The early rush of volunteers and later the conscription of men led to a shortage of manpower on the home front. Women, already working in munitions factories were encouraged to take on jobs normally done by men.
This was the start of major social change. Before the war, women had been content to stay at home to bring up the family and do domestic work. It was considered unbecoming for a woman to work. During the war it was considered unpatriotic not to.
Many changes came about as shown by the quote from A. J. P Taylor English History " Women became more independent. Women paid for their round at the pub. Fashion changed for practical reasons : never again did skirts sweep the ground. Women's hats became neater. Not all changes in work lasted after the war, but some did."
In the early years of the war Britain quickly experienced a crisis with ammunition supplies. The army fired off shells much faster than the industry could produce them. A politician who had a sharp mind and a capacity for ideas, he was quick to exploit the female labor in munitions factories. Initially a mans job but before long 90% of the workers were women.
" The courage of women in the munitions factories has never been sufficiently recognized. They had to work under conditions of real danger to life and limb, and what some of them dreaded still more, of grotesque disfigurement some of the pearls of the shell filling factories was toxic jaundice resulting from TNT poisoning. This turned their faces a bright repulsive yellow. The poor girls were nicknamed "canaries". They were quite proud of this designation as they had earned it in the path of duty." From the war memoirs of Lloyd George.
The crisis caused by the second U-boat campaign lead to the creation of the woman's land army in 1917. Many of those who served were city girls from middle classed families, quite unaccustomed to hard physical labor. Few failed to impress the...