Before the war, women lacked equal rights and the right to vote. When the Great War broke out, women around the world stepped up to fill jobs previously closed to them. Jobs such as police, industrial, and war production work were now areas women could fill. A need for nurses pulled many women to the front lines.

In the U.S. women were allowed to enlist in the Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard to serve in the non combat roles left by the men. They were given equal pay and benefits of their male counterparts, and were considered veterans at the war’s end. Russia established  Women’s Battalions for a short time who fought in the Great War, but disbanded them before the war’s end. Individual women of many countries such as Dorothy Lawrence of England and Olga Krasilnikova of Russia fought in the Great War, some disguising themselves as men.    

Black friday Ada Wright

As the war progressed and women adapted to their new roles as providers, their advocacy for women’s rights increased. British suffragettes chained themselves to the Houses of Parliament and used violence. Their U.S. counterparts picketed the White House, questioning how this was a war for democracy, if there was no democracy at home. After the war, Britain allowed women who owned property and were thirty years or older to vote. Other countries such as Germany and United States also granted women the right to vote.

However, this victory did not guarantee job security. As the men returned home from the war, they expected the women to return home. Their jobs being taken, some women returned home to care for their children and others fought to keep the jobs they had taken during the war.

By Suzanne Tetteh

Further Reading

Francis, Sandra. Review of The First, the Few, the Forgotten: Navy and Marine Corps Women

in World War I, edited by Jean Ebbert and Marie-Beth Hall.  Armed Forces & Society 29, no. 3 (Spring 2003): 470-473. Accessed December 3, 2017. EBSCOhost.

Gavin, Lettie. American Women in World War I : They Also Served. Niwot, Colorado: University

Press of Colorado, 1997. Accessed December 3, 2017. EBSCOhost.