Posters were issued to encourage women to sign up for volunteer and paid work, from farming to office jobs and the military, as well as encouraging those at home to plant a victory garden to aid the pressure on a dwindling food supply and boost morale (click on the images for more information on the posters listed on our website).
In many countries, women were able to work as nurses and in support roles for the military forces that did not involve any direct warfare during World War One. By the end of World War Two they were able to take on more active roles within the military, including on the front line and in anti-aircraft units.
The ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service, 1938-1949) was the women’s branch of the British Army during World War Two. The first women recruited to the Auxiliary Territorial Service worked as cooks, clerks and storekeepers. As time went on the range of duties expanded and women served as office, mess and telephone orderlies, drivers, postal workers, ammunition inspectors and signal operators. By June 1945, there were over 190,000 members of the ATS from all across the British Empire and Commonwealth.
The female branch of the Royal Navy, the Women’s Royal Naval Service, was formed during World War One (1917-1919), and established in 1939 at the beginning of World War Two. Wrens were employed for duties such as telegraph operators, electricians, cooks and air mechanics. They served on land and at sea and, in 1939 they were allowed to fly transport planes. The WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) was established in 1939 as the female auxiliary of the Royal Air Force in the UK. WAAFs were needed on the Home Front to work at military bases and radar stations as wireless operators, aircraft maintenance workers, intelligence operators and to provide administration and transport duties, catering and other important non-combat jobs.
In America the Women’s Army Auxillary Corps (WAAC) was modelled on Britain’s ATS. WAACs were able to train as mechanics, switchboard operators, drivers, stenographers, cooks and seamstresses. They were required to be physically fit and willing to take on jobs to replace men during the war. A manual published in 1943 included advice on the importance of maintaining a personal fitness routine as well as skin care, hair style and make up.
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