Prior to the outbreak of the First World War, people regarded war as a male affair. In fact, right up to the occurrence of the war, women on either side of antagonism vowed themselves to peace, in global harmony. However, within several months into the war, major feminist groups gave a new vow to support their respective countries. Most of the women who served in the war especially from Allied Powers did so, on a capitalist basis, particularly before 1917. The women helped care for the wounded soldiers, take provisions to the forces, entertain troops, serve as phone operatives, and work as reporters. Nevertheless, most women did not engage directly in the war, and the few who coped to serve unswervingly in various military were incongruities.
People often considered women as fosters and followers, and objectified as protected people thus, feminists who tackled the issue of war leaned to acknowledge the pattern, recounting it as a male expression and articulating not purely the optimism but also the conviction that the women would in any case lessen the incidence and fierceness of armed clash. Rather than refusing to partake, women stepped in all levels of engagement to assume a broad spectrum previously filled by men. The effect of the war on women’s roles establishes the fact that countries such as Germany, U.S., and Britain had more to offer. The assessment of the different roles of women during the War conveys an imperative issue of feminist empowerment in times of conflict.
Representing the omission of women is not to say that women performed no noteworthy roles in the war, nor is it to say that males disregarded females in general. Women rallied round their state war labors in a range of ways. Working long hours in plants under pitiful conditions for meager wages, millions of women from both Central and Allied Powers built the equipments and weapons with which men killed each other. Since the war required absolute support from fighters and civilians alike, women’s role helped to offer a different aspect to the war. A mainstream of women provided nationalistic and indispensable support for the war efforts of their countries. Women played numerous acceptably womanly roles in the war with the exception of Russian women World War I. All were un-manly and un-war-like. Women served as medical persons, trained as nurses, volunteered in the Red Cross, while other served as military surgeons.
During the war, countries both linked to the Allied Powers and Central Powers suffered immensely with the exception of America, where majority of its military did not face combative grounds let alone fight in the war. Russia, France, Austro-Hungarian, and Germany had the highest number of causalities. However, almost all casualties of the war were men since they were the main protagonists of the war. Since women did not take combative roles during the war, they mostly faced physiological, mental, and emotional issues unlike men who mostly suffered physical anguish. The war collaborated women’s role as one that illustrated assistance and great optimism. In fact, the war enlarged the role of women greatly, with major progress taking place throughout, both among Allied Powers and Central Powers.
People have often described the war as a process that involved antagonism between Allied Powers and Central Powers; thus, women’s role emanate as a response to their respective countries. In essence, women filled the roles that men would have cared to explore prior to the war; thus, by satisfying the gaps caused by enlistment and fatalities, women laid the basics for political expansion and gender equity such as suffrage and emotional development.
The war excluded women from playing a combative role because of physiological and emotional issues. Before the war, males proved their manhood by means of combative engagement; hence, the war portrayed combat as a way for young males to attain manhood. However, the full force of the war brought a transition that the world had not experienced especially in America and Russia where women engaged proactively in the war. In fact, in every nation committed to the war, a great number of people, regardless of gender, opinion, or class, rallied fully. However, with the exemption of Russian women who fought on the Eastern Front, most women did not take part in the combative experiences of the war. To these women soldiering recognized and toughened a certain element of engagement that was typical to their male counterparts.
The war changed women’s role considerably with some women engaging in roles of managing families while other engaged in combative assault especially Russians. For example, Russian women engaged actively during the war in combative areas such as the Eastern Front where they engaged the Germans and Austro-Hungarian forces. On the other hand, more than 25,000 American women served in various parts of Europe during the war.
However, they did not engage proactively in the means of war, but engaged in indirect roles such as providing supplies, reporting on the activities of the war, and serving military personnel. In fact, some agencies tried to force women out of the war, but the women would not agree. In 1918, Harriot Blatch advised the American government to marshal woman power since it motivated men. In fact, a soldier described how he experienced Sarah Willmer’s performance and how it greatly affected his motivation. Women motivated men to continue fighting for the good of their countries; hence, women who actively took parts in combat areas contributed immensely to the end of the war. While Russian women took part in combative engagements, American women engaged in feminist roles throughout the war with few instances of combat engagement.
Nevertheless, in France and Britain a great number of women engaged in roles that violated social norms especially prostitution. In these countries, women from lower social stratification acted as objects of conflict, frequently as sexual subjugations or rewards of war. Soldiers usually frequented the brothels and utilized prostitutes during the war. However, these sexual encounters often had a downbeat effect to the war since soldiers suffered from what medics referred as social diseases. For example, the British army had more than 27% of all cases classified as social diseases, while in France more than 4,000 girls were detained for prostitution. If these cases are a point of the real aspects of the war, then it indicates that soldiers exploited women or sexual favors. However, whether in brothels or at home, women provided an exceptional level of refuge or getaway for male soldiers. In fact, even after the war some women continued to perform roles that they had not engaged in prior to the war.
The war changed gender relations, but only momentarily. British women established new liberties and prospects in time of war. Although gender roles remained remarkably consistent after the war, the war greatly motivated women to engage in masculine roles. The restoration of sex in Britain after the war inhibited women’s roles and bolstered the philosophy of motherhood. The feminist progress, however, never recovered the mainstream status it had held before the war. During the war, women accepted the ideas of gender differences that facilitated notions of separate spheres.
Motivated by a mixture of nationalism and a desire to escape a dreary existence, some Russian women usually dressed as men took part in combat during the war. However, some of the women engaged in combat openly as women. Surprisingly, Russian women even took part in combat during the Czarist era. In fact, the Czarist administration had no constant rule on female combatants. Russian women were notoriously famous during the war especially the Battalion of Death commanded by Maria Botchkareva. The battalion, formed in reaction to a breakdown of confidence and restraint in the Russian army managed to restore discipline in the army. In fact, the battalion was exceptional in its endeavors and the government usually used it as a propaganda tool. With 2,000 women during its foundation, the battalion had its own headquarter and equipments.
To Botchkareva, discipline was the main aspect of winning the war; thus, the battalion managed to enlist women based on discipline but not physical strength. Apart from the Battalion of Death, Russia had other various battalions across major cities usually with less than 1,000 women volunteers. However, lack of discipline and equipments was a major challenge in these battalions. However, these units of battalions never experienced combat; hence, the Battalion of Death was the most known and significant army of women that took part in combat during the war. In fact, the battalion engaged in several combat grounds advancing in German trenches and managing to fight off German fire. In some cases, however, the battalion participated in active combat to shame Russian males who were too exhausted to fight.
Although in other countries such as Britain, America, and France, women did not face combat, the war depended on women’s roles in numerous ways. In fact, America and Britain mobilized a considerable number of women into industries that manufactured weapons and machineries to be used in the war. However, the roles were only temporary since after 1919 the war came to an end and the women resumed their feminist roles. In fact, in Britain alone more than 1 million women took part in armaments jobs. However, today, most people claim that the munitionettes’s interests lay in financial terms, but not on nationalistic issues. Germany also enlisted a great number of women to act as munitionettes.
People point to the fact that the war changed some aspects of women roles such as their right to vote. In America and Britain women gained the liberty to vote, which ensured that they remained steadfast in their roles as protagonists motivating male soldiers. On the other hand, prewar attitudes towards women changed dramatically, although majority of women were still restricted to conventional roles as wives and mothers. Women were still expected to bear child and offer loyal companionship rather than taking masculine roles. Divorce remained rare and social class remained a key aspect to social development. Peasant’s women were required to toil in fields and coal mines, or among royal settings. However, patriarchal societies did not allow their women to engage in any entrepreneurship responsibility; thus, majority of women in these societies remained largely disengaged throughout the war.
Yet, starting from 1915, countries understood that attritional combat required nationwide mobilization; hence sought ways that enabled women fill male roles. In fact, Germany had more than 370,000 women who took part in defense-related firms. In fact, if the industries where these women worked stopped for a short period of time, the war would have been won by the side with excess weapons at the time. The employment of women in these industries led to an increase in mechanization that eventually improved the effectiveness of war means. In another case, Britain managed to enlist a considerable number of women to fill male positions. For example, prior to the war, the Royal Ordnance Firms employed a small fraction of women, but by 1918, the factories had employed more than 24,000 women.
Often, the women worked in miserable conditions to manufacture machines that would free their countries. After the Somme Campaign of 1916, Britain founded auxiliary military for females that would free up men for battle. Women Royal services in Britain played vital roles in ensuring support for the Allied Power. Other nations observed related redefinitions of sex functions. In German, for example, women who served in military related industries increased to 500,000 in 1918 from 75,000 in 1913.
Chiefly unsung and considered after the war, women contributed significantly to the war. In fact, women’s contributions were nevertheless fundamental and essential to the relevant war efforts of their countries. Yet, in spite of these assistances, women were forced after 1918 to return to their domestic sphere. Clearly, the war did not transform women’s position in the community, but demonstrated their effectiveness to engage in conflicts proactively
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