The Change of Gender Roles During the First World War Essay

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The Change of Gender Roles During the First World War When the First World War began in 1914, there was much discussion regarding the proper gender roles for British men and women. For men, the course of action seemed clear that they should enlist and fight. Yet, many men struggled under the pressure of warfare. For women, it was unclear how they should be involved in the war effort. Many men wanted the women to keep their traditional gender roles of taking care of the household. However, the lack of male workers on the home front required women to take on different work roles. The women received a great deal of praise and positive attention for their work as nurses, munitions workers, and military auxiliaries. However, men were critical …show more content…
They wore starched white uniforms almost like religious habits and were shown tenderly caring for wounded soldiers (Grayzell, 1999). However, the reality of nursing was seldom so pretty. Caring for severely wounded young men, by changing their bandages, bathing them, and emptying their bedpans, caused sheltered young women to lose their shyness and sexual ignorance quickly. Also, some nurses engaged in work more showy and bold than anything the public imagined. For example, the nurses who acted as ambulance drivers and mechanics near the frontline of the war were particularly adventurous (Kent, 1993). No realm of women's war work was met with greater resistance or aroused more controversy than military service. Nonetheless, in March 1917, the Army finally created the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Most women performed traditional chores, such as cleaning, cooking, and clerical work, but they did this in uniform, at the front, and under fire. In November 1917, the Navy created its own auxiliary, the Women's Reserve Naval Service. Then, in April 1918, the Women's Royal Air Force began operation. By the war's end, there were over eighty-thousand women serving in the military (Marwick, 1977). While women struggled to find their place in the war and many of them experienced exciting new opportunities, millions of men in the Army quickly discovered that this war was a far cry from the chivalric fantasies of their youth. The horrifying nature of trench