancies and to satisfy the need for additional work, the Women Work Council and Ministry of Munitions launched large recruitment drives. These actions seemed positive because an ever larger number of women were earning ever higher incomes which enable the women to achieve a higher standard of living. These accomplishments however, blinded contemporaries to the downside of war-time work in munitions factories.
The negative aspects of women working in the munitions factories are important because the population was unaware of the conditions these women faced on a daily basis. The Ministry of Munitions did not disclose the dangers the women faced working in the munitions factories. Instead the government used propaganda and the media to lure the women into these positions reinforcing the idea that it was the women’s patriotic duty. The women were seen as a means of producing as many armaments as possible.
Staci Cope is a senior history major at Kent State Stark. After graduation she plans on earning her master’s degree in library science and technology at Kent State. Staci’s outside activities include an internship with the Massillon Women’s Club, researching the historic Five Oaks Mansion and volunteering as a costumed interpreter for Historic Zoar Village.