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The Role of Women in Industry

As increasing numbers of men left work to enlist in the forces, the Government set up a Central Advisory Committee for Women's Employment to plan and implement the recruitment of women to fill the gaps. Where possible, women were encouraged to act as substitute labour and take over the running of their husbands', brothers' or fathers' work. In time they were working in hospitals, on the land or in factories.

Background to the impact of the Great War on Scotland.

Women creating shell cases at the Mons factory
Producing armaments in Glasgow
Photograph of Women loading full sacks of coal on to a horse-drawn cart
Photograph of Women driving a horse-drawn goods delivery van
Photograph of Women carrying long steel bars in a shipyard
The Aberdeen Daily Journal, 7 March 1916
The Effect of Industrial Employment of Women and Girls

Women creating shell cases at the Mons factory
Image of Women grooving shells at the Mons factory (National Records of Scotland reference: BR/LIB(S) 5/63)

(National Records of Scotland reference: BR/LIB(S) 5/63)

Producing armaments in Glasgow

Print a copy of the transcipt of the Goverment's report on the North British Locomotive Company, Rich Text format, 10KB, new window

Shell forgings in the Marne factory (National Records of Scotland reference: BR/LIB(S) 5/63)The Government monitored the economy of the country and directed the productive power of industry to support the war effort. Manufacturing and engineering industries changed their production to meet the demand for armaments and supplies for the troops. This source is an example of how locomotive factories at Springburn, owned by the North British Locomotive Company, were adapted to produce war materials between 1914 and 1919. Many women were employed in their munitions factories.

At the time of the outbreak of War, the Company decided to utilise two new buildings for the production of War material... One of these buildings was allocated to the production of shells and was known as the Mons Shell Factory. Part of the other building, the Marne Factory, was fitted with furnaces, hydraulic presses, electric plant etc. for the production of shell forgings... The contract was with the Ministry of Munitions. ...The total number of shells of all sizes produced in the 'Mons' was 864,551. The output exceeded all expectations. The number of employees in October 1916 was 683 women and 313 men and at October 1918, had increased to 1,136 women and 405 men. The foremen and tool setters were all men.

Mark VIII tanks in the erecting shop. National Records of Scotland reference: BR/LIB(S) 5/63Hyde Park Works, Atlas Works, and Queens Park Works built tanks and planes from finished parts supplied by various makers.Torpedo tubes, military bridges and artificial limbs were manufactured as well as locomotive engines for the home and foreign markets.The total invoice value of the output during the War from the works of the North British Locomotive Company Ltd., was approximately £16 million sterling.

(National Records of Scotland reference: BR/LIB(S) 5/63 pp.36,42 & 50)

Working in industry

As the war progressed, the Government realised that more had to be done to persuade employers to take on female labour to meet the growing demand for raw materials and 'articles of war'. In 1916, they published a booklet called Women's War Work designed to show that women could do a wide range of jobs previously done by men alone.

Here is a selection of photographs that appear in the booklet:

Women loading coal sacks onto a horse-drawn cart


Women loading full sacks of coal on to a horse-drawn cart (National Records of Scotland reference: HH31/27/51/2).

(National Records of Scotland reference: HH31/27/51/2)

Women driving a horse-drawn goods delivery vehicle

Image of two women driving a horse-drawn goods delivery van (National Records of Scotland refrence: HH31/27/51/3).

(National Records of Scotland reference: HH31/27/51/3)

Women working in the shipyard

Image of women carrying long steel bars in a shipyard (National Records of Scotland, HH31/27/51/3).
(National Records of Scotland reference: HH31/27/51/2)

The Aberdeen Daily Journal, 7 March 1916

Print a copy of the transcript of the Aberdeen Daily Journal entry, Rich Text format, 9KB, new window

... One may deplore the entrance of women into the industrial market of physical grounds, but as the state has now recognised the woman worker as an essential part of our industrial machine, the end of the war will not see the end of the woman mechanic...The after war problems will by no means concern men only.

(National Records of Scotland reference: HH31/27/57)

The Effect of Industrial Employment of Women and Girls

In 1916, the thirteenth meeting of the Central Advisory Committee for Women's Employment discussed a special report produced by Miss Anderson, the Principal Lady Inspector of Factories, on the effects of the second year of war on working women.

In 1914, there was a considerable increase in the number of women working in munitions factories. By the end of 1915, it was clear that female labour was needed in a wide range of industrial processes. Working conditions were monitored by the Inspectors, especially the shift patterns in operation. They favoured three equal 8-hour shifts but as there weren't enough skilled workers to cover this and travel costs were higher, most factories ran two equal 12-hour shifts but limited the night shifts to periods when demand for supplies was urgent. A positive outcome for women, through the Welfare Department at the Ministry of Munitions, was the introduction of improved services and facilities in the workplace.

Print a copy of the transcipt of the report of the report of the Welfare Department, Rich Text format, 10KB, new window

...Women Inspectors have been trying to keep pace with the necessary inspection of hundreds of factories newly employing women in the making of shells, gaines, fuzes, [bomb fuses] projectiles, bayonets, guns and rifle parts, field telephones, wire ropes, seaplanes, aircraft and other munitions of war.

... The staff of Women Inspectors has been increased for such war work by 50 per cent...

... Reports vary from different parts of the country as to the extent to which Emergency Orders are used. ...As regards Scotland, most of the Orders for night shifts are for shell making and paper factories.

... The Inspectors are unanimous in speaking of the admirable spirit and natural skill widely shown by the women. 'What strikes one most in Scotland is the adaptability of the women.' 'Most satisfactory' is the common reply of employers questioned as to how far substitution has succeeded.

... In a certain part of Scotland women are being introduced for the first time into brickyards with considerable success, such employment being customary in other Scottish centres.

... A question arises - why has the manufacture of munitions of war on a terrible scale led at last to systematic introduction of hygienic safeguards that Factory Inspectors have advocated for many years, such as supervision of women by women in factories, provision of means of personal cleanliness, proper meal and rest rooms, and qualified nurses? Probably it is in part due to a recognition that wages alone cannot adequately reward those who serve the State in time of need, but it also points again to the new general awakening to the dependence of efficient output on the welfare of the human agent.

(National Records of Scotland reference: HH31/27/47, pp13-14)

 

 

 
 
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