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11 Photos Celebrating Women Workers of World War I

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While you’ve probably seen hundreds of images of women working in factories during World War II, that wasn’t the first time women joined the workforce to help fill in for the millions of men sent out to fight. In fact, many people credit the freedoms given to women during The Great War for both women’s suffrage and the popularity of both the lifestyle and fashion of the flapper.

The impact of women going off to work was more pronounced in certain countries. For example, the UK joined the war in 1914 while the US waited until 1917 to enter the fray, meaning the United Kingdom had far more need for women to enter the workforce to fill in for the missing soldiers. In many cases, women from all countries involved even volunteered to enter the service as non-combative soldiers. There they would be assigned a variety of duties; for example, this image, taken by John Warwick Brooke in 1916, features women serving in Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC) who were asked to build wooden huts out of old wooden crates to provide shelters on the front lines.

The women of the QMAAC were resourceful and talented, as you can see in this image featuring the construction of a wartime workshop by volunteers. Thanks in part to these 1916 images by John Warwick Brooke, the corps did very well in World War I and, by the end, it had more than 57,000 female volunteers.

Women who volunteered weren’t just limited to working at the bottom ranks of the military, as this 1916 image by Ernest Brooks shows. Here is one woman who was promoted to be foreman of her division’s project. Yes, these women would only be put in charge of other women, but the fact that they could become supervisors of all-female teams was certainly a sign of respect.

Not all women on the front lines were part of the military though; many were volunteers offering their help to medical services such as the Red Cross. This woman served as an ambulance driver with the Voluntary Aid Detachment, an offshoot of the Red Cross. Unlike most ambulance drivers, though, those who operated the vehicles on the front lines had to know how to repair and service their cars, as you see this woman doing in this image by Ernest Brooks shot in 1916.

Similarly, while some women weren’t quite ready to work on vehicles themselves, they were eager to be trained about auto parts so they could help out in the vehicle parts warehouse. These QMAAC volunteers photographed by David McLellan in 1917 had to learn a lot about car parts, given that there was so little vehicle standardization at the beginning of the war, leaving them to memorize the parts for many different models and makes in order to operate efficiently in the warehouse.

Of course, some women did prefer to continue performing tasks they were already comfortable with – albeit on a much, much larger scale, like these women working to cook up enough food for all the men stationed at their base. While some of the women preparing the food would be volunteers from the Voluntary Aid Department or other such groups, many were simply civilians hired from the closest town, like these four women photographed by Ernest Brooks.

Since so much fighting took place in France and so many men left to fight in the war, women of the country were left doing much of the work – including uniform repair. In this image by John Warwick Brooke, seven women clean military boots with dirty water and brushes so they can be repaired.

After the first set of women cleaned the boots, a second team would then repair cracks in the boots’ leather and soles. Since the soldiers in the war spent most of their time in the trenches, their boots got pretty beat up and needed to be repaired regularly. The women working at this shop, set up on the Western Front, would service 30,000 pairs of boots a week.

Not all female volunteers were shipped off to the front lines. Some stayed behind to help the military from home, like these English women who worked in the British Naval yards to help build new vessels.

For many suffragettes, the war provided an opportunity to show that women were just as capable as men. The Women’s Defense League helped train, recruit, and employ women in war-related work such as telegraph operators, phone operators, and physical laborers during the war as a means to push forward the idea that women were entirely able to perform the same tasks as men, voting included.

Just as they would in WWII, women also filled in at factories back home in the States, although on a much smaller scale. Here you see a team of women wrapping rockets that would go on to be sent off to the front lines, as photographed by Irving Underhill.

If you're looking for more World War I history, our own Erik Sass is covering the events that led up to The Great War, exactly 100 years after they happened.

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Lazy Cyclists Help Make These Massive Bike Graveyards in China
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When bike share programs go right, they can make life easier for commuters while reducing a city’s impact on the environment at the same time. When they don't go exactly as planned, they can create sprawling bicycle graveyards like the one seen in these photos.

The eerie scenes, recently spotlighted by WIRED, can be found throughout the city of Hangzhou, China. Like many large cities, Hangzhou is home to an official bike share program. But there are also private bike share companies that give cyclists the option to pick up a bike and leave it wherever they please rather than return it to an official docking station. The result is thousands of bikes scattered around the city like junk.

In response to complaints, the city of Hangzhou has begun collecting these abandoned bikes and storing them in lots. These aerial images are a good indication of the sheer number of bikers the city has—and they also have a creepy, post-apocalyptic vibe. Check out the photos below.

Bike graveyard in China.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Bike graveyard in China.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

Bike graveyard in China.
STR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t WIRED]

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7 Throwback Photos of 1980s NYC Subway Graffiti
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In May 1989, after a 15-year-long campaign of slowly eradicating New York City’s subway graffiti train-by-train, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority officially declared the city’s subways graffiti-free. There’s still subway graffiti in New York City today, but now it's confined to rail yards far away from the stations and tunnels. By the time the trains make it back onto the tracks, they’ve been cleaned of any markings.

There was a time, though, when graffiti artists had near-free rein to use the city’s subway trains as their canvases, as much as the transportation agency tried to stop them. A new book of photography, From the Platform 2: More NYC Subway Graffiti, 1983–1989, is an ode to that period.

A photo taken at night shows a subway train tagged

Its authors, Paul and Kenny Cavalieri, are two brothers from the Bronx who began taking photos of subway trains in 1983, during the heyday of New York City's graffiti art era. They themselves were also graffiti artists who went by the names Cav and Key, respectively. (Above is an example of Cav's work from 1988, and below is an example of Key's.) Their book is a visual tribute to their youth, New York's graffiti culture, and their fellow artists.

For anyone who rides the New York City subway today, the images paint a whole different picture of the system. Let yourself be transported back to the '80s in some of these photos: 

A subway car bears tags by
Some of Kenny (Key) Cavalieri's work, circa 1987.

Graffiti on a subway car reads

Blue letters tagged on the exterior of a subway car read “Comet.”

Pink and blue lettering reads “Bio” on the outside of a subway car.

A subway car reads “Pove” in green letters.

The book includes short commentaries and essays from other artists of the period remembering their experiences painting trains. It's a follow-up to Paul Cavalieri’s original 2011 collection From the Platform: Subway Graffiti, 1983-1989. He’s also the author of Under the Bridge: The East 238th Street Graffiti Hall Of Fame, a history of four decades of graffiti in the Bronx.

From the Platform 2 is $30 on Amazon.

[h/t The Guardian]

All images courtesy Paul and Kenny Cavalieri // Schiffer Publishing

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