During World War I (1914-1918), large numbers of women were recruited into jobs vacated by men who had gone to fight in the war. New jobs were also created as part of the war effort, for example in munitions factories. The high demand for weapons resulted in the munitions factories becoming the largest single employer of women during 1918. Though there was initial resistance to hiring women for what was seen as ‘men’s work’, the introduction of conscription in 1916 made the need for women workers urgent. Around this time, the government began coordinating the employment of women through campaigns and recruitment drives.
This led to women working in areas of work that were formerly reserved for men, for example as railway guards and ticket collectors, buses and tram conductors, postal workers, police, firefighters and as bank ‘tellers’ and clerks. Some women also worked heavy or precision machinery in engineering, led cart horses on farms, and worked in the civil service and factories.