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Women’s work at home contributed to the war effort, in many ways, but
they were also under a lot of pressure and stress, due to their
husband’s absence, as they had been sent to fight in the war. The
women had to play the man’s and women’s role at home and in society.
Their contribution to the war effort was partly their responsibility
to keep their houses and families safe.
Women had to deal with war time shortages by a method that was
introduced to them in January 1940, which was known as ‘rationing’.
Rationing was the limiting of items that was in shortage in the
country due to German ‘U’ boats destroying merchant ships and blocking
the goods coming in from Canada and the US, which were carrying foods
and essential supplies. The aim the Germans had, were to starve
Britain till it surrendered. Due to this crucial moment, Britain had
to encourage rationing into houses, put into practice by housewives.
So every woman was given a ration book which consisted of certain
number of coupons. These were used to make sure that everyone got the
same amount of the foods/essentials that were under shortage, like
meat, butter and milk. Women had to register with a grocer and butcher
in which they were only allowed to buy rationed foods at.
Rationing helped women to cooperate and to be very organised, as they
had to work out how to make limited rations last in a critical
situation of decisive scarcities.
Adding to the idea of rationing, the government introduced a new pet
project of ‘Digging for Victory’. Everyone had to use up all the
possible space there was in their gardens, as well as the lawns and
flowerbeds which had to be turned into vegetable patches. They had to
grow vegetables that were not rationed such as wheat, potatoes and
‘Make do and Mend’ was encouraged to be a part of rationing. This
helped save up on rationed products, as it consisted of mending things
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Britain needed to bring in fewer imports from the countries abroad.
‘Making do’ added to the war effort in a way that it saved up more
resources for the army, navy and the air forces of the country.
Apart from contributing to the war effort in such ways, women also had
to keep their families and homes safe. Many Children and young mothers
were evacuated to the countryside, where households would accept them
under their protection from night-time bombing raids, in the cities.
In towns and cities, women had to make sure their homes were compiled
with Air Raid Precautions (ARP). Windows at home were blacked out at
night, taped to stop glass flying and injuring anyone, in case of any
bombing raids. Doors also had to be sealed against gas. Homes had to
consist of Anderson shelters dug into the back of their gardens. They
were used for emergency, in case a bomb blast had exploded their
houses. For safety the shelters were assembled together by six
corrugated steel sheets bolted together, with steel plates at either
end. All these added to the war effort, as less injuries for the
civilians meant that there were less pressure on hospitals, so there
were more resources for the soldiers fighting the war.
For comfort inside the Anderson shelter, the woman had to make sure
the shelter consisted of an oil lamp, blankets, food, water, a
flowerpot heater and a bucket for waste. And if there was an
explosion, it was the women’s responsibility to make sure all the
members of the family were provided with gas masks.
Life for housewives was hard, because they were responsible for almost
everything. All the women in the war had to do their own parts and add
to the war effort, forming a chain in which a single misact would
break, as all relied on each other.
As said before they were all are under a lot of pressure, stress and
responsibility, due to the fact that they suddenly had to do
everything themselves, inside and out of their homes. The thing that
most pressurised them and also the most successful was probably the
rationing and keeping homes safe with Air Raid Precautions (ARP), with
things like first-aid kit’s, blackout curtains, taping and blocking
the windows with sand bags. This maintained the safety in the country,
so as said before, there was fewer burden put on to the hospitals. So
the hospitals were able to focus more on the injured soldiers from the
army, rather than the minor injuries of the civilians that could be
treated with first-aid kits, and who would only be taking up space in
the hospitals. There was also rationing in different ways that added
to the war effort, as this meant less imports had to come from abroad,
also meaning that the soldiers had more resources to use as the women
‘made do’ all their clothes etc. I specifically chose these two points
to show how much the government needed women to help the war effort.
As this not only added to the war cycle of saving up on resources for
themselves, the country, and the soldiers, but also had a great role
over Britain’s victory in the war.