The Real Glory of Women and Their Contributions to WWI
The poem “Glory of Women” by Siegfried Sassoon suggests that women did not contribute much during World War I, but historical evidence shows otherwise. According to an article by Peter Curry, nearly one million women were working in munitions factories in Britain at the end of the war. By some estimates, women made up nearly half the workforce by 1918.
Peter Curry states that “the Women’s Royal Naval Service and the Women’s Royal Air Force were set up in November 1917 and April 1918 respectively. Over 100,000 women joined Britain’s army during World War One” (2018). Thousands of women also served as nurses in the war-zones, including the famed Edith Cavell, who saved hundreds of Allied lives and was later executed by the Germans. She served in Belgium, which was occupied by Germany at the time.
Despite the notorious conditions of the trenches, women working in munitions factories also faced immense danger due to the explosive nature of their products and poor working conditions. Many were poisoned with toxic jaundice by the TNT they worked with, while others were killed in deadly explosions from the materials they handled. Civilian women and their families also faced the dangers of chemical warfare and bombings.
The number of women working in transportation more than quintupled during the war. Amanda Mason writes, “Women began working as bus conductresses, ticket collectors, porters, carriage cleaners and bus drivers.” However, many women were forced to give up their jobs after men returned from the war.
Clearly, Sassoon’s portrayal of women’s contributions greatly downplays the actual role they played in helping the British war efforts. He also fails to acknowledge the sacrifices they made both during the war and after, when they had to give up their jobs and take care of husbands, many of whom suffered from PTSD. While the poem itself is well-crafted and includes vivid imagery, it’s important to acknowledge the immense ways women helped win World War I.