A generation of men fighting for their country, left a large gap in the British workforce and economy. Over a million British women stepped up to the challenge and took the chance to support their country by signing up for work in munitions factories, TNT manufacturing, or a civil service post.
Hunslet Engine Co , Stuart Turner and Co and William Beardmore and Co were a few out of hundreds of companies listed on Grace’s Guide, that took on women workers during the Great War, to relieve manufacturing and production demands.
Below is a gallery of photographs showing ‘Girl Workers in a William Beardmore and Co Munitions Factory’ from The Engineer journal September 3rd 1915. Read more in the editorial titled “The Employment of Women in Engineering Workshops” – September 03rd 1915, p 228.
"...Sir William Beardmore has looked far ahead and has treated the subject in a broad and statesmanlike manner. He has, in conjunction with his able staff, provided not only for the splendid output which the women workers are producing, but also for the creature comforts of his women workers, grasping the fact that enthusiasm, happiness and health are essential as a combination. These three together, made possible by the generous attitude of the firm, have largely helped toward the excellent results, of which Messrs. Beardmore may well be proud" "The Employment of Women in Engineering Workshops" - September 03rd 1915, Editorial Article, p 228. Open the PDF
The sudden change in the woman’s role from a gentle domestic post in the home to occupations in the loud, dirty and often dangerous factories and workplaces, stirred a mixture of worry and sense of caution with some , but with others, high spirits and positivity with a focus on winning the war. The founding of The Women’s Engineering Society in 1919 is just one example of an outcome founded from the effects of war and perhaps started to demonstrate the relaxing attitudes towards women’s capabilities in a male dominant industry.
“…It needs but the proper organisation to make the employment of women in engineering workshops during the stress of war demands a complete success, and it means the solution of the problem that faces us. In ordinary times such a change would not be contemplated, but these are not ordinary times, and, to put it bluntly, in order to end the war speedily women must be employed.” “The Employment of Women in Engineering Workshops” - August 20th 1915, Editorial Article, p 181. Open the PDF
…it must be admitted on every side that taking it all round the dilution of skilled labour by women workers has been an unqualified success. The women have proved themselves wonderfully apt pupils, and though there are naturally variations in their mental as well as their physical capacities, yet the outputs which have been attained have been, on the average astonishingly good – much better, in fact, than even the staunchest supporters if the employment of women had ventured to predict.
“Women in Workshops”, p 133.
…”The dilution of labour in a very real sense is winning the war, and the more fully this fact is appreciated the greater will be our output and the sooner the end will come. Even now there are many employers who look askance at women workers. They cannot break away from old feelings and old traditions. They think women must be a nuisance in the shop and that their output will be low and the number of “wasters” high. That view must be broken down…”
Abstracts from Editorials in The Engineer Journal February 11th 1916.
“The manner in which women have adopted themselves to the needs of the nation will never be forgotten. In the lighter shell shops, and even in those turning out quite heavy projectiles, they have worked, and are continuing to do so, as if it were their natural occupation.” “Women Workers” – January 5th, 1917, Editorial Article, p 4. Open the PDF