Women in Britain

Courtesy Reuters

BRITAIN has an adult working population of only 33 million. Yet on this basis she has built up a continental army and a vast navy and air force, equipped them very largely from British resources, and shipped millions of tons of armaments to allies abroad. This achievement was made possible only by the fullest and most far-reaching mobilization of labor -- of all labor, men and women alike. It has revolutionized the lives of most women in Britain. Millions have been called to do work which men did formerly; thousands have undertaken new jobs and responsibilities created by the war; and even those who have not left their homes find these homes a very different place to live in as a result of total mobilization. Today, out of some 17 million women between the ages of 14 and 64, although about 10 million still work in their homes, over seven and a half million are employed in industry, civil defense and the armed forces. Since the beginning of the war, two and a half million women have entered defense work who did not previously work at all. For every two women in employment before the war, there are now nearly three, or (to give a comparison with an earlier effort) the proportion of women in the forces, civil defense and essential industry today is double that of the peak year of 1918.

It would be impossible -- and tedious -- to give a full account here of all the activities into which women have been drawn by the needs of war. In many cases, the work has not differed very greatly from the old peacetime routines. For example, thousands of women have been transferred within industry itself. The very great extension of the civil service -- in 1939, there were some 94,000 women in the non-industrial civil service, in 1942 the figure for permanent and temporary women civil servants was over half a million -- has been brought about by recruiting a larger number of women for work which would

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