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The Developing Role Of Women In Aviation

Until the earlier part of the twentieth century, women were expected to stay in their traditional domestic role. Working class women generally had to find employment in domestic service. The demands incurred by World War One caused a social and economic revolution; in fact the normal division of labour became blurred by the war effort.

The onset of World War One meant that aircraft manufacturers had to meet increased demand. Men were recruited from all over Britain to go to war. As the war progressed conscription was introduced (July 1916) resulting in a severe shortage of male labour. Although this type of work was unheard of for women before the war, the sheer scale of war casualties, over one million, made their recruitment a necessity.

At Filton increasing war production and lack of manpower caused severe problems. Herbert Thomas, Works Manager, found difficulty in replacing skilled employees who had enlisted as volunteers. A bonus scheme introduced in June 1915 retained skilled employees until crisis in 1916. Following severe losses on the Western Front in France (the Battle of the Somme), the government could no longer rely on volunteers and introduced general conscription. They also declared factories as "controlled" establishments to maintain aircraft production. This meant that people were "directed" by local labour exchanges to work in aviation and other types of industrial establishments to help the war effort.

Women Working In The Machine Shop During The Great War