History project:

Question 2 – What was life like for the women, children and men who stayed at home?


Source A:


We have chosen this source because it shows how encouraging most of the women were and how they wanted the men to fight for their country on the battlefield. This source, however, does not have any date nor illustrator but was produced sometime during WWI. Source A was produced in Britain and was used to women to persuade the men in their lives to join the armies. We have taken this source from: http://www.geocities.ws/ks3history/Y9ExamSummer2007Notes.html

Source B:


This source is entitled “Knitting for Victory” and shows the pupils at Adams Elementary School, in Seattle, knitting for the troops. It was produced in 1918, near the end of WWI. This shows how hard the women, and in this case children, were trying to help their loved one and ultimately their country. We have used this source because it shows how the people at home contributed. Also, it shows that they cared about their husbands, fathers, brothers, etc. We found this image at http://www.historylink.org/index.cfm?DisplayPage=output.cfm&File_Id=5721

Source C:


This source was produced during 1915. It was made to show that women were the backbone of the men during WWI as they worked in factories, made ammunition and bombs as well as looked after the household without the men at home. Women worked for long hours, got little pay and then had to go home and look after their kids with no men around. The women were not used to having to do physical labour but eventually got used to it. Even children were forced to help out in factories.

Source D:


We have chosen this source because it demonstrates the bravery and remembrance of the men who fought during the war. The medals and awards were given to soldiers/constables who fought well during battle and deserved recognition. This medal, for example, was awarded to Philip Richer, in 1914, who was a constable in Edmonton. This photo has been supplied by Iris and Mark Bailey.

 Source E:


This newspaper article was produced in November 1914 by an unknown author. We found this headline in the book: Patience Coster, Headlines Of World War I, Evans Brothers Limited, 2005.  This article was produced to show how many British and French casualties had taken so far in the war. We chose this source because it shows how many deaths were caused by WWI and how many innocent people’s lives were affected. It also shows that many men had volunteered for the army.

Source F:



This source is a newspaper article written on the 7th March, 1915. Its illustrator is unknown however we know that it appeared in “Le Petite Journal”, which translates to “The Small Newspaper”. This article was produced in France, and shows that the economic crisis in Berlin led to a massive food riot. Because there was no money, frustration between people on the home front increased. People became extremely hungry (some even starving as seen in source F.2), leading to violence such as riots and fights.

q.2.f.2This source was produced in 1924 by Káithe Kollwitz. We have chosen this drawing because it shows just how hungry the children, and people, of Germany were at the end of the war. Starvation and hunger are challenges that describe Germany during ‘the immediate aftermath’ of WWI. Poverty was another immediate result of the war. Even after the war, the lives for the people who stayed at home were getting worse.

Source G:


We have chosen this source because it is a photograph of a wife and her children that has been sent to her husband (who is at war). Photographs and postcards were an important part in keeping families in touch.  This was produced in London by a professional photographer on the 12th of August, 1917. This source shows that the war split families apart, but spouses did everything to prevent this from happening.  Sometimes, life was force to carry on without the husbands. This can be seen in the picture as the children are growing up without a father figure.

Source H:


We have chosen this source, because it proves that even though the soldiers were away from their families, they didn’t forget about them as many of the men wrote home as often as possible. This source also shows that many of them believed that they were going to die, so they made an effort to write a will. There is no known author for this source, but it is from the website: http://m.huffpost.com/uk/entry/3830420 . This will read ‘In the event of my death I give the whole of my property and efforts to my wife’. It shows that the men cared about their family’s future even though some would not have survived the war. This source is presumed to have been produced in the first few months of the war as many of the men were scared that they would die and nothing would be left to their family.

Back at home, there was constant anxiety about loved ones who were away at war. However, life went on. People had to try to carry on with their lives as normal. Most women and children supported the war and had encouraged men to fight. (Source A) Although women knew that the men in their lives could potentially get injured or die, they did not know just how harsh the conditions at the front were. When men came home on leave, they did not want to worry their families by admitting their fears or by explaining the harsh reality. Men who did not go to war were considered a disgrace to their community. Many women handed white feathers to men who had stayed at home, indicating that they were cowards and that they were not supporting their country. These men, that stayed at home, were often those who were too young, old, or unfit for fighting or those who jobs were essential, such as doctors. Women did not only encourage the men, they also supported the war effort by cooking food for the troops, knitting mittens and scarves, making ammunition for the big guns, and sending bandages to the hospitals. While the men were at war, women kept the household going and made sure that the family was cared for. (Source B) This enthusiasm for the war quickly faded as fighting took its toll. Many people became angry and concerned about the man-slaughter and the effects of the cost of the war on their nation.

When men left for war, many of the women took over their hard-working jobs in factories. Women began hauling coal into powerful factories and became welders and worked at shipyards, at glass factories or chemical works. They worked for long hours, got little pay and had to the physical labour of a man. Accidents were common in factories. (Source C) Often, children were also forced to work in terrible factories as there were not enough people to do the work.

Many schools all over Europe were affected by WWI. Teachers and school masters (men) left to join the armed forces and were therefore replaced by women teachers. These job replacements were important because for the first time in history, women were able to do the jobs that, for centuries, only men could do. Teachers sometimes read out newspaper reports, talking about the war. Schools also helped make mittens, scarves etc. for the troops at war. This can be seen in Source B.

Men who went to war were highly respected because they had stood up for their country and risked their lives so that their country would win. This is shown in the effort that the various communities put in, in order to provide a good funeral, grave or memorial. This was also shown in households when children looked up to their fathers and almost treated them like “royalty”. Most soldiers were referred to as “brave” or “war heroes” and still today, many of their names are remembered and are highly honoured. Soldiers who returned home and fought well, were regarded as important and often received medals and awards for their bravery (Source D). Those who had died were also remembered and appeared in newspaper articles as seen in Source E, where the number of deaths were mentioned, although the soldiers were not mentioned individually by name.

The war even had a far-reaching effect on fashion. During war-time, the men who stayed at home, wore suits with hats. These were often flat caps, bowler hats, round straw “boaters” or brimmed felt hats. Men who were in troops, wore uniforms that were khaki, grey or blue with leather boots containing puttees. (These were leg bindings which protected them against the mud). Steel helmets were worn during fighting and this saved many lives. At the start of the war, women’s dresses were ankle lengths and many wore overcoats. However, during the war, the hems were raised to mid-calf level and many women wore trousers so that manual labour would be easier. Before the war, shoes often had a low heel but these low-heels became replaced with button boots. Children began to wear more informal and active clothes during the war.

In trying to live their normal lives, people who stayed at home had to keep themselves entertained. Many did this by going to music halls and doing outdoor activities such as sport. Cinemas and music also became quite popular. Children’s games were introduced, such as the traditional ‘hopscotch’, as well as many different play toys. Because the television and radio were unknown, at that time, card and board games were played often.

A problem that the people at home faced was not being able to supply enough food for their families. There were many riots in towns as the people staying at home had no food since most of the food was being taken to the troops. Many people were hungry and living on the streets and diseases spread quickly. (Source F.2) Governments encouraged “meatless days” as the supply of meat didn’t meet the demand, as the population around Europe was vastly increasing.

Another challenge that countries faced was the economic crisis as seen in Source F.1. There wasn’t enough money in some countries such as Germany because the country was using most of the money to improve the technology of weapons so that their country could potentially win the war. Countries would do anything to try to win. As a result of the lack of money in countries some of the living conditions for the people who stayed at home became worse. People lost their homes and were living on filthy streets, barely surviving. Although counties might have been winning their economy was failing dramatically.

The war was known to split families apart as the men were risking their lives on the battlefield and their families were at home. They often would go months without seeing each other or in contact with their loved ones back home. Children would grow up not knowing their fathers and often men would cheat on their wives with nurses or other women/men. However, not all men easily forgot about their families. They cared so much of their loved ones that they even put in their will, that all their possessions (when they die) go to their family as seen in Source H.

The main opposition to World War One was socialist movements and trade unions. These Unions fought against encouraging men to risk their lives in battle. This is why some men didn’t go to battle, therefore resulting in a shortage of soldiers. Lack of men meant that armies were desperate for volunteers and therefore a conscription (“law”) was passed, forcing men to join the battle. Before the war was declared, these anti-war groups were strong and powerful, however this all changed when the war started… The unions started backing the governments and supporting the war.  The anti-war propaganda started almost immediately after the battle had begun again. Some of the main oppositions in Europe and America was by anarchist, syndicalist and Marxist groups as well as by nationalists, women’s groups and intellectuals.

WWI even managed to influence writing and poetry. Family responded to letters that the soldiers sent home during their “free time”. These letters or small gifts often contained pictures of the family or souvenirs so that the soldiers would remember what home feels like. (Source G)


Philip Steele, Men, Women and Children in The First World War, Wayland, 2010

Simon Adams, War In The Trenches, Franklin Watts, 2004

Patience Coster, Headlines Of World War I, Evans Brothers Limited, 2005.