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11 Photos Celebrating Women Workers of World War I

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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Art
5 Things You Might Not Know About Ansel Adams

You probably know Ansel Adams—who was born on February 20, 1902—as the man who helped promote the National Park Service through his magnificent photographs. But there was a lot more to the shutterbug than his iconic, black-and-white vistas. Here are five lesser-known facts about the celebrated photographer.

1. AN EARTHQUAKE LED TO HIS DISTINCTIVE NOSE.

Adams was a four-year-old tot when the 1906 San Francisco earthquake struck his hometown. Although the boy managed to escape injury during the quake itself, an aftershock threw him face-first into a garden wall, breaking his nose. According to a 1979 interview with TIME, Adams said that doctors told his parents that it would be best to fix the nose when the boy matured. He joked, "But of course I never did mature, so I still have the nose." The nose became Adams' most striking physical feature. His buddy Cedric Wright liked to refer to Adams' honker as his "earthquake nose.

2. HE ALMOST BECAME A PIANIST.

Adams was an energetic, inattentive student, and that trait coupled with a possible case of dyslexia earned him the heave-ho from private schools. It was clear, however, that he was a sharp boy—when motivated.

When Adams was just 12 years old, he taught himself to play the piano and read music, and he quickly showed a great aptitude for it. For nearly a dozen years, Adams focused intensely on his piano training. He was still playful—he would end performances by jumping up and sitting on his piano—but he took his musical education seriously. Adams ultimately devoted over a decade to his study, but he eventually came to the realization that his hands simply weren't big enough for him to become a professional concert pianist. He decided to leave the keys for the camera after meeting photographer Paul Strand, much to his family's dismay.

3. HE HELPED CREATE A NATIONAL PARK.

If you've ever enjoyed Kings Canyon National Park in California, tip your cap to Adams. In the 1930s Adams took a series of photographs that eventually became the book Sierra Nevada: The John Muir Trail. When Adams sent a copy to Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, the cabinet member showed it to Franklin Roosevelt. The photographs so delighted FDR that he wouldn't give the book back to Ickes. Adams sent Ickes a replacement copy, and FDR kept his with him in the White House.

After a few years, Ickes, Adams, and the Sierra Club successfully convinced Roosevelt to make Kings Canyon a national park in 1940. Roosevelt's designation specifically provided that the park be left totally undeveloped and roadless, so the only way FDR himself would ever experience it was through Adams' lenses.

4. HE WELCOMED COMMERCIAL ASSIGNMENTS.

While many of his contemporary fine art photographers shunned commercial assignments as crass or materialistic, Adams went out of his way to find paying gigs. If a company needed a camera for hire, Adams would generally show up, and as a result, he had some unlikely clients. According to The Ansel Adams Gallery, he snapped shots for everyone from IBM to AT&T to women's colleges to a dried fruit company. All of this commercial print work dismayed Adams's mentor Alfred Stieglitz and even worried Adams when he couldn't find time to work on his own projects. It did, however, keep the lights on.

5. HE AND GEORGIA O'KEEFFE WERE FRIENDS.

Adams and legendary painter O'Keeffe were pals and occasional traveling buddies who found common ground despite their very different artistic approaches. They met through their mutual friend/mentor Stieglitz—who eventually became O'Keeffe's husband—and became friends who traveled throughout the Southwest together during the 1930s. O'Keeffe would paint while Adams took photographs.

These journeys together led to some of the artists' best-known work, like Adams' portrait of O'Keeffe and a wrangler named Orville Cox, and while both artists revered nature and the American Southwest, Adams considered O'Keeffe the master when it came to capturing the area. 

“The Southwest is O’Keeffe’s land,” he wrote. “No one else has extracted from it such a style and color, or has revealed the essential forms so beautifully as she has in her paintings.”

The two remained close throughout their lives. Adams would visit O'Keeffe's ranch, and the two wrote to each other until Adams' death in 1984.

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Svetlana Ivanova, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0
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travel
What It's Like to Live in Yakutsk, Siberia, the Coldest City on Earth
Svetlana Ivanova, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0
Svetlana Ivanova, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 3.0

The residents of Yakutsk, Siberia are experts at surviving harsh winters. They own thick furs, live in houses built for icy environments, and know not to wear glasses outdoors unless they want them to freeze to their face. This is life in the coldest city on Earth, where temperatures occupy -40°F territory throughout winter, according to National Geographic.

Yakutsk has all the features of any other mid-sized city. The 270,000 people who live there have access to movie theaters, restaurants, and a public transportation system that functions year-round. But look closer and you’ll notice some telling details. Many houses are built on stilts, and if they’re not, the heat from the building thaws the permafrost beneath it, causing the structure to sink. People continue going outside during the coldest months, but only for a few minutes at a time to avoid frostbite.

Then there's the weather. The extreme low temperatures are cold enough to freeze car batteries and the fish sold in open-air markets. Meanwhile, a thick fog is a constant presence in the city, giving it an otherworldly aura.

Why do people choose to live in such a harsh environment? Beneath Yakutsk lies a literal treasure mine: Mines in the area produce a fifth of the world’s diamonds. Valuable natural gas can also be recovered there.

While Yakutsk may be the coldest city on Earth, it’s not the coldest inhabited place there is. That distinction belongs to the rural village of Oymyakon, 575 miles to the east, where temperatures recently dropped to an eyelash-freezing -88°F.

Snow-covered road.
Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna- CAFF, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Road covered in snow.
Magnús H Björnsson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Church surrounded by snow.
Magnús H Björnsson, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

[h/t National Geographic]

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