SCAN LogoSCAN Educationhome | teacher materials | about scan | feedback | contact scan  
Why women wanted the vote
The suffragists
The suffragettes
The opposition
The First World War
Credit - Photos of the great war
When war broke out in 1914, the suffragettes immediately stopped their militant action to focus their efforts on helping to win the war. Many men had been called to serve in the forces and their jobs at home were taken over by women workers.

Women worked in many roles such as bus conductors, nurses, munitions and engineering workers and firefighters. In munitions work on the "home front" women risked their lives daily, manufacturing shells filled with dangerous chemicals to send to the front. Contact with these chemicals tinged the women's skin yellow and they were known as "canaries".

As food shortages developed, women volunteered to join the Women's Land Army to work on farms, helping to produce essential food supplies for the country. Women also eventually joined the newly established women's branches of the armed forces.

As a result of all these efforts, women were held in high esteem and opinions about their suitability to vote began to change.

There are two sources in this section.

Source 5A
Photo from the First World War
Click to view Source 5A
Sources 5A and 5B are photographs of women working in Scotland during the First World War.

Source 5A shows female staff at Bishopton Munitions Factory being trained by Glasgow Fire Brigade.

Source 5B shows women war workers at Mavor and Coulson

Click to enlarge the images, then answer the following questions.


  1. What do the photographs tell us about the role of women during the First World War?

  2. Why were women required to do these jobs?

  3. How valuable are these sources as evidence of the reasons women were given the vote in 1918?
site designed by Wark Clements