Researcher ORCID Identifier

Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


Reader 1

Professor Lisa Cody

Reader 2

Professor Ahona Panda


Without the contributions of British women working in factories during World War I, Great Britain would not have been able to achieve victory. In this paper, I attempt to situate the movement of British women into factories, especially those producing munitions, within the wider context of the tensions regarding gender roles and the position of women in British society created by the outbreak of war. Hundreds of thousands of British women moved into what was referred to as war work over the course of the conflict. They made shells and cartridges, endangered their health by working in toxic environments, and showed themselves capable of skilled labor and acts of physical endurance that were previously unavailable to them. As existing scholarship shows, there is no clear agreement among historians about the impact of the war on gender roles in the decades that followed. An examination of material objects, including photographs, propaganda posters, and diaries, however, suggests that women were not simply attracted to war work by the higher wages that it offered them. The women endured harsh conditions, found strength in the company of other women, and, most importantly, showed that they could contribute to British society in roles that have largely been denied them before the outbreak of war.

Ultimately, while the war moderated the aims of British feminism and was followed by a widespread desire for a return to normality, the women who worked in the factories of World War I were changed and to some extent empowered by the experience. In particular, an examination of material objects shows how new images of women were incorporated into the visual culture of Great Britain, presenting them as more than simply objects deserving of male protection and capable of making a material difference in the success of the state. The vast majority of women who entered the workplace for the first time during the war returned to domestic life in order to make room for the men returning from war. While there were many ways in which British society was changed by the experience of the First World War, it is important to recognize its effect on gender roles as it showed British men what women were capable of when given opportunities in times of need.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.