1917 - 1919

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Women workers

World War One vastly expanded women's employment opportunities. They were suddenly able to find work in engineering, the public services and factories, undertaking men's work in munitions and the dockyards. Middle and upper class women, likewise inspired by a patriotic desire to help, also set to work.

Women working became acceptable due to the need to do one's duty by one's country. The creation of various Women's Services further encouraged this concept.

The period of 1917 - 1919 saw the first incarnation of the Women's Royal Naval Service - designed by the Admiralty to 'Free a man for the Fleet'. At first the Navy employed them to undertake domestic duties. But soon the WRNS grew, taking on more roles and responsibilities.

After the war the WRNS disbanded, leaving many skilled and able women out of work.

WRNS poster, 1917. (RNM)
WRNS poster, 1917. (RNM)

Article highlights

  • Women workers

  • The Navy's need for women

  • Recruitment and training

  • Jobs for the girls

  • Covering the country

  • The end of the War - and the Wrens?

  • Life after the Wrens

Read the story of the WRNS

  • 1917 - 1919 The first WRNS formed during World War One

  • 1938 - 1945 World War Two reformation

  • 1946 - 1969 Post war permanent service

  • 1970 - 1989 Towards integration

  • 1990 - 1993 Women at sea

  • Women in the Navy today Equality and limitations in the Navy