At start of war Suffragettes suspended campaign, demanding right to serve. In Merton, Wim WSPU halted meetings on Common form 1914.
WIM WSPU disbanded mid 1915 following threat to resign from Rose L Y ( not clear whether she favoured greater participation in war effort, or was simply angry at Pankhurst decision to cease national suffrage campaign. )
Still male resistance – woman’s place in home and union hostility to women doing skilled work, fearing lowered standards and loss of male jobs. 1915 creation of Munitions Ministry; 1916 conscription for men = change of attitude. Many employers tried to avoid direct replacement of skilled man with women – opting for unskilled man or group of women. – it was only in national factories that women were promised anything like equal pay.
Start of war = women in munitions. 1914 = 125 women at Woolwich. 1917 =- 28,000.
1915+ women played a major part in the munitions industry, working in large factories and small workshops. This type of work was dangerous, tools could be unwieldy, the TNT used in shells resulted in poisoning ( Canaries ) and there was always the risk of an explosion.
Ryl Arsenal Woowich – 1300 acre site – at height empl 80,000.
1917 huge explosion at Silvertwon works, E London killed 12 women.
Many women employed to drive a variety of vehicles – cars, taxis, delivery vans, ambulances, plus acting as conductors on trams. Charlotte Marsh, former suffragette became chauffeur to Lloyd George, Minister for Munitions.
Also involved as WRAF – mil value of air power increasingly obvious – WRAF formed 1918. Not able to fly planes but given unprecedented access to aero engineering – acting as mechanics – disbanded 1920.