The Role of the Women

Stacks Image 3190
WAAC
Stacks Image 3431

By 1917 the Army was running short of men because so many had been injured or killed on the front line.

This meant that women had to step into the role of the army soldier and so the WAAC was founded…

The War Office identified many jobs, currently carried out by men which actually women could do instead and that they could replace male soldiers in offices, canteens, transport roles, stores and army bases. Many women volunteered to join the new Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), which later became known as the Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps.
WAAC volunteers wore green or 'khaki' uniforms like male soldiers. It included a small cap, khaki jacket and skirt. The skirt had to be no more than twelve inches from the ground. Women in the WAAC exercised every day, taking part in Morris dancing and hockey to keep fit.
By the end of the war in 1918, more than 50,000 women had joined the WAAC, some working in war zones in France, Belgium, Italy and Greece. The volunteers did a variety of jobs.

Cooking on the Front Line

One of the jobs women did was to cook for men in camps and hospitals. Women looked after soldiers by cooking food and providing a waitress service. They cooked meals for the soldiers including savoury rice, stuffed tomatoes, rice croquettes, sea pie, curried cod, fish kedgeree (sic), fish cakes and liver and onions. They also made beef tea, mutton broth, brawn, potato pie and duff pudding. They sometimes served up food which is perhaps more familiar to us today such as stew and even curry!
The food they cooked for men on the front line was often better quality than the food eaten by men back home. Men at war consumed an estimated 4,600 calories a day, compared with a working man's 3,400 a day at home. Women in the canteens were told to make the food feed as many men as possible so they used tricks to make their supplies go further, for example, they dipped rashers of bacon into flour or oatmeal to bulk them out. Other techniques women used included putting old bread in water and baking again in the oven for an hour.

Women in the Office

Stacks Image 3439
As the male clerks headed off to war, women took over many office jobs and soon showed they had many skills in addition to being able to use a typewriter. Women now carried out tasks such as working a switchboard (a telephone control centre) and bookkeeping (keeping a log of money). Working in business made women more determined to have the same rights as men - for example the right to vote, which some got in 1918 - but they rarely got the same pay as men for the same job.
Before the war, banks, factories and other businesses had offices full of men called 'clerks' to deal with the letters that came in the post every day. Most business was done by letter in 1914, though the telephone was becoming more popular. Women were only allowed to do simple tasks in offices such as typing and filing. For many women the war provided new job opportunities.