First World War
What were the impacts of WWI on women's roles in society ?
Women's football in WWI
Dick, Kerr Ladies were global stars and found themselves in demand from the likes of Pathe News

Rise and fall of women's football

There was a huge growth in women's football during the war when women were called upon to do factory jobs left by the men who had gone to fight. On Christmas Day in 1917, 10,000 spectators watched two women's teams playing at Preston. And when Dick Kerr's Ladies played St Helen's Ladies on Boxing Day 1920 they pulled in a crowd of 53,000 at Everton's Goodison Park ground, with thousands more fans locked outside. Everton men's highest attendance this season (2014/15) was 39,000.
Play during the Theatrical Ladies Football match at Tottenham, north London, in 1912

The first football star was a woman
Lily Parr was a winger and one of the first female professional players. She played for the Dick Kerr's Ladies team which got its name from the munitions factory in Preston where most of the team worked during World War One. They were the first women's team to play wearing shorts and the first to go on an overseas tour. Lily was also a smoker and her wages were supplemented by packets of Woodbine cigarettes.

Lily Parr

But then the women's game was effectively banned

Women's football matches then pulled bigger crowds than most men's games - sometimes more than 50,000. In the 1920s the sport flourished with around 150 women's teams in England.

But, on 5 December 1921, the Football Association banned women from playing on FA-affiliated pitches which meant stars like Lily Parr could no longer play at grounds with spectator facilities. The FA at the time said "the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged".

Women's contribution to the war efforts

Women contributed to the war effort, each in their own way. There were the women of farming families who, in predominantly rural and agriculture-based countries like France and Belgium, took over the field work and food production from the summer of 1914 onward; the women who volunteered as military nurses; the “war godmothers” who wrote and sent packages to soldiers at the front and visited the wounded in the hospitals; the city women who made up for the manpower shortage in a wide range of activities, from driving tramways to working more than 10 hours a day in munitions factories

Women railway workers in France, 1917.<br>Agence Rol, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département Estampes et photographie [EI-13 (580)].

Women working in the Renault factories in Billancourt
The 1920’s Flapper

When you were referred to as a bit of a flapper in the 1920’s, it was not kindly meant. But there was indeed a flapper look and it has endured to this day as the defining, though not accurate, look of the decade.The Silhouette was tubular, the backless chemise dress – outrageous! A lowered waistline, bobbed hair, feather boas and long necklines and cigarette holders. The new slang and oodles of faux jewelry completed the effect of the quintessential flapper.

Flapper Joan Crawford – Our Dancing Daughters 1928

Audiences were mesmerized by those early icons of the silver screen such as Theda Bara, Gloria Swanson, Alice White, Louise Brooks, Clara Bow and Colleen Moore. They inspired millions of women to copy their fashion, coiffures and make-up looks.

Hairstyles of the 1920s – as with most other aspects of the 1920’s woman’s look – were short short short ! The First World War forced many women – who worked in dangerous situations like munitions factories – to tie up their hair or in many cases, crop their locks altogether. The ‘short crop’ or ‘chignon‘ hairstyle became so common in Holland, France and Germany by 1918 that soon famous stars like Irene Castle were playfully adopting them. In response, milliners answered the call by designing closer fitting hats. French milliner Caroline Riboux developed the ‘cloche hat‘ ( meaning ‘bell’) in 1919 which was often fashioned round a clients head
1920’s hairstyles – bobs-crops-finger waves-shingles

Female emancipation

Whilst most women did not fight on the front lines of World War One, they were still heavily involved in the war effort, from nursing and ambulance driving to working in munitions factories. These weren’t necessarily glamorous jobs, but they afforded women a degree of independence, both financially and socially, that proved to be a taster of what was to come. The campaign for women’s suffrage was bolstered by the contribution of almost every woman during World War One, ‘proving’, as it were, that women were valuable beyond domestic spheres, that they were a crucial part of Britain’s society, economy and workforce. By the early years of the 20th century, women had won the right to vote in national elections in New Zealand (1893), Australia (1902), Finland (1906), and Norway (1913). World War I and its aftermath speeded up the enfranchisement of women in the countries of Europe and elsewhere. In the period 1914–39, women in 28 additional countries acquired either equal voting rights with men or the right to vote in national elections. In Britain, the 1918 Representation of the People Act extended the franchise to a fraction of adult women and the 1928 Act extended this to all women over the age of 21.

Women picket the White House in Washington, in 1917, demanding full access to voting rights.

Later, the 1920s saw a cultural reaction against the constraints of society from many younger women: bobbed hair, higher hemlines, ‘boyish’ dresses, smoking and drinking in public, courting several suitors and dancing wildly to new music were all ways that women asserted their newfound independence.

The Flapper – 1920s fashion by Coles Phillips