Published by: Pen and Sword Military
Publication date: 5th June 2017
The First World War was fought on two fronts. In a military sense it was fought on the battlefields throughout Europe, the Gallipoli peninsular and other such theatres of war, but on the Home Front it was the arduous efforts of women that kept the country running.
Before the war women in the workplace were employed in such jobs as domestic service, clerical work, shop assistants, teachers or as barmaids. These jobs were nearly all undertaken by single women, as once they were married their job swiftly became that a of a wife, mother and home maker. The outbreak of the war changed all of that. Suddenly, women were catapulted into a whole new sphere of work that had previously been the sole domain of men. Women began to work in munitions factories, as nurses in military hospitals, bus drivers, mechanics, taxi drivers, as well as running homes and looking after children, all whilst worrying about their men folk who were away fighting a war in some foreign clime, not knowing if they were ever going to see them again.
With the work came a wage, which provided women with financial freedom for the first time, as well as an element of independence and social integration, which they would have possibly never otherwise experienced. Women were not paid the same wages as men for doing the same work, but what they did earn was much more than they had ever earned before.
This was also a time of the suffrage movement, who wanted more out of life for women. Accordingly, some of these women were reluctant to stop working, with some of these being sacked so that returning soldiers could have their pre-war jobs back. Whilst, tens of thousands of women were left widowed, many with young children to bring up. Despite all of this, one thing was for sure, for lots of women there was no going back to how things had been before the war. There was only going to be one way, and that was forward.
Well, good things about this book: it covers a number of women and organisations I’d never heard of, including a women who started out helping the sick and wounded in Serbia and ended the war as a Captain in the Serbian army and saw active service; the women who died when their hospital ships were sunk; the women who became spies; the nurses who went to the front and saw the worst of the war, some of whom died there.
There are short biographies of all the women who were casualties of the war, which would be helpful for anyone researching their ancestors. Won’t lie, I went through the list to see if their were any Cawkwells in the list. There weren’t, but then there’s only 700 of us now, so there was probably only 450 of us then so chances of finding us in the lists of the war dead is going to be low.
The book is generously illustrated with photographs from the time.
Bad things about this book: Could do with a bit of editing, and it doesn’t really go into the depth I would have expected.