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British Policies and Methods
Employing Women in Wartime


Bulletin of the Women’s Bureau, No.


33 C * 7

. ,



For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U. S. Government Printing Office 25, Washington, D. C*

Price 10 cents


Letter of transmittal----------------------------------------- --------------------------------I. Great Britain and America—Mutual Problems and Lessons..
----II. Meeting Manpower Needs Through Better Utilization of Womanpower—
Inside the Factory,------------------------------------------------------------------Hours of work----------------------------- —------------------------------Part-time work:---------------------------------------------------------------Attention to safety and health----------- ------------------------------Feeding the worker------------------------------ -.-------------------------Training women workers-------------------------------------------------Outside the Factory-------------------------------------------- ---------------—
Shopping arrangements------------------------------------------- ------Transferring women workers away from home-------------------Lodging transferred women----------------------------------------------Child care---------------------------------------------------------------------Holidays, rest breaks, and recreation--------------- - -•----------Laundry services
III. How the Program to Mobilize British Womanpower Was Carried Out..
The Change from Persuasion to Compulsion-------------- -----------------Taking up the slack in employment----------------------------------Effecting industrial concentration-------------------------------------Adopting a legal basis for compulsion-------------------------- -------The Framework of Compulsion-------------------------------------------------Registrations .of women----------------------------- - -----------------Conscription of young women for national service----------------Government control of hiring and firing-------------- -------------Operation of the Womanpower Program-------- —------------------------Planning and conducting women’s mobilization----------- -----Experience of the woman recruit-------------------------------------International labor force-------------------------- ----------------------IV. War Work Done by British Women----------------------------------------------Industrial jobs---------------------------------------------- ----------------Essential services-------------------------------------- j--------------------Occupations in the armed forces--------------------------------------V. Women’s Wages and Earnings-------- ...-------- ----------------------------------Basis for Payment of Women Recruits to Industry----------------------Principles established by union-employer agreements------------Practical application of payment principles-------------------------Trends in Women’s Pay During the War-------------------------------------Industrial earnings--------------------------------------------------------Pay in the forces------------------------------------------------------------Compensation for war injury-------------------------------------------VI. Postwar Planning and Program Relating to Women-------------------------The Beveridge Report and women-------------------------------------Women conscripted for national service----------------------------Women as workers------------------------------------------------ ---------Women in family and civic life------------------------------------------Appendix A. Significant Dates in the British Womanpower Program.
Appendix B. Tables Showing Wartime Trends in Unemployment, Wages,
and Union Membership of British Women-----------------------1. Unemployed persons, 1939 to 1943, by sex----------------------2. Women in trade unions, 1913 to 1941----------------- -----------3. Wage arrangements for women replacing men-------------...
4. Minimum-wage rates of women, Royal Ordnance Factories,
5. Increases in earnings, October 1938 to January 1943, by sex.
1. Unemployed persons, 1939 to 1943, by sex----------------------2. Women in certain war industries, 1943--------------------------3. Weekly earnings, various dates, 1938 to 1943, by sex---------Map. Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Ministry of Labor Regions-----









Letter of Transmittal
United States Department of Labor,
Women's Bureau,

Washington, May 22, 19.44Madam : I

have the honor to transmit a report describing the stepby-step development of the British Government’s program in the em­
ployment of women in the war emergency.
Though Great Britain and the United States differ in such funda­
mental matters as size and political structure, subjection to bombing
and imminence of invasion, there remains close similarity between
the two countries in the seriousness of labor shortage, the necessity
to resort to inexperienced woman labor, and the difficulties of migra­
tion, training, absorption, and maintenance of morale. For this
reason the experience of the older country has been, and must continue
to be, of the greatest usefulness to the United States.
The report is the work of Janet M. Hooks, of the Research Division.
The office of Mr. A. McD. Gordon, Labor Attache to the British
Embassy, has approved this document.
Respectfully submitted.
Marx Anderson, Director.


Frances Perkins,

Secretary of Labor.


JULY 1939 TO OCTOBER 19431

1.5 O O
1,4 0 0
1,3 00
,1 00

9 00
6 00

60 0


40 0
30 0
20 0




1 Ministry of Labor Gazette.





British Policies and Methods in Employing
Women in Wartime
Tlie British program for the mobilization of women into industry
and other war services has been planned and carried out on a magnifi­
cent scale. The experiences encountered, the difficulties met, the
schemes devised, the knowledge developed in the course of this pro­
gram can be of great assistance in the meeting of various needs and
avoiding of many pitfalls in the United States. Along numerous
lines much can be learned as to what action has been effective and
what methods have proved unsound.
_ Many of the problems with which authorities wrestle in the United
States can be recognized as identical with those of British experi­
ence, and since Great Britain has been longer at war, its oppor­
tunity to perfect plans to resolve these difficulties has been greater.
Such experience and plans include the following, to all of which
much attention has been given in Great Britain: Constructive plans
for reducing industrial absenteeism and accidents among women;
striking rediscovery of the established fact that indefinite lengthening
of work hours does not in the end increase production; effective pro­
vision of suitably nourishing food in factory confines and in the
community, with the no less important provision of adequate time
lor its consumption; training within the plants; efforts to forestall
the undermining of women’s health through excessive fatigue from
long work hours, family burdens, and war pressures; schemes devised
to give adequate community aid to women in their job of home­
making and family care added to factory work and war services; the
thorny problems of an equal-pay standard for women on war jobs
new to them; devices put into effect for extending the labor force by a
utilization of part-time workers; and finally, the constructive plans
tor the period after the war, which recognize women’s needs to a far
greater extent than ever before.
Particular emphasis should be given to the place that women them­
selves took quite early in the planning for -women. In recruitment,
women from the staff of the Ministry of Labor and National Service
were from the first interviewers of women. The Minister of Labor
very promptly armed himself with a Women’s Advisory Committee,
composed of labor women, women members of Parliament, and other
women leaders. It was this committee that recommended the con­
scription of women. Though it was nominally an advisory committee,
in practice the advice of this group was never disregarded. Responsi­
ble women s groups have been constantly active and in some measure
successful m seeing that women are placed in responsible administra­
tive positions having to do with policies affecting women and that ave­
nues of training are created for women or opened to them.




It is true that British authorities do not consider that all the methods
tried were sufficient, complete, or even successful. It also is true that
because of different situations in the United States certain of the
methods used in Great Britain are not suited to application in the
United States. For example, Great Britain found necessary the uni­
versal compulsory national service of women, preceded by national
registration. That country faced a general crisis that has not de­
veloped in the United States, and the program in the two countries
functioned under quite different circumstances.
In contrast to Great Britain, with about 46 million inhabitants occu­
pying less than 95,000 square miles, the United States has over 132
million people occupying over 3 million square miles, or less than onetenth the density of the older country. Because of relatively greater
mechanization of American industry, productivity per worker is con­
siderably higher than in Great Britain. In Britain labor was the fac­
tor of primary importance, and a general labor shortage developed,
while in the United States acute shortages were localized. Further,
the trade-unions, responsible and accepted organizations in Great
Britain, supported the program and helped to administer it. Finally,
the air bombardments and the imminence of invasion created a very
different psychological atmosphere in England, so that the need for
extreme measures was readily accepted by all.
In November 1943 the Management-Labor Policy Committee of the
United States, composed of representatives of labor, agriculture, and
industrial management, reported to the chairman of the War Man­
power Commission that the solution of the Nation’s manpower problem
should be sought along lines other than compulsory war service legis­
lation. The committee declared that current acute shortages and dif­
ficulties were due not to inadequate over-all labor supply, but rather
to dislocations, deficiencies in planning and administration, and in­
effective manpower utilization.
Attention also should be called to the vast difference between Great
Britain and the United States in administrative organization, and
hence in the possibilities for a unified development of policies. The
British Ministry of Labor and National Service is the central admin­
istrative and enforcing body having complete authority for the Crown
over recruitment for industry and the armed forces, war production,
and all policies having to do with labor. In the United States admin­
istration of provisions affecting labor is, for the most part, the specific
function of the 48 separate States. Federal authorities in this field
have a capacity that is chiefly policy-making and advisory, and the
functions dealing with the problems of recruitment, war production,
and labor conditions in general at the Federal level are lodged in sep­
arate agencies.
This report is based chiefly on various British official and unofficial
sources, including publications of the Ministry of Labor and National
Service, reports of the House of Commons and of special Parliamen­
tary committees, material furnished by the British Information Serv­
ices, as well as leading British newspapers, periodicals, and other pub­
lications. The Women’s Bureau also has received information directly
from persons and agencies in England concerned with the mobilization
of womanpower or with other aspects of the problems of British women
in wartime.

Registration of women and their direction into industry, calling up
of women by age groups for service with the armed forces, and re­
striction of the hiring of women to the employment exchanges or
certain other agencies—these principles were already well established
in Great Britain early in 1942. The period following was charac­
terized by the application and extension of the program. As limits
to further recruitment of women were approached, greater attention
was focused on better utilization of the labor available by introducing
methods to increase productivity, to improve utilization of labor, and
to reduce absenteeism and other forms of manpower waste. These
included efforts toward better planning for plant health and safety,
suitable food, adjustment of work hours, further provision of com­
munity services, and other methods.
Hours of work.
At the outbreak of the war the standard workweek in Great Britain
was about 48 hours. Legal limitations affected only women and
young persons and special groups of men. For the most part, limi­
tations on hours of work for men were controlled not in the law but
by provisions in the collective-bargaining agreements, which estab­
lished overtime pay at higher rates after 47 or 48 hours.
Numerous investigations made in Great Britain and elsewhere for
many years had demonstrated over and over again that while marked
extension of hours on occasion increases output for a limited period,
continued long hours cause the rate of output to drop. Nevertheless,
many of these lessons were disregarded in Great Britain under war­
time pressures, with the inevitable result of lessened output through
excessively increased worker fatigue. This further striking demon­
stration of the disastrous effects of overlong work hours is another
link in the chain of warnings against any repetition in the United
States of similar mistakes.
When the war began, hours restrictions in munitions plants were
relaxed, and after the collapse of France they were ignored. The
immediate effect of lengthened hours after Dunkirk was an increase in
output. But it soon became apparent that production could not be
maintained indefinitely at the level then reached. The Minister of
Labor reported in March 1941 that hours still were unproductively
long in many cases and recommended that maximum hours for women
should not exceed 48 to 56, depending on the type of work. At a
meeting of production engineers in early 1942 it was agreed that hours
in industry were too long and that output per man-hour was not only
lower than it could be but deteriorating. In the summer following,
hours still exceeded 55 a week for women in two-thirds of the 42 Royal
Ordnance factories engaged in engineering. It was not until late in




1942 that practically all these factories (39) had weekly hours of 55
or less for women.
General British policy as to hours in wartime was that exceptions
to the Factories Act of 1937, where necessary, should be made only in
a regularized fashion and on an individual-firm basis, principles still
largely adhered to at the beginning of 1944. An emergency order
covering workers in engineering, metal, motor vehicle, aircraft, tool
making, electrical cable, wire rope, and shipbuilding firms allowed
the District Inspector of Factories after investigation to authorize
special schedules for women up to a maximum of 60 hours. Another
emergency order applying to industry in general allowed increased
hours for women if special permission were obtained, up to a maximum
of 55. In addition, individual orders allowing slight variations were
obtainable directly from the Ministry of Labor headquarters.
Emergency permissions applying to both women and young persons
increased as the war continued. At the end of 1940 they were in effect
in 6,500 establishments, at the end of 1941 in 11,000, and at the end of
1942 in 19,000. The Minister of Labor stated, however, that the hours
authorized often were shorter than could be worked under exceptions
to the ordinary law permissible for limited periods.
Much evidence developed during the war to show that excessive hours
had detrimental effects on health, accident rates, absenteeism, and turn­
over. From the point of view of optimum war production, moreover,
British experience repeatedly demonstrated that hours should not be
too long. For example, in a group of 115 women employed chiefly
in mechanized' work, though production increased by 26 percent in
the first week in June 1940 when the hours were increased from 56 to
6'9i/2 a week, it showed an almost immediate drop below that peak.
The increase was only 15 percent in the next week and 11 percent in
the following 2 weeks. About 5 months later, when a steady relation
between output and hours appeared to have been reached, output was
practically the same as in the pre-Dunkirk period, despite the fact
that hours were longer by almost one-fourth. In another instance,
women’s hourly production rate on lathe work, cable work, and coil
winding was 106 when they worked a 2-shift system averaging 4114
hours a week, in contrast to an hourly output of only 94 when they
worked a straight 481/2-hour week.
The increased use of women in war production intensified the prob­
lems of hours of work, since this question is of especially great im­
portance where women are concerned. During an investigation by
Mass-Observation, an independent research agency, workers were
asked what improvements they would like in their own jobs. Changes
or reductions in hours were mentioned spontaneously by 14 percent of
the women but only 3 percent of the men. The double job in home and
factory carried by many women made the problem a critical one for
One of the most noted British authorities concluded that close fol­
lowing of the Factories Act, which provides for a normal working
week of 48 hours, with 54 hours for a maximum of 25 weeks a year,
would not reduce output and would lessen absenteeism.
Part-time work.
About 700,000 women were doing part-time war work in Great
Britain by the fall of 1943. Efforts to promote the use of part-time



workers, which became a feature in manpower planning during 1942,
increased as the reserves of full-time labor became depleted. In this
way many women were able to participate in war production whose
domestic responsibilities would not permit them to engage in full­
time work.
An indication of the possible effect on output of part-time work was
reported by an aircraft factory with a carefully planned and highly
successful scheme. On one operation the output of part-time women
was nearly one-third above that of full-time men in the same length
of time. On another operation the average output for part-time work­
ers was 3.3 units an hour compared to 1.75 for full-time women.
Absenteeism in 1 month was 5.5 percent of planned hours for part-time
women compared to 17.5 percent for full-time women.
Jobs best suited to part-time work proved to be those that could be
completed in one part-time shift (most commonly a half day), those
not affecting the general rate of production, and those that were clean
and light. However, operations not completed in a half day worked
out satisfactorily when containers were provided to store uncompleted
work or when workers were assigned in pairs. Further, in some cases
it was found that monotonous or heavy operations were better suited
to part-time than to full-time women workers. For example, the con­
ditions in which women produced air screws, which were processed
under heat, led to a big drop in output after 5 or 6 hours, while the
substitution of part-time workers on 4-hour shifts resulted in an in­
crease in the output over 8 hours.
Among the plants that employed part-time women were producers
of electrical products, air frames, chemicals, ammunition and explo­
sives, rubber goods, optical instruments, iron and steel, food products,
clothing, textiles, leather, glass, paper, medical supplies, and many
other commodities. Jobs done in engineering and aircraft on a part­
time basis included machine operations, fitting and assembly, inspec­
tion, light laboring, crane driving, timekeeping, and a variety of
others. Women were employed successfully on a part-time basis not
only in manufacturing but in clerical work, retail trade, essential do­
mestic work in institutions, transportation, and agriculture.
The greatest hindrance to the expansion of part-time work was the
reluctance of employers to undertake such schemes. A number of fac­
tors had to be considered. It was found desirable to have hours sched­
ules suited to the home responsibilities of the part-timers and to em­
ploy those living near the plant. For the most part, pay rates were
at the standard scale for full-time workers. However, one employer
found that it was better to pay somewhat above the full-time rate' to
compensate for the time and effort involved, particularly since the
part-time workers were not eligible for bonus and overtime scales.
While it was difficult to get employers to install part-time work, those
who did so and who took the trouble to observe certain basic principles
in setting up a scheme usually found a readily available and enthu­
siastic labor supply. A Birmingham firm, for example, that adver­
tised part-time factory work with an appeal to patriotism obtained an
immediate response from 1.600 applicants.
Special arrangements were made by the Government to forestall
some of the difficulties facing part-time workers. Part-time workers



employed for not more than 30 hours a week on jobs not normally
part-time work were excused from unemployment insurance contribu­
tions, though health and pension premiums were still payable. Cer­
tain exemptions of married women’s earnings from income tax served
to encourage married women to take part-time work.
Kegulations of May 1943 gave the Minister of Labor the power to
direct women into part-time work and brought such workers under
the control of the employment exchanges. Women with children of
their own under 14 living with them were not to be directed into
part-time work, and no women were to be assigned to part-time work
beyond a reasonable traveling distance from home.
Where, in spite of the development of part-time work, firms still
were unable to meet their labor requirements, they were encouraged to
try “outworking” schemes. Outwork was carried on preferably as a
group activity, on a part-time basis. Kegional offices of the Ministry
of Production coordinated outwork schemes and suggested suitable
operations. The Ministry pointed out in a pamphlet on the subject
that outworking wpuld not be encouraged in areas where the labor
market was especially tight and that the general use of such schemes
was not to be substituted as preferable to part-time work in nearby
factories. Types of work included the assembly in a village outwork
center of four-cylinder air-cooled engines. Outwork was developed
mainly in rural areas, but of the same general character was the plan
under which several aircraft firms set up branch establishments in
London suburbs to bring the work to the workers. It was hoped that
2,000 to 3,000 part-time women who did not live within reasonable
distance of factories would volunteer to do simple assembly work at
these branches.
Attention to safety and health.
In general, British factory inspectors concluded that women were
safer workers than men, though they were reported to be more liable
than men to certain types of accidents, such as those due to hair or cloth­
ing catching. The Minister of Labor repeatedly stressed the impor­
tance of guarding machinery, pointing out that some of the most
serious accidents to women were due to lack of proper guarding.
The great increases in numbers of women workers, as well as their
inexperience in the war industries in which they were employed under
especially difficult conditions, led to a notable rise in accidents.
Further, women’s jobs were increasingly in the heavy and more danger­
ous processes, a development that contributed in considerable degree to
the rising accident rate. Over three-fourths of the total increase in
accidents to women from 1938 to 1942 occurred in five major war in­
dustries : Heavy metals, engineering, machinery, light metals, and air­
craft. Women’s accidents in these five fields numbered nearly 47,000 in
1942, in contrast to fewer than 3,000 in 1938. Women in British factor­
ies experienced over 71,000 accidents in 1942, one and two-thirds times
the number in 1941 and nearly five times those in the prewar year of
Sickness absence, on the other hand, generally was higher among
women than among men. The importance of the health of women
workers to sustained national production was recognized in 1942 by the
Select Committee on National Expenditure (originally appointed in



1939-40 to examine expenditures for war purposes) in a report on their
health and welfare in war plants. Pointing out that little attention
seemed to be paid either to constructive suggestions in technical reports
or to results of experience, the committee stated that—
* * * There is still a heavy and often quite unnecessary loss of working
time through the neglect, not only of the special needs of women but of elemen­
tary rules of health and welfare.
Many of the problems arising in Royal Ordnance Filling Factories today
were exhaustively dealt with in a report on a Scottish filling factory issued
toward the end of the last war, and yet there are no obvious signs that, when
the factories required in this war were being brought into production, those
responsible had assimilated and profited by the results of earlier experience.

Factory medical and welfare arrangements were fostered by an order
issued in July 1940. In 1942 personnel available for medical supervi­
sion in industry included several thousand State registered nurses in
industry, 150 whole-time and 582 part-time doctors employed by fac­
tories, and nearly 2,000 factory surgeons appointed by the Government
to examine on a fee basis juveniles and workers in hazardous processes.
A point of special interest was brought out by British experience in
legat'd to the use of women on heavy work. From a survey of heavy in­
dustries such as iron and steel, chemicals, and shipbuilding, the Minis­
try of Labor concluded that no different standards of health need
be set up for women, though adequate facilities were essential, stating:
It is considered that a normally healthy woman can undertake any of the
jobs which have been designated as suitable for women, subject to special
selection having to be made in cases where a woman is to be employed on
particularly heavy work.

Feeding the worker.
By mid-1943, works canteens were serving over 51 million meals a
week, compared to about 161/2 million in 1941. According to an order
issued in November 1940, any factory with more than 250 employees
could be required to install a canteen if engaged on munitions or
Government work, and after April 1943 the order applied to all plants
o± this size. Canteens were reported operating or being built in 98
percent of the plants subject' to the order. Compulsion was used in
comparatively few cases, though the number of canteens grew from
relatively few before 1940, and confined to very large plants, to a
total of over 10,000 three years later. Many of these plants volun­
tarily set up canteens, recognizing their value to efficient production.
Ihe effect on absenteeism was indicated by the experience of a smali
plant in which the highest number of absentees was 5 after the canteen
was installed, compared to an average of 20 before that. Factory
canteen advisers were appointed in the Ministry of Labor to advise
employers on canteen management, lay-out, and nutrition.
The official investigation into the conditions affecting women in war
factories indicated that in some instances not enough time was allowed
for the meal period, with the result that girls either bolted their food
or continued to eat at their machines. The report pointed out that
despite the great progress in the development of canteens, further
action should be taken to eliminate short meal periods, to prepare fresh
meals instead of warming over food for the night shift, and to have



the canteen open so that workers might have a hot drink on arriving,
especially if coming any distance.
One of the difficulties in establishing canteens in war plants was
the shortage of staff. An important factor was the discontent and
turn-over that arose as kitchen hands and cooks, paid in some cases
8d. to lid. an hour, learned that the women they served earned con­
siderably more.
More than nine-tenths of the individual factories in Great Britain
had not more than 250 workers and so were not subject to the Canteens
Order. These plants together employed over half of all the workers.
Some of these smaller plants established canteens voluntarily, but in
general their workers were without eating facilities except as they
depended on the “British Restaurants.” These public restaurants,
sponsored by the local authorities but run on a self-supporting basis
and patronized by whole families, in 1943 numbered over 2,100 and
served some 615,000 meals a day.
Restaurant eating had not been general in Great Britain before
the war, but wartime conditions, the employment of the housewife,
long hours, transportation problems, rationing, and split families
created a need that the commercial establishments could not fill. Thus,
where a British Restaurant existed, the woman worker in a small plant
not only obtained the extra ration provided the worker with a canteen
available, but in many cases was saved the double job of a long day
in the plant followed by preparing meals and otherwise caring for the
family. Meals in these restaurants, served cafeteria fashion, usually
cost from lOd. to Is. A survey of diners in London restaurants demon­
strated the great popularity of the system and the real need it filled.
A considerable proportion had previously depended on a sandwich
lunch. Of those who formerly ate at home, a large proportion were
women going out to work for the first time. Many of the patrons
had become regular customers, in some cases as high as 80 or 90 percent.
In some of the smaller villages “Cash and Carry” British Restaurants
were set up, where food was cooked and sold, perhaps twice a week,
for reheating at home. The more extensive development of such
schemes should prove extremely valuable in the United States.
Training women workers.
It was recognized early in the war that much the greatest part of the
training of women workers would have to be done within the factory
through plant schemes or through training on the job. Where the
best methods were used, careful selection was followed by training
based on principles of time and motion study and of educational
psychology. However, some employers considered women suited only
to the least skilled, most routine jobs, and planned little training for
them. The Ministry of Labor emphasized the importance of a wellorganized training scheme in a manual issued in July 1943, focused
toward in-plant instruction on production processes. The booklet
recommended the appointment of a general supervisor of training,
who should be given sufficient authority and standing, and suggested
that a woman might well be desirable for this work where large num­
bers of women workers were to be trained. Further, according to the
manual, women instructors might be particularly suitable, especially
if women constituted most of the trainees. Other matters requiring
attention included the equipment necessary, the content of the training



course, the selection and follow-up of trainees, and the general arrange­
ments necessary to insure the well-being of the workers.
At the Government training centers over a quarter of a million
men and women had completed training courses for the engineering
industries alone by July 1943. Trainees were paid during the course,
women receiving 50s. a week with a maximum of 54s. if they passed
various tests, men receiving from 71s. 6d. to 77s. 6d. While progress
was made in adapting training to the needs of particular plants, in
some cases women completing courses were reported to be placed in
jobs requiring quite different training or no training at all.
In other cases, however, women with training were placed in skilled
work. Jobs of women trained at Government centers included:
Charge-hand fitter at a firm engaged on experimental work of high
precision; electrician at an aerodrome; welder of marine-engine bed­
plates; electrical inspector on final assembly and testing of predictors;
marking out castings in a foundry; center lathe turner and supervisor
for women; toolroom fitter; instructor in firm school for the training
of women. Women demonstrators from the Government training
centers were sent out to plants to demonstrate the degree of skill that
women could reach or to encourage women workers to undertake cer­
tain types of work. One such demonstrator, during 9 weeks with a
firm, trained 14 women setters in operations on 6-pounder shells and
mine fuses.
Training courses to prepare women for technical and supervisory
work were set up in May 1939 by the Women’s Engineering Society
and later integrated with the Government schemes in technical col­
leges and in training centers. The foremanship lectures organized
by the Government in December 1941 were opened to women as well
as men. Subsequently courses were set up especially for women super­
visors. These lasted 30 hours and were held outside of working hours
for women already employed in war industries. Though women
supervisors had been used extensively in the war of 1914—18 and in
peacetime in woman-employing industries, the Association of Super­
visory Staffs and Technical Engineers admitted women for the first
time only as late as June 1942. Specialized training was organized
for institution cooks, industrial nurses, nursery-school workers, fac­
tory-personnel managers, arid welfare supervisors.
Optimum war production with the fewest problems would be most
readily attainable by mobilizing what has been described as “a popula­
tion consisting solely of childless, single, sexless persons between the
ages of 18 and 50 * *
in short, robots. Actually, however,
those to be mobilized are human beings with individual problems and
responsibilities. This fact led to the appointment of welfare officers
in the Ministry of Labor with the important function of developing
means to meet the special needs that arose out of the recruitment and
transfer of women. Thus the British Government recognized that the
community would have to provide some of the domestic services usually
performed by women outside the labor market. Through appropriate
community agencies the local welfare officers (numbering 100 in
August 1942) arranged to secure satisfactory lodgings, meals, trans­
port, recreation, child care, shopping facilities, and other necessities.



Even at best many women carried a heavy load. With but one
job the hours and conditions of work in war factories, though burden­
some, were not considered generally injurious to health. But for many
women the hours in the factory did not end the day’s work. The
Parliamentary investigation into the health and welfare of women
in war factories showed that the long hours and the difficulties in deal­
ing with domestic problems were together causing a great deal of
absenteeism, turn-over, and general deterioration in health among
The relation of absenteeism to hours of work appeared in the experi­
ence of Government filling factories. When hours were limited in
the latter part of 1942, the absence rate dropped from 12 to 6.6 per­
cent for men and from 23.5 to 14.6 percent for women.
A study of the amount and distribution of absenteeism among women
in two war plants in 1943 showed that few women habitually lost
time. Younger women lost more time than older women, those travel­
ing over an hour to work more than those within an hour’s trip, and
married women more than single women. In a 6-week period, 88
percent of the married women in one plant and 76 percent of those in
the other plant were absent at some time, compared to 82 and 63
percent, respectively, of the single women. Absenteeism among mar­
ried women was especially heavy on Saturday mornings, 46 percent of
the married women in contrast to 30 percent of the single women miss­
ing that shift. However, investigators of the Ministry of Labor
pointed out the great efforts and sacrifices made by many such war
workers, emphasizing the fact that—
* * * A married woman with a house, a husband, and children already
has a full-time job which is difficult to carry out in these days. Yet
thousands of them are working long hours in factories. They are trying to
do two full-time jobs. If they can carry on with a mere half day per week
off the ordinary factory hours they are achieving something marvelous. It
is time somebody said more about women's efforts on these lines, and more
about the arrangements which ought to be made to enable them to carry
on * * *.

Turn-over among women workers as a whole was reported to average
0.8 per 100 employees a week, or 42 a year. Nearly two-thirds of the
turn-over was ascribed to changed circumstances in home responsi­
bilities plus medical reasons (exclusive of pregnancy).
One solution, as already discussed, was sought in arrangements for
more workers on a part-time basis. Another line of action consisted
of increased attention to the reorganization of domestic responsibil­
ities, to replace the system prevailing early in the war effort “by
which each private individual behaves according to opportunity and
temperament, and persons with easy jobs and short hours enjoy appre­
ciable advantages over those working in heavier jobs, who are also
more likely to need good diet and rest when not working.” Some of
the methods by which it was sought to assist women war workers are
described in the pages following.
Shopping arrangements.
Shopping remained a difficult problem for the woman with a war
job; in fact, it was considered by both management and workers to
be the most serious day-by-day difficulty facing the working woman.
In a number of localities conferences were held to plan various meas­
ures for meeting the problem.



The most satisfactory solution was considered to be granting time
off for shopping. In some plants one afternoon a week was permitted,
or shorter periods two or more times a week. Relief workers were
supplied to take over as the regular employees went off for their
shopping time. An increasing number of individual firms took steps
to meet the situation. Measures adopted included the following:
1. A camouflage firm allowed all women time off at 11 o’clock on
Saturday with permission.
2. In one factory any workers asking permission could have a
half hour in a week, on the firm’s time, immediately before
the lunch period, thus giving a consecutive hour and a half.
3. A Scottish factory brought about a drop in absenteeism by
introducing “official shoppers,” who collected ration books
and orders from the workers and then did the shopping.
4. A large air-frame works provided special shopping facilities
and a hairdressing establishment on the premises.
In some areas stores remained open later than normal to allow
workers to shop in the evening. This did not always prove success­
ful. Among the factors that were found to determine the value of
such schemes were the type of area (whether industrial or residen­
tial), the degree of approval by store employees (based on readjust­
ment of tlieir hours to allow equivalent time off), and the length of the
extra period in specific circumstances (one night for several hours as
compared with several nights for a shorter period). In one case the
Ministry of Labor 1 refused to support the proposal for late closing,
stating that women in the area were already working excessive hours
and that arrangements should be made by employers to give them
(factory women) time off during the day.
In certain sections special certificate schemes were adopted. Some
of these, issued by the factory by agreement with the retailer, enabled
the holder to leave an order on the way to work, to be picked up at
the end of day or after store hours. The retailers agreed to apportion
a share of the unrationed goods to these workers. Other certificate
schemes allowed a friend of the working woman to do her shopping
and obtain for her a share of the unrationed goods. Least successful
of all were the schemes that gave the certificate holder the right to be
served before those waiting in line.
Transferring women workers away from home.
The construction of new war plants, concentration of civilian indus­
tries, and similar factors made it necessary to move persons from
localities where labor was not required to others where shortages arose.
Areas of war industry to which mobile women workers were trans­
ferred in 1942 included the Northwest Region, site of new large air­
craft plants as well as of diversified manufactures centering in Man­
chester; the Midlands, around Birmingham and Coventry; and the
Southwest Region, with headquarters at Bristol. Each of these areas
was fed from other designated areas. (See map on p. 12.)
Revisions in production schedules in the fall of 1943 intensified the
problems connected with transferring women workers, some of whom
Mt shouW be noted that the problem of a singly controlling Ministry of Labor is con­
siderably less complex than a situation made up of 48 separate States having jurisdiction
m matters of this sort, with the central Government agency functioning ohieflv in an
advisory capacity.





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were leaving home for the first time and doing so under particularly
difficult conditions. During the period from May 1942 to August
1943, the employment exchanges of three regions alone had trans­
ferred 11,096 women to other areas as follows:

Northern Region
Wales__ _____ .

Humber of women transferred
to other areas

1, 950



Since the women moved to a new job at the request of the employ­
ment exchange, the expense of transferring was borne by the Govern­
ment. This included a free travel warrant to the new locality, pay­
ment for traveling time (if the employer did not pay wages for period
of the journey), and a settling-in allowance. If responsible for the
support of dependent parents or other relatives, an unmarried trans­
ferred woman was allowed a lodging grant in cases where a separate
home was maintained, or moving expenses if a place was found in
the new locality for these dependents. During the first week work­
ers were permitted to borrow up to £1 from the exchange, to be repaid
out of the first week’s wages. Arrangements were made for trans­
ferred workers who became ill to be cared for by the district nurses or
in emergency hospitals established by the Ministry of Health.
In addition, the Government recognized the value to the transferred
industrial worker, as to the soldier, of an occasional visit home. In
1942 and 1943 travel warrants were made available to war workers
transferred since June 1940. These warrants entitled the worker
to a railway ticket at 7s. 6d. in all cases where the fare home would
exceed this amount.
Lodging transferred women.
The transfer by the Government of these thousands of women to
take jobs away from home placed a particular responsibility on the
Government to see that suitable facilities were available for their
lodging and care. The problem of lodging women assigned to work
in munitions plants that were built in open country was met in many
cases through hostels or dormitories. Most women not working near
home, however, were provided for through billets or lodgings. The
trend into billets began in the first year of the war with the evacua­
tion program. As war plants increased production, the returning
evacuees together with additional war workers sought living quarters.
The population in some towns jumped by 25 percent, in some by as
much as 50 percent. Crowded conditions in war centers were' ac­
centuated by the destruction through bombing of housing facilities.
It has been estimated that one house in every five was damaged in
the air raids. In addition, normal building, which would have added
some 1% million houses, was stopped by the war conditions.
In 1943 approximately a million persons were living in lodgings.
Problems that became acute in crowded areas included: (1) Excessive
charges, (2) difficulties on the part of the individual in finding billets,
(3) bad conditions in many billets, and (4) personal friction between
landlady and lodgers. Efforts by the welfare officers, voluntary or­
ganizations, and industrial firms gradually helped to lessen some of
the difficulties. Many individual employers found it to their advan­
tage to locate billets for newly arriving workers and to provide rec­
reation for transferees. One firm provided a club for transferred
workers, with lounge, laundry, sewing room, and kitchen, as well as
bedrooms. In another case a country house was turned into quarters
for 20 to 30 girls and a social center was developed in the nearest town.
In some 16,590 cases where billets were not available on a voluntary
basis, the local councils, delegated by the Ministry of Health, com­
pelled the taking of lodgers by householders who could give no ade­
quate reason for failure to rent their extra rooms. In such rooms the
590414°—44----- 3



Government provided minimum facilities of bed and two blankets,
and access to water was requested from the householder. The latter
received 5 shillings a week from the Government, which was deducted
from the worker’s wages.
About 60,000 men and women workers were housed in hostel accom­
modations in 1943. These included dormitories connected with the
Royal Ordnance Factories and with other industrial plants, as well as
those for agricultural workers. Hostels connected with industrial
plants ordinarily accommodated 500 to 1,000 persons, the facilities in­
cluding lounges, baths, laundries, dining halls, game and reading
rooms, infirmary, and central assembly hall. Typical hostels might
have about 10 or 20 sleeping units, with some 50 or 100 beds in each
unit and bathrooms in the center of each building. Royal Ordnance
Factory hostels usually were managed by such nonprofit organizations
as the Y. M. C. A. or the Y. W. C. A., while the other 58 industrialplant hostels were operated by the National Service Hostels Corpo­
ration, a private nonprofit venture sponsored by the Government. The
distance from town and the lack of privacy in some of the hostels con­
tributed to delay in filling the available places. The excellent archi­
tecture and the recreational opportunities in the better hostels,
however, served to overcome much of the original prejudice against
Child care.
Though married women responsible for children under 14 were
exempted from direction into industry, many of them took jobs for
economic and patriotic reasons. Over half a million mothers of chil­
dren under 14 were employed full time by November 1942, and another
150,000 held part-time jobs.
Most women arranged to have a relative or neighbor look after the
children, but by early 1943 there were some 235,000 children cared for
by various Government schemes. These included 101,600 children
accommodated in 1,436 (operating or planned) whole-time and 1,132
part-time nurseries, 113,000 children under 5 in ordinary public ele­
mentary school classes, 7,000 cared for by the Registered Daily Guard­
ian scheme, and 13,000 in 415 residential nurseries evacuated from tar­
get areas.
As a rule, arrangements for the care of 40 children were expected to
free about 30 mothers and to require a staff of 8 to 10. Thus a net gain
in womanpower resulted. Ordinarily working mothers paid a nom­
inal charge of about 1 shilling a day for all-day care, including meals,
in a wartime nursery.
Difficulties expressed by women with children included the facts
that distance from home or work of existing and planned nurseries
was too great, that waiting lists were long, that nursery hours did
not coincide with factory schedules, that sanitary conditions were
poor, and that provision for older children outside of school hours
was lacking.
Holidays, rest breaks, and recreation.
Before the war the British had progressed a long way toward the
ideal of an annual holiday with pay for every worker. The Holi­
days With Pay Act of July 1938 permitted minimum-wage orders to
include arrangements for paid holidays. By 1942 some 12 to 13y2 mil­



lion workers were entitled to paid holidays. About half of these
were covered by collective agreements, another third received grants
of holidays from individual firms, and the rest were covered by Trade
Board and Agricultural Wages Board Orders.
Under the tremendous pressure for “getting on with the war” dur­
ing 1940, holidays were largely omitted. After careful study, the
Committee on Workers’ Holidays recommended that the annual holi­
day be resumed. In 1941 the Government announced that the annual
summer week’s holiday should be observed as a means to efficiency in
war production, though, in general, vacations should be staggered over
the year and should not involve travel. Observance of the annual
vacation and the usual legal holidays was recommended by the Gov­
ernment in the 2 years following, in i943 on the basis that “the war is in
its fourth year and that consequently the need for reasonable holiday
breaks will be even greater than in previous years, if maximum health
and efficiency are to lie maintained * *
Another type of project was the “rest break” for women workers,
designed to prevent illness or break-down due to fatigue. Individual
women recommended by the factory medical department were sent
to “Rest Break” hostels in pleasant surroundings for a week or two.
So valuable was the program felt to be that the Government gave
assistance, if needed, to schemes promoted by the Rest Breaks National
Advisory Committee.
Recreation programs were instituted, some centering in the factory,
others in the industrial hostels or in clubs organized for transferred
women workers living in lodgings. Recreation might be sponsored
by the plant, by voluntary organizations, or by Government-aided or­
ganizations such as TINS A (Entertainments National Service
Association), CEMA (Council for the Encouragement of Music and
the Arts), and the Central Council of Recreative Physical Training.
Laundry services.
The entry of great numbers of women into war work accentuated
the need for commercial laundry service for work commonly per­
formed at home. Requirements of the armed forces and workers trans­
ferred to war-production centers pressed heavily on the facilities
available. Before the war there were about 155,000 insured workers in
laundries, about 80 percent of them women. Wartime figures in­
dicated that the industry, which was rated as essential civilian service,
had about 190,000 workers.
Application of the Essential Work Order of March 1941 to laundry
establishments involved freezing workers in their jobs, guaranty of a
minimum wage, and improvement of working conditions. In addi­
tion, prices to consumers were regulated and services were limited.
The Government supplemented the commercial laundries by providing
public wash houses and “mobile laundries” for use in emergencies.

It was not until acute labor shortages became general that compul­
sory measures to mobilize women were accepted as necessary. At first
only voluntary appeals were made to women, and employment matters
were left chiefly to their own course. In the first stages of conversion
to war production there was large-scale unemployment of women.
However, new war factories entered actual production at the same
time that the available reserve of unemployed persons was reduced to
a low level. With a total population of only about 46 million, the
British were attempting to muster and equip an army of 4 million at
the end of 1940. The way to meet the pressing labor needs was pre­
pared by reducing to a minimum all production not essential to the
war or to vital civilian needs and by enacting a legal basis for the
wider emergency powers of the Government. Only after these steps
had been taken was compulsory mobilization of women introduced.
Taking up the slack in employment.
Before the war, women’s employment was to a large extent in con­
sumption industries; hence women workers in Great Britain were
affected greatly by the shift from nonessential to war production, and
large numbers of them lost their jobs in the earlier period of conver­
sion. Evacuation from the cities also swelled the numbers of unem­
ployed women, since they were not always able to obtain work at the
new residence.
Unemployment data show that the adverse effects of readjustment
to war production fell particularly heavily on women. In September
1939 there were in Great Britain nearly 175,000 more women unem­
ployed, but 75,750 fewer men unemployed, than in the preceding
month. Further, though total unemployment dropped below the
August 1939 figure by March 1940, women’s unemployment did not fall
below that of August 1939 until February 1941, just before the month
when the Government began to register the supply of woman labor.
During most of 1941 women’s unemployment was about the same as
men’s, though many more men than women were in the labor force.
In October 1943 only 73,936 persons were registered as unemployed
(of whom 24,127 were women), contrasted with the wartime peak of
just over iy2 million in early 1940. (See table 1, appendix B, and
Effecting industrial concentration.
To a considerable extent, production of war materiel placed demands
on the heavy industries, in which men customarily formed most of the
work force. Products were less in demand in a number of industries
in which women constituted large proportions of the workers. Ac­
cordingly, during the last half of 1940 schemes for transfer of opera­
tives to munitions and other war industries on a voluntary basis were



set up in the cotton industry, the printing-machinery trades, coal
mining, boots and shoes, and Hosiery.
Early in 1941 the Board of Trade began to establish the amount of
reduction for each “nonessential” industry and to recommend a method
to insure orderly and systematic release of plants and of labor to muni­
tions industries. Some firms were closed, and the production for the
industry was concentrated in certain “nucleus” firms. The release of
labor was to be adjusted to needs of the war industries, and workers
released were to be of an adaptable type. “Nucleus” firms were to be
generally in nonmunitions areas, so as not to tax the labor supply and
facilities essential to the war industries, and were to take on older
workers of closed firms so that the younger workers would be available
for war industries.
Formal schemes of concentration were adopted in many of the in­
dustries affected by the shift to war production. Contraction occurred
in firms covered by the Limitations of Supplies Orders, which there­
fore could not obtain raw material sufficient for full operation.
Among them were manufacturers of pottery, blown glass, hosiery,
lace, gloves, perfumery, carpets, toys, cutlery, jewelry, silver and
electroplate, light leather goods, corsets, suspenders, sports goods,
fancy goods of plastic, photographic goods, mechanical lighters,
combs, linoleum, lighting fittings, musical instruments, pens, and
pencils. Curtailed operations resulted also in plants subject to raw
material control, including cotton, woolen and worsted, paper, boots
and shoes, linen, silk.
The various concentration schemes particularly affected women. Of
nearly a quarter of a million workers released from concentrated
industries through April 1, 1942, about 84 percent were connected
with five industries, all of them largely woman-employing. In these,
the proportions of women before the war ranged from two in every
five in boots and shoes to three in every four in hosiery, as appears
in the following:

Numbers of

Total------------------------------------------------------ 225, 600
Cotton------------------------------------------------------------- 117, 000
Hosiery ---------------------------------------------------------- 37,000
Boots and shoes 14, 800
Carpets----------------------------------------------------------- 10,000
Wool-------------------------------------------------------------- 10, 000
Other industries 36, 800

Percent women
were of total
before the war2

65. 5
57. 5

1 British Information Services, “Concentration of Consumer Industries and Trade in
Britain,” revised January 1943, p. 7.
3 Ministry of Labor Gazette, December 1939, p. 418. Based on estimated number of in­
sured persons of 16 to 64, July 1939.

In actual practice the schemes supplied less new labor than was
anticipated, since considerable loss occurred in making transfers. The
release of a specified number of women did not add the same number
to munitions manufacture. Some workers thrown out of employ­
ment were lost sight of altogether, some remained jobless or drifted
into occupations other than munitions, and many eventually filtered
back to their original employment. Such was particularly true in
the cotton industry, where a large number of married women were
employed. In the Northwest Region, the leading cotton-textile area
of the country, 80 percent of the operatives were women and 50 to 60



percent of these were married and consequently immobile. The
problem was brought out in a reference in Parliament in September
1941 to 1,182 women cotton weavers displaced by concentration and
registered as unemployed. Most of these were women over 40 unable
to leave home because of domestic responsibilities and unsuited to
vital war work involving night duty.
Adopting a legal basis for compulsion.
The growing crisis that preceded the Dunkirk evacuation in June
1940 led the British Cabinet to resign. The new Government re­
quested powers still more vast than those embodied in the emergency
legislation adopted at the outbreak of war. The new law extended
the earlier act to include control over individual persons and property
as well as continuing the act for another year.
By Regulation 58A, which was among the regulations adopted
simultaneously, the power to order any person to perform any service
within his capacity was vested in the Minister of Labor and National
Service. He might also require persons to register themselves and, by
a later amendment, might freeze individuals in their jobs.
As the Government assumed increasing powers of control over
workers, it also assumed greater responsibility for guaranties and
standards of employment for these workers. Thus, on the one hand
the Minister of Labor had the power “to direct any person in the
United Kingdom to perform such services” as he might direct, while
on the other hand he was to order such service only on terms usual
in the industry under trade-union agreements or prevailing among
good employers. Likewise, though the Minister was given the power
to keep workers in essential war plants and to penalize absenteeism, at
the same time he was to require of such firms a guaranteed wage for
every worker frozen in the job so that the worker would receive a
minimum whenever he was available for work whether or not work
was provided.
Throughout the remainder of 1940 registrations and restrictions
applied chiefly to special occupations and to industries of particular
importance to the war effort. To a considerable extent these orders
affected men only, since the problems to be met arose in such fields as
building, engineering, scientific work, and shipbuilding.
Registrations of women.
The fundamental basis of womanpower allocation by the Govern­
ment was necessarily the compulsory registration of those groups to
be recruited and directed. This was likewise the first step from a
chronological point of view, and for about a year it was used solely
for allocation of women into civilian employment.
On January 21,1941, nearly a year and a" half after British involve­
ment in war, Minister of Labor and National Service Ernest Bevin
announced in the House of Commons that “we have now reached the
stage where * * * we shall have to call into service many women
who in normal circumstances would not take employment,.” (See
timetable in appendix A.)
Compulsory industrial registration began with women 20 and 21
in April and May 1941. Excluded from the registration were women



serving in any of 11 listed voluntary or technical war services. Inter­
views of special groups of the women registrants to determine their
capacities were undertaken shortly afterward. By August 1941, some
iy2 million women under 26 years of age were registered. Interviews
for 650,000 had been scheduled and were taking place at the rate of
more than 40,000 a week.
Not all women registered were to he interviewed. Those with chil­
dren of their own under 14 living with them or those clearly already
engaged in vital war work were not called for interview, but rather
examination was made first of women registrants without children
who were unoccupied or in less important work. Women university
students and women studying for certain vocations were considered
engaged in essential work and were not to give up their studies for
other work. The vocations in which full-time women students were
excepted at this point comprised accounting, agriculture, architecture,
chemistry (including dispensing), chiropody, dentistry, domestic
science, engineering, law, library science, massage, medical midwifery,
music and dramatic art, nursery nursing (including day nurseries),
nursing, personnel management, physical culture, radiography, sani­
tary inspection, social service (including housing estate management,
hospital almoners, club leaders, health visitors, welfare workers, childguidance workers, home teachers for the blind), teaching, and veter­
inary surgery. As time went on, peacetime educational opportunities
open to young women needed for war service were increasingly
restricted. (See pages 35 and 36.)
Of the 267,000 women interviewed up to July 12, 1941, over 67,000
were placed on the National Work Register or transferred at once to
other work. Usually from one-fourth to one-third «f those inter­
viewed were found available for work of national importance. By
the end of 1942, all women 18 to 45 had registered, swelling the total
to 8,670,000.
In an effort to draw on the last remaining reserves of womanpower,
the Government began to register the additional 1.3 million women 46
to 50 years of age iate in 1943, though it was recognized that these
groups would furnish only limited additions to the labor force. These
older women were considered immobile workers, and household re­
sponsibilities requiring full-time attention exempted them from direc­
tions. In determining whether they were available, voluntary work
received equal weight with paid work; and if available at all, women
in this group were assigned to part-time work.
Preceding and supplementing the general registrations were special
registrations of workers in certain fields in which acute labor shortages
developed. During 1943 all women up to 60 who at any time had been
engaged in nursing were required to register. Likewise women up
to 55 who had worked at any time as textile operatives registered.
Many of them had been transferred into munitions. Owing to changed
war production needs, they were to be returned to the textile plants.
This involved the difficult problem of adjusting wages, since they were
being recalled from higher-paid munitions manufacture to lower-paid
textile work.
Conscription of young women for national service.
Conscription of women for service with the armed forces in the
third year of the war marked the start of an unprecedented phase of



British womanpower policy. The National Service (No. 2) Act of
1941 extended liability to military service to women, and under its
provisions a Royal Proclamation signed on December 18, 1941, made
liable single women who had reached the age of 20 but had not yet
reached 31. Previously the women’s services had been tilled by vol­
untary enlistment, compulsory measures for women being limited to
work in industry. From then on the registrations of women became
an instrument not only of industrial mobilization but of actual con­
scription for national service.
Throughout the development of the compulsory program, the policy
had been to allow women as much choice of occupation as was possible,
consistent with national needs. Some degree of preference still was
permitted women called up under the new procedure. They might
choose among (1) the auxiliary forces, (2) civil defense, or (3) cer­
tain specified vacancies in industry. The services connected with the
Navy and the Air Force (the Women’s Royal Naval Service and the
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) were small and had waiting lists, so
this option was limited in actual practice to the Auxiliary Territorial
Service. Women choosing industry were allocated to essential work
in shell-filling, small-arms manufacture, or aero-engine work; agri­
culture, including the Women’s Land Army; domestic work in hos­
pitals and certain similar institutions; or to Government Training
Centers. If they did not indicate a preference among the three op­
tions, they were assigned. Women were assured statutory safeguards
relating to claims of conscientious objection or of exceptional hardship.
Those recruited for the auxiliary forces were not required to use lethal
weapons unless volunteering to do so, and as far as possible they were
stationed neai^their homes. Married women and any woman having
a child of her own under 14 years of age living with her were exempt.
By the summer of 1943 all women aged 19 to 24 had been called up.
A list of vital war occupations was established, from which women
workers essential to production would not be called up. At the out­
set vital work included munitions industries, transport services, agri­
culture, full-time Civil Defense Service, hospital and nursing serv­
ices, school teaching, or work in the Navy, Army, and Air Force In­
stitute Canteens. Any woman individually doing work of national
importance in these occupations might be deferred by one of the 45
district boards. Little restriction was placed on voluntary enlist­
ment by women in the armed forces, though an employer could request
that a woman employee on work of national importance should not
be accepted on a voluntary basis. Previously women had been in­
cluded in the Schedule of Reserved Occupations. If employed on jobs
in which men were reserved or in a special list of occupations apply­
ing to women only, they had not been permitted to volunteer for the
services. The revised schedule of December 1941, which extended the
system of individual deferment for men, no longer applied to women.
The women’s services were reported as nearly at full strength by
mid-1943. Pressing needs of aircraft manufacture led to plans to
discontinue conscription of women into the auxiliary services, the
Women’s Land Army, and other services, and to request any women
volunteering for these services, except for a few special posts, to enter
an essential industry instead. The expanding aircraft, industry was
rated as highly essential, as was the transport service. Special atten­
tion was to be given to meeting requirements in the cotton industry,



in nursing, and in domestic services connected with hospitals and
other institutions.
Government control of hiring and firing.
All hiring of women aged 20 to 30 was placed under the control of
the employment exchanges by a regulation effective February 16,1942.
Previously such restrictions had applied to workers in engineering,
building, and civil engineering, and to male workers in agriculture and
coal mining. This was the first time that a regulation covering all
forms of employment had been applied to an entire age group; by
the following year it was applied to all women 18 to 40 inclusive.
In this way women released from curtailed industries were not, as
before, to be absorbed in other nonessential industries when they al­
ready were registered for essential work. The order permitted women
in agriculture, professional nursing, and teaching to continue to ob­
tain work through the customary agencies. Such agencies had to meet
required standards and be approved by the Ministry of Labor. Begin­
ning September 10,1943, all nurses and midwives 18 to 40 were brought
under the order. A special provision was that employment exchanges
might issue permits allowing the individual woman to seek her own
job under certain circumstances. Individual employers likewise might
obtain a certificate exempting them from the order for a specified
vacancy requiring particular qualifications.
Women, like men, in firms scheduled under the Essential Work
Order might not leave the job nor be dismissed without the consent of
the National Service Officer. Women in scheduled firms were guar­
anteed a minimum wage if available for work during normal work­
ing hours. The firm was required to maintain employment condi­
tions “not less favorable than the recognized terms and conditions”
under the Conditions of Employment and National Arbitration Or­
der of 1940; welfare arrangements had to be satisfactory, and train­
ing provisions adequate. Absenteeism and tardiness were to be dealt
with under special procedures.
An order of April 1943 provided safeguards under which the Min­
ister of Labor would direct women into any work, including part-time
work, even if it were not scheduled under the Essential Work Order.
Directions were from this point on to apply to a stated period. The
purpose of this order was to supply substitutes for workers needed for
more important work elsewhere and to insure that the part-time work
done by married women without children was of a type of most value
to the war effort.
A last small loophole was plugged by the requirement that employers
must notify the employment exchanges of any women 18 to 60 or any
man up to 65 leaving the job, to prevent loss of manpower leaving work
not subject to control as essential war work.
Planning and conducting women’s mobilization.
Questions of women’s mobilization, training, and welfare were placed
under the Ministry of Labor and National Service, which dealt with
labor supply and training, administered the National Service Acts,
carried out unemployment insurance provisions, and concerned itself



with the welfare of workers both inside and outside the factory. (See
part II of present report.)
Shortly before the adoption of the order requiring women to register
for industrial work, the Minister of Labor appointed a Women’s
Advisory Committee, composed of labor women, women members of
Parliament, and other women leaders, to consult with him on ques­
tions relating to womanpower. This committee, consisting of eight
(later nine) women members, was to meet periodically under the
chairmanship of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labor.
Though nominally an advisory body, actually it became responsible
for policies relating to women’s work in war industries, and its advice
was not disregarded. Mr. Bevin stated: ‘‘I am very grateful for the
help I have had from the women’s committee * * *. Advice and
help have been given to me; and, to do me credit, I do not believe
that I have turned down any of the advice; I have acted upon it.”
From the first, women from the staff of the Ministry of Labor in­
terviewed women registrants. Special women’s panels made recom­
mendations to the interviewers. Women also were included on the
appeals boards appointed to hear appeals from the recommendations
of the interviewers. Appointment of women throughout the admin­
istrative bodies dealing with the mobilization of women was due
largely to the pressure of responsible women’s groups.
Under the conscription program it was proposed to have one woman
sit on every hardship tribunal and a woman to sit as assessor when
the umpire heard appeals; at least one woman was to sit on con­
scientious objectors’ tribunals and appellate tribunals, and a woman
doctor was to be present at the medical examination of women. The
machinery for individual deferment consisted of 45 district man­
power boards, each composed of a chairman, the deferment officer, the
labor supply officer, the military recruiting officer, and also a womanpower officer. As the Minister of Labor pointed out, “there has not
been a committee, right down through the whole administration, into
which I have not brought women in a representative capacity—on man­
power boards and everything else.”
Experience of the woman recruit.
Just what was the experience of the individual woman under these
comprehensive wartime measures ? The announcement giving the reg­
istration date for her age group appeared in the newspapers. On the
day set, each woman in the age group was obliged to go to a labor
exchange, where women members of the staff helped her to fill out a
form giving various personal and occupational data. After a review
of the data on her registration form, if she was a mobile worker not
currently engaged in work of national importance she might be called
in for an interview.
In September 1941 changes in procedure placed the burden of proof
that a woman worker was indispensable on her employer, and the
burden of proof as to domestic responsibilities on the woman herself.
In general, a woman employed full time by a firm at least three-fourths
on Government or export work, or by a firm scheduled under the
Essential Work Order, or a married woman responsible for the house­
hold was not called for interview.
At the interview most women accepted the recommendation of the
exchange and proceeded to the war work assigned, less than 2 percent



disagreeing with the judgment of the interviewer. However, the
woman might feel that her domestic responsibilities or other factors
were not taken sufficiently into account. If so, the women’s panel of
the employment committee reviewed the case. If the woman was un­
willing to accept the panel’s recommendation, she was issued a direc­
tive from which she could appeal to a local appeals board. After final
decision by the Ministry of Labor she became liable to prosecution for
failure to follow the directive, and on conviction she was liable to a
fine up to £100 or imprisonment for 3 months or both. The first court
case involving a woman occurred on November 4,1941, when a woman
worker was fined £2 at Leicester for not complying with a direction
of the Ministry of Labor and National Service.
Though a married woman with children of her own under 14 living
with her was not called for interview, numbers of them voluntarily
took jobs. Of the 3,450,000 women with children registered up to the
end of 1942, 510,000 were in full-time paid employment when they
registered. The number married or widowed without children under
14 was 2i/4 million, of whom 970,000 were in full-time paid employ­
ment. In addition, numbers of married women were part-time
Of the group called up for the armed services or certain needed in­
dustrial work under the National Service Act, only a small fraction of
1 percent pleaded conscientious objection and" only five refused to ac­
cept the decision of the National Arbitration Tribunal as to wages and
conditions of work.
International labor force.
To make the best use of nationals of Allied Powers in suppprt of the
common war effort, arrangements were made between the Govern­
ments in Britain and those of Belgium, Holland, Norway, Czecho­
slovakia, and the Free French Government for regulating the em­
ployment of such persons in Great Britain, and for that purpose
nationals of the powers concerned were required to register particulars
about themselves. In pursuance of these agreements, Industrial Labor
Force Orders were made under Defense Regulations, and in similar
terms they required, subject to certain exceptions, the registration of
all nationals of such powers. In the case of women, the ages con­
cerned were over 16 but under 50.
Similar orders included British Protected Persons, further allied
nationals, such as Greek, Yugoslav, and Danish, as well as persons of
Bulgarian, Finnish, Austrian, Italian, German, Hungarian, Ru­
manian, Japanese, or Siamese nationality.
It was generally assumed that all persons of nationalities other than
Allied who were at liberty in Britain were favorably disposed to the
cause of the United Nations and opposed to the form of government
currently in power in their own lands. Where objection to munitions
work was indicated, endeavors were made to place the individuals in
agriculture, hospitals, canteens, British Restaurants, and so forth.
Many thousands of men and women of the various nationalities were
provided with civilian employment in science, medicine, nursing,
building, agriculture, forestry, and other fields, including armament
Foreign workers were entitled to the same wages and conditions and
to the same benefit from Social Service as British subjects.

According to official figures of September 1943, about 7% million
women of some 17 million aged 14 to 64 were in the service or in
paid employment. Before the war, in contrast, of nearly 1G% million
women of these ages about 10% million were classed as “unoccupied.”
In other terms, 37 percent were gainfully occupied before the war,
while some 45 percent were engaged in the war effort by the fall of
Though considerable increases occurred in the numbers of women
at work, still it could not be said that the main industries of the coun­
try were carried on chiefly by women. The Oxford Institute of Sta­
tistics estimated that the most probable proportion of women among
the total employees in the principal industries of the country (exclud­
ing agriculture and railways) was not less than 28% percent and not
more than 33% percent in July 1942, compared to about 27 percent in
July 1938. However, these principal industries did not include many
of the fields in which the substitution of women was greatest, such as
the distributive trades, commercial fields, and various service indus­
tries. The importance of the contribution made by women led Prime
Minister Churchill to pay them this tribute at a National Conference of
Women sponsored by the Government:
This war effort could not liave been achieved if the women had not marched
forward in millions and undertaken all kinds of tasks and work for which
any other generation but our own—unless you go back to the Stone Age—
would have considered them unfitted: work in the fields, heavy work in the
foundries and in the shops, very refined work on radio and precision in­
struments, work in the hospitals, responsible clerical work of all kinds, work
throughout the munitions factories, work in the mixed batteries * * *.

Industrial jobs.
The war extended the work done by women in British industry to
such a degree that it would be difficult even to list their occupations.
Their contribution was especially great in the “engineering” indus­
tries. Officially, general engineering was defined to include the manu­
facture, assembly, or repair of goods or articles of iron, steel, or other
metals involving the use of machine tools, foundry, or forging plant.
Consequently it is important in the production of aircraft, guns, shells,
tanks, machine tools, marine engines, and so forth, or most of the coun­
try’s direct war production. (Shipbuilding and the primary iron
and steel industries usually are considered as separate and distinct
While specific data on numbers of women in war industries were
withheld for reasons of security, employment of women in engineer­
ing industries in November 1941 was placed at four times what it had
been when the war began. According to 1943 estimates, about 35
percent of the workers in the engineering industry as a whole were



Two official publications of the Ministry of Labor emphasized the
important place filled by women in the engineering industry. Begin­
ning in June 1941 an Engineering Bulletin was issued each month
“designed to help the engineering industry to solve current problems
of labor utilization” by presenting information on the breaking down
of skilled processes, upgrading, training, and the employment of
women on skilled and semiskilled operations. Subsequently a hand­
book on Women in Engineering was prepared, primarily for the use
of the staff of the Ministry of Labor, to assist them in convincing
manufacturers that women could be employed on many operations
not usually considered suitable.








royal ordnance;

1 British Information Services, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, “War Job,” Misc.
pamphlet No. 13 (distributed December 1943).

The use of women by the various branches of industry proceeded at
different rates and to different degrees. Further, within each indus­
try differences occurred from one firm to another. In the aircraft
industry as a whole some 40 percent of the workers in 1943 were women,
but the proportion varied by factory according to nature of product,
set-up of plant, and other factors. According to a statement made by
the Ministry of Aircraft Production in 1942, women were doing 50
percent of the work in many engine plants, though one of the large
engine firms had only about 20 percent women in the following April.
In aircraft-component manufacture women constituted still higher
proportions of the work force in individual plants. There remained
scarcely any department of aircraft building where women were not
working successfully, including the skilled repair and reconditioning



of engines. Here the proportion of women was about 40 percent in
one plant, varying as follows in the different sections:

Percent women

Strip-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Fitting and repair ofsubassemblies andunits 45
Engine dispatch----------------------------------------------------------------------------------Strip inspection 75
Electric hraness andmagneto repair andtest 90


In certain munitions plants, especially those where much of the work
involved handling small parts or units, the proportions of women
ranged much higher even as early as 1941; in a factory producing
3-inch shells, for example, they were 90 percent; in a Royal Ordnance
Factory in Wales, 80 percent; and at an earlier date, in a fuze factory
in the Midlands, 90 percent of the employees were women. The
large number of women in munitions at the beginning of the present
war was due in part to the fact that radio or electrical shops where
women were already working turned to producing munitions, and
many of the munitions factories had employed women on some
processes ever since the war of 1914—18. In 1943 the 42 Royal Ord­
nance Factories employed a total of 300,000 workers, 60 percent of
them women.
The methods used in British shipbuilding retarded the introduction
of women into the main branch of this industry. However, following
an investigation into possibilities for the use of women in shipyards
the scope of their work expanded. Though still a relatively small
proportion of the work force in 1943, women were engaged in a variety
of operations, including repairing and repainting battleships and sub­
marines as well as numerous occupations in the yard shops. Their
work included welding, electrical wiring, painting, cleaning, hammer
driving, crane driving. They performed various operations in yard
foundries, boiler shops, blacksmith shops, fitting shops, in the platers’
sheds, in the drawing office and the mold loft, and in many other
Innumerable other examples might be cited of the war work done by
British women. Suffice it to say that there is scarcely any job at
which they have not been employed. Various methods were adopted
to overcome limitations due to lack of physical strength. Even occu­
pations that appeared to be beyond the average woman’s strength were
undertaken, through careful selection of the women and through the
adaption of the job to women’s capability, such as the provision of
suitable tools and the use of mechanical devices for heavy lifting. In
many cases the measures embodied benefits for men as well as women
and contributed to increased efficiency in the plant.
On the repair of heavy motor vehicles, for example, a mandrel press
was modified so as to obtain maximum leverage, instead of depending
on the extra force on the part of the operator. In another instance
time and fatigue were reduced by use of a wheel attachment for heavy
jacks; previously they were moved across the shop by tilting them on
two feet and then swinging them onto the other two. In one shell
factory hand-operated pedestal lifts and movable bench trays were
introduced to enable women to do all machining operations on 180pound forgings. In using the bench tray the operator rolled the



rough shell from the conveyor into the tray, swung the tray out
to meet a similar tray swinging from her machine, and slid the shell
across the gangway. Effort was decreased further by means of a
roller at the tip of the machine tray. In other cases the shell was
transferred from conveyor to machine and back to conveyor, or from
one machine to the next, by a simple hand-operated lift.
If job engineering extended the scope of work done by women to
heavy and hard tasks, training and experience opened up fields requir­
ing skill and responsibility. In 1942 a special register was set up for
women in technical work by the Ministry of Labor. Jobs to be filled
from this register included drafting, training-school instructors,
planning and production assistants, time-and-motion-study workers,
laboratory assistants, and other types of work in munitions industries.
Women workers through experience in the factory and supplementary
training became forewomen, machine setters, instructors in plant
training schools.
Essential services.
Many women worked in trade, in the civil service, in transportation,
and other fields. The railroad staff of the country included thousands
of women working as porters, ticket collectors, carriage cleaners, truck
drivers, laborers, signal operators, and in other jobs. In motor trans­
portation women worked as drivers of all types of vehicles, as well
as in repair and maintenance departments. Buses, subways, and street­
cars took on women in large numbers in a great variety of work. At
the end of 1943 transport was designated as one of the fields to which
women were to be directed. Nursing and domestic service were in
such great need of women workers that special committees were set up
to formulate standards for wages and working conditions.
Occupations in the armed forces.
In the work of the auxiliaries of the war forces, women proved in­
dispensable. The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, which had begun
by filling 5 types of work (cooks, clerks, drivers, orderlies, and em­
ployment assistants) expanded to 6 times its original size, the women
in it filling over 51 trades. The Women’s Royal Naval Service took
over many of the men’s occupations, and eventually it was planned
that the Royal Navy on shore would be manned entirely by women
except for jobs requiring physical strength beyond their power.
Women’s work in the Auxiliary Territorial Service became of very
great importance, including 80 different trades. At the end of 1943,
some 12,000 of a total force of 212,000 were overseas. The rest were
in the following types of work, with approximate numbers as given:
Teleprinter operators
Switchboard operators


30, 000

4, 000
15, 000

Principles established by union-employer agreements.
The setting of women’s wage rates became the frequent subject of
union negotiation as women went into war production. At the same
time woman membership in unions increased from 925,000 in 1938 to
1,372,000 in 1941. (See table 2 in appendix B.) In some instances
the question of determining such wages under wartime agreements
reached the Industrial Court. In all these cases the court upheld the
principle that a woman doing the full work of a man should receive
the man’s remuneration for the job. On this question, therefore, the
policy upheld by the court corresponded to that adhered to in princi­
ple by the National War Labor Board in the United States. As is
shown below, there was the usual difficulty of determining when the
work was the same as that done by men, and there were several grades
of women’s work, so in practice many women were paid far less than
In agreeing to changes in trade practices to give effect to the Gov­
ernment policy of using women wherever possible, the unions stipu­
lated that such innovation should continue only for the duration of the
emergency and that the introduction of women on men’s jobs should
not be used to break down wage rates. Arrangements permitting the
use of women on men’s work and providing that after a suitable pro­
bationary period women should be paid men’s rates, or that they
should receive specified proportions of men’s rates, were arrived at
for engineering, bus transportation, railway workshops, shipbuilding,
chemicals, and at least 60 other industries and occupations. (See list
in appendix B.) Typical of these arrangements were the following:
Engineering industries.—An agreement of May 22, 1940, between
the Engineering and Allied Employers’ National Federation, the
Amalgamated Engineering Union, the Transport and General Work­
ers Union, and the National Union of General and Municipal Work­
ers set up principles for most war industry. The agreement pro­
vided that women employed on men’s work in the manufacture of en­
gineering products were to be considered as temporarily employed,
for the duration of the war only, and a record was to be kept of all
such changes. Women so employed were to serve an 8-week proba­
tionary period at the women’s national minimum-wage rate, followed
by 12 weeks at this rate plus one-third of the difference between the
women’s and men’s rates and one third of the difference between the
women’s and men’s bonus. For a further 12 weeks they would be paid
at three-fourths of the men’s rate and of the men’s bonus. This was
approximately through the eighth month of such employment. Then,
if “able to carry out the work of the men they replace without addi28



tional supervision or assistance,” they would receive the full men’s
rate and bonus; otherwise the rate would be subject to negotiation.
The agreement did not restrict extensions in the employment of wom­
en on “women’s work” to additional plants, or replacement of boys
under 21 by women.
Road passenger transport industry.—An Industrial Court award
of April 1940 established the wages of women employed to replace
men as conductors on streetcars and buses. This award provided that
the scales of pay for women conductors over 18 should be for the first
6 months of service not less than 90 percent of the adult male con­
ductor’s beginning rate and thereafter, if they had reached the age
of 21, the usual scale of pay of adult male conductors. The con­
ditions of employment of women conductors were to be the same as
those of men, except that the guaranteed week might be 40 hours in­
stead of 48, all time worked in excess of 40 hours being paid for at
overtime rates.
Boot and shoe industry.—An agreement between the National
Federation of Boot Manufacturers and the National Union of Boot
and Shoe Operatives specified a graduated scale for 1 month for women
in the industry transferring to men’s departments, followed by full
application of men’s piece rates; for women newly entering the in­
dustry the full minimum would be paid after 12 weeks, 6 at 15 percent
below the minimum and 6 at 10 percent below.
Building-trade craftsmen in Government plants.—An agreement
of May 8, 1943, between the Ministry of Supply and building-trade
organizations provided that in any cases in which a woman carried
out the entire job of a building-trade craftsman without special as­
sistance, guidance, or supervision she was to be paid the standard
basic rafe and bonus of skilled building-trade craftsmen of that grade.
Where women carried out such work with special assistance, guidance,
or supervision, or where work which once formed part of buildingtrade craftsman’s duties was split away from the rest, women were
to receive from 75 percent to 85 percent of the men’s basic rates and
bonus according to the degree to which they could do the men’s job
without special assistance, guidance, or supervision.
Practical application of payment principles.
Of 26 delegates to the National Conference of Amalgamated En­
gineering Union Women Shop Stewards meeting in May 1943, only
2 were receiving the full skilled man’s rate, though most of them had
been in engineering from 2 to 2y2 years and only one had been in the
industry as little as 8 months.
This illustrates the considerable difficulty of establishing that, a.
woman was doing exactly the identical job formerly done by a man.
In fact, in a number of instances the British Industrial Court found
that women workers were doing a slightly different job from that
formerly performed by a man.
Even potentially the rate for the job was applicable to only a part
of the women in war indutries. Much of the work undertaken by
women since the war was formerly classified as women’s work in
certain plants or certain sections of an industry, and lower rates were
the rule for women on women’s work.
Payments to trainees under the Government training schemes,
which were revised so as to be roughly equivalent to what the



individuals could earn by directly entering industry, started during
1943 at 50s. for adult women and 71s. 6d. for men.
Though in general war workers tended to have higher earnings
than workers in other industries, about 12 percent of the employees
in both these groups covered in a survey in 1942, most of them women,
received £2 a week or less. The practice still was prevalent of paying
women on lower scales than men, and the highest earnings of women
in a plant usually were well below the average for men. In a large
war factory brought into a country village at the start of the war,
the average of the 10 most highly paid men at the beginning of 1942
was £6 16s. Id. and the average of the 10 mostly highly paid women
£3 6s. 7d., the women averaging less than half as much as the men.
In another plant the highest net wages for women, who manned the
entire shell shop, were about the same as the average net wages of
men laborers (£3 5d.) and less than half of the maximum of men in
other departments.

Highest net wages

Shell shop:----------------------------------------------------------------------------










Main shop—.
Plating shop­
Fitting shop.





An important reason for the different earnings of women was the
recognition of various grades of women’s wTork. An agreement be­
tween the unions and the Ministry of Supply, for example, recognized
four grades for women in Government plants: (1) Women’s work
(fuzes, small arms, small-arms ammunition, and cartridge cases up
to and including 3.7 inches); (2) work determined on the basis of
youths’ rates (on shell cases less than 4 inches); (3) work done en­
tirely by men before the war, and in the wartime Royal Ordnance
Factories “broken down”; and (4) men’s work (crane driving, truck
driving, commercial-vehicle driving, and acid-tank employment).
Consequently, in 1942, nearly three-fourths of the women in Royal
Ordnance Factories were paid on the women’s weekly minimum-rate
schedule of 43 or 46 shillings for a 47-hour week. (See table 4 in
appendix B.)
The unions that customarily represented women workers in metal
trades pointed out the importance to the whole problem of the issue
of wage rates on “women’s work.” At the end of 1942 efforts of many
years culminated in an agreement setting up in the engineering in­
dustry for women in occupations requiring skill a wTage rate equal to,
and in some cases higher than, that for male labor. Thus progress
was made toward achieving rates related to the work done.
It was in a field outside industry that a sensational division in the
House of Commons in March 1944 hinged on the question of equal pay
for women. Government Opposition forces proposing to amend the
Education Bill by inserting a clause providing pay for women teachers
equal to that of men succeeded in overriding the Government by a
vote of 117 to 116. Faced with a choice of voting either against the
Government or against equal pay, many members, both Conservatives
and Laborites, left the House before the division.
Reasonably sure that in the critical war period his leadership would
be sustained if put to the test on such a domestic matter, the Prime



Minister presented to the House within 48 hours the proposal to delete
the whole section of the bill containing this provision and to stake
his entire war government on the issue. He was sustained by a vote
of 425 to 23. This was not the first time a British Government had
defeated equal pay by weighting such a decision with a confidence vote.
A similar situation occurred under the Prime Minister in 1936.
Industrial earnings.
A study by the Ministry of Labor of average earnings in January
1943 shows the usual situation—that in a period of rising wages the
increase tends to be greater for those formerly very low paid. Thus,
adult women’s earnings had risen by 80 percent above the prewar
period compared to a 65-percent rise for adult men. It must be re­
membered, however, that this rise was from a far lower wage before the
war for women than for men. Moreover, women’s average earnings
still were greatly below men’s, their ratio, though having risen from
47 percent in October 1938, being only 51 percent in January l943.
This is shown by the following figures taken from the Ministry of
Labor Gazette, June 1943:



Percent increase in
average weekly earnings
„ Over October 19.18 '

July 1940------------------------------------------- 29
July 1941---------------------------------44
January 1942-------------------------------------- 48
July 1942------------------------------------------- 62
January 1943----------------------------------65




Ratio of tcomen’s
to men’s average
weekly earnings



These reports of January 1943 covered approximately 614 million
workers in nearly 55,000 firms. Table 5 in appendix B gives further
details by industry. Average earnings for all the industries combined
rose from 32s. 6d. for women and 69s. for men in October 1938 to 58s.
6d. for women and 113s. 9d. for men in January 1943. The greater
proportional increase in women’s earnings was due to the operation
of several forces, including the growing numbers of women in jobs
paid for at men’s rates, or at specified proportions of men’s rates,
generally higher than wage scales for work usually done by women.
Other factors included.the passing of the probationary periods, the
receipt of more overtime pay, and the transfer to better-paid industries.
As a matter of fact, much of the industrial work into which women
were called had been considered formerly “women’s work” and hence
was based on women’s rates, and in other cases women replaced youths
with correspondingly low rates. Further, in many instances where
expansion of women’s employment occurred new factories were built
and the work was broken down, new jigs and machines being developed,
so that the job was no longer of the same type that a skilled man had
held. For example, the operation of a new aircraft-engine factory
in which all but 50 workers were unskilled labor and nearly a third
were women was said to be possible largely because of the engineers
who planned and tooled the plant.
In an analysis of the various factors affecting earnings it was pointed
out that the increase for all workers for the period from October 1938



to January 1943 would have been 67.5 percent instead of 65 percent if
there had been no change in the ratio of women to men, and that
because of the sex differential in wage scales the greater employment
of women made average earnings lower than otherwise they would
have been.
1941 TO JANUARY 19431

OCT 1938

JULY 1940




JAN. 1942


JULY 1942

JAN. 1943


1 Ministry of Labor Gazette, June 1943, p. 81.

Adult women’s average weekly earnings in individual industries
ranged from a low of 44s. lid. in public utility services to a maximum
of 72s. 2d. in Government industrial establishments. The range for
adult men was from 84s. Id. in public utility services to 131s. 6d. in
metal, engineering, and shipbuilding. Thus the lowest for men ex­
ceeded greatly the average in the highest-paying industry for women.
In the metal group women’s earnings averaged about 51 percent of
men’s or about the same ratio as in all industries combined.
Pay in the forces.
Women doctors in the armed forces were commissioned and paid on
the same basis as men. In fields other than medicine women’s rate still



was two-thirds that of men, though it became increasingly clear as
the war continued that women in the forces were replacing men on an
equivalent basis.
Compensation for war injury.
In 1943 a remedy for the different treatment of civilian women in
regard to war injuries finally was achieved through the efforts of many
women’s organizations and other groups. The air raids and the in­
creased participation of women in war work emphasized the difference
in compensation as compared with the similarity in risk. As a result
of the recommendations of a special Parliamentary Committee, weekly
allowances for women, beginning April 19, 1943, were to be 35s., and
if the period of their disablement exceeded 6 months, they were to
receive pensions ranging from 7s. 6d. to 37s. 6d. a week (for total
disability), the same as men. The same rate was to be given whether
or not the injured person was gainfully employed.

Official attention to problems of reconstruction and postwar dated
from January 1941, when Arthur Greenwood was appointed Minister
without Portfolio responsible for the study of post-war problems. A
growing number of commissions and officials were designated to in­
vestigate questions as they arose, and various studies on special prob­
lems were made in the period following. Among the reports of
particular concern to women were the Beveridge Report on social insur­
ance, the Rushclitfe Report on salaries of nurses and midwives, and
the scheme for further education and training of men and women in
national service.
It was acknowledged generally by all groups that the great con­
tribution of women in carrying on the war was entitled to recognition.
The Minister of Labor, Ernest Bevin, stated in July 1942 that “if they
had not come forward there would have been a great gap, and there­
fore it will become the bounden duty of every one of us to arrive at
proper conclusions as to the right use and place that women must find
in the postwar world.” Various industrial leaders, workers’ organi­
zations, and women’s groups evidenced growing attention to the role
of women in the community and the nation when peace should come.
In British planning to assure social security after the war, recognition
of women’s needs has advanced far beyond their former status, either
in Great Britain or in almost any other country. The effect of war
on British population makes such a standing for women of the utmost
The Beveridge Report and women.
The plan proposed by Sir William Beveridge in 1942 was designed
to put an end to want by combining and expanding the various socialinsurance systems previously in operation in Great Britain.
In the course of outlining principles and methods of social security
for the future, the report crystallized current ideas as to the social and
economic status of women in Great Britain, and with regard for prac­
tical realities it aimed to provide security for women in terms of their
role in the community.
In the Beveridge Report the principles underlying social insurance
reached a point where they demonstrated great progress as they af­
fected women. Of particular note was the recognition of married
women’s contribution in the home as demanding an adequate security
provision and benefits during pregnancy and after childbirth. Do­
mestic service workers, nurses, and independent workers were to be
covered by the plan; previous deficiencies as to maternity benefits were
to be remedied; equal benefits with men were proposed for unmarried
women; and widows with small children were to be paid a guardian
benefit and children’s allowances.



Unmarried women employees, like all employed men, were to be in­
sured under the plan for unemployment, disability, retirement pen­
sion, medical treatment, and funeral expenses. Payments for unem­
ployment and short periods of disability were not based on the wage,
hut on the grounds that minimum requirements of men and women
differed very little; identical subsistence benefits of 24s. a week were
to be payable to either in the event of unemployment, disability up to
13 weeks, or retirement in old age. After 13 weeks, pensions amount­
ing to two-thirds of the earnings of the employee were to be paid for
industrial accident and disease. The lower amounts generally earned
by women would thus usually make compensation in their case less,
though not lower than the short-term disability benefit.
The rate of contribution was set tentatively at 6s. a week for all
employed adult women (2s. 6d. of this contributed by the woman’s
employer), while for employed men it was to be 7s. 6d. a week (3s. 3d.
by the employer). By the higher rate for men, it was stated, it
was planned to provide benefits for married women not working for
pay but rendering unpaid services to their families. However, the
higher rate was not to be confined to married men or men with de­
pendents. Though not so designed, the practical effect was to take
account to some extent of the lower earnings of women. Because,
according to estimates, only about one in seven married women was
gainfully occupied, and because even when working the married
woman’s earnings were considered to be of a supplementary na­
ture, the plan treated “man and wife as a team.” A joint rate of
benefit was to be provided of 40s. a week in the case of unemployment,
disability, or retirement of the husband if the wife were not gainfully
occupied or if the working wife elected to be “exempt.” His con­
tributions also secured to the married woman maternity grant and
provision for wudowhood. In addition to maternity grant, house­
wives taking paid work were to be entitled to maternity benefit for
13 weeks to enable them to give up working before and after child­
birth. The working wife paying her own unemployment and dis­
ability contribution was to be entitled to 16s. when she went on
benefit and her husband to 24s. when he went on benefit.
Women conscripted for national service.
In one instance a scheme to meet certain postwar needs wTas put
into operation for eligible groups before the end of the war. Owing
to the mobilization of large numbers of young people, many of them
were forced to interrupt plans for business and professional careers.
1 lie great value to the country of encouraging fresh sources of supply
of well-trained men and women after the war was recognized. Plans
were made by which the Government would provide financial assistance
to women as well as men demobilized from the armed forces (includ­
ing nursing and civil defense services), or released from work of
national importance, so that qualified candidates could obtain pro­
fessional and business training. During the war men and women
discharged from the services because of disablement or on medical
grounds could apply under the scheme. An interdepartmental com­
mittee of 17 members, including 2 women, was appointed to determine
I-1? nllrnbers that should be encouraged to take training in the various



Demands of industry and the armed forces in Britain forced policies
of restricting women’s educational opportunities increasingly to those
in line with wartime needs. Consequently, women students of fine
arts, music, architecture, and acting could be given no deferment after
their twentieth birthday. Under the mobilization program as carried
out earlier in the war women taking university training in medicine,
dentistry, veterinary surgery, pharmacy, and scientific and technical
subjects were allowed to complete their education. Women entering
universities in October 1943 or subsequently were to be permitted to
take a 3 years’ course if not over 18 years of age; and if over 18 but
under 19, a 2 years’ course. Only women who planned to undertake
work of national importance on completing their training, including
teaching and approved types of social service, would be accepted.
They would be allowed to continue only so long as their progress
remained satisfactory.
Women of registration age taking such courses as massage, dis­
pensing, radiography, domestic science, or social science at technical
colleges and similar schools likewise were permitted to become full­
time students, with the same limitations.
An offical investigation into conditions in the women’s services pro­
posed that these well-trained women should be used in the work of
relief and rehabilitation in Europe at the war’s end. The report
pointed out the value to the women themselves and others in the forg­
ing of the peace:
* * * To meet, the needs of the liberated populations and those of the
armies of occupation, technical staffs will be required throughout Europe
both for administration and relief. Detachments of the Women’s Services
would, in our opinion, be admirably fitted to share in these duties. As
service units they can be attached without difficulty of any kind to the
appropriate occupying establishments. Much of the work to be done is
work in which the cooperation of women is not only desirable but essential.
That cooperation can be achieved in rapid and simple form through the
organization of the auxiliaries for foreign service. Clerks, cooks, drivers,
orderlies, will be wanted to carry on day-to-day duties much as they are
carried on at present. Administrative tasks will exist in plenty for officers
capable of handling the problems of want and suffering which the liberated
countries will present. Employment for the time being on the Continent
would ease the demobilization of the Women’s Services and the return of the
auxiliaries to civil life.
* * * To associate women with the task of reconstruction in Europe,
to call upon them to share in a work of healing and mercy, would be not
only to bring their war duties to a noble conclusion, but to open a new
chapter in international relationships of high value for the future. We
have no doubt that volunteers would be forthcoming from all the services
should a scheme on some lines as above suggested prove feasible. And we
have also no doubt that the auxiliaries would throw themselves with equal
enthusiasm into the work and adventure of peace as they show today in the
work and adventure of war.

The women’s branch of the British Legion, in a draft of plans for
demobilization of service women, proposed disability and pensions
schemes that would benefit women equally with men and recommended
the following order of release:
1. Wives, along with their husbands.
2. Older women, on the grounds they have more commitments to
3. Trained women needed for specific jobs.



4. Younger’women and others requiring training or refresher
Women as workers.
Employers, members of Parliament, Government officials, and others
meted out high praise to women for their contribution to war produc­
tion and the degree of skill attained. Through 1943, however, no clear
statement of official policy appeared with regard to women’s status
and opportunities in the postwar labor market.
With many industries and trades formerly closed to women workers
beginning to demand them, the unions made it a point to bring the
women into their membership even though only for the duration.
During 1941 women members of trade-unions increased by 26.8 percent
compared to a 4.7 percent increase for men. At the end of that year
there were 5,718,000 men and 1,372,000 women members. Women’s
increases occurred mainly in distribution, transport, National Gov­
ernment service, and clothing; men’s in the engineering and metal
industries. The total membership still was more than a million below
the peak year of 1920, but women members reached an all-time high
and accounted for nearly one-fifth of all trade-unionists.
The number of women trade-unionists passed the 2-million mark
during 1943. This included some 300,000 women in the Transport
and General Workers Union and about 65,000 in the Amalgamated
Engineering Union, the two largest in Great Britain. Another 265,­
000 women belonged to the National Union of General and Municipal
Workers, In these three unions women constituted respectively
about 24, 8, and 36 percent of the total membership. The A. E. U.
had admitted women to membership in January 1943 for the first time
in its 90 years of existence.
I he principle of the rate for the job was recognized by the unions
as of special significance for the postwar period. Both the Trades
Lnion Congress and the Labor Party supported it, as did unions and
other organizations. The Women’s Advisory Committee on Postwar
Keconstruction reiterated it before the 1943 annual meeting of unions
with large woman memberships, submitting a memorandum on this
and other postwar problems of women workers:
1. Women have established their claim to a share in the economic life of
tiie nation. By having shared equally with men the tremendous task of producmg for the needs of the war. they have an equal right to employment
after the war. The committee, therefore, considers that all classes of
women wage earners who have contributed to the war effort either in in­
dustry or in the services irrespective of whether they have been transferred
directed, conscripted, or have volunteered, have an equal right to employ­
ment. They reaffirm their view that the sex of the worker should not be a
factor m determining payment, which should be based on the work pertormed. The Government have a responsibility to all classes of wage earners
wlio have been conscripted, transferred, directed, or volunteered from one
occupation to another, so to organize the industrial life of the nation that
every one of those workers is assured of employment after the war.
“■ Tllat in order to Insure this there must be gradual demobilization of
women after the war.
3. That special consideration should be given to the position of young
people whose opportunities have been restricted by the war, with regard to
opportunities for training and resumption of occupation.
4. Detailed consideration of the held of employment which would be
open to women.



In line with the fourth proposal was one section of an Interim Re­
port on Postwar Reconstruction prepared by the Electrical Associa­
tion for Women of Great Britain. The report listed careers open to
women requiring a knowledge of electricity. These included jobs in
the installation and maintenance of electricity, as meter readers, and
as designers and operatives in electrical manufacture. Others in­
cluded were architects, communications engineers, electrical physio­
therapists, X-ray technicians, as well as clerical, administrative,
publicity, and sales work in electrical supply, contracting, and manu­
facture, and certain jobs in domestic science and horticulture. These
occupations were felt to offer good prospects for women in the post­
war world, particularly in jobs where women proved their ability.
To this end the association recommended that efforts should be made
to keep open to women new and interesting work successfully carried
on during the War.
Women in family and civic life.
The destruction of buildings and homes due to bombing focused at­
tention on the question of new and reconstructed housing after the
war. Elizabeth Denby, a leading British housing expert, pointed out
that houses built before the war were not particularly suited to the
needs and wishes of women, who spent most time in them. The im­
portance of incorporating scientific thought and development to make
a more effective and convenient center of family life has been demon­
strated. Various women’s groups, including the Standing Joint Com­
mittee of Working Women’s Organizations, the Electrical Association
for Women, and the Women’s Advisory Housing Council, made a
study and obtained suggestions as to dwelling designs wanted by the
women who run homes, for submission to the Government.

Sept. 3,1939—
September 1939.

Apr. 19,1940.

May 22,1940.

May 22, 1940.

January 1941.
Jan. 21,1941_
March 5,1941.

March 1941_
Mar. 15, 1941.

_ Great Britain declared war with Germany.
. Schedule of Reserved Occupations revised.
(First issued January 1939.) This edition
provided that women (as well as men above
specified ages) in occupations listed in part
II, and women in occupations listed in
part III, could be accepted for national de­
fense service other than nursing and first
aid only in their “trade capacity.”
. Industrial Court Award No. 1755 for the
Road Passenger Transport Industry. Spec­
ified that women 21 and over replacing
men should receive the adult male rate
after 6 months.
.. Engineering agreements formulated. Re­
laxed existing customs to permit, for the
duration of the war, the extended employ­
ment of women and provided that women
fully replacing men should receive the rate
and bonus of the men they replaced.
.. Emergency Powers (Defense) Act, 1940,
and Regulations. Extended Act of 1939 to
include power to require persons “to place
themselves, their services, and their prop­
erty at the disposal of His Majesty.” Reg­
ulation 58A gave to the Minister of Labor
and National Service the control and use of
all labor.
_ Government training centers opened to
. Woman mobilization program announced
in the House of Commons.
.. The Essential Work (General Provisions)
Order, 1941. This provided that workers
might not leave or be dismissed from jobs
in scheduled firms without consent of a Na­
tional Service Officer, the firm being re­
quired to provide recognized conditions of
work, welfare arrangements, and training
. Women’s Consultative Committee ap­
. Registration for Employment Order, 1941,
to ascertain the available labor force and
its capacities as a basis for mobilization for
the war effort.



Apr. 19, 1941 Compulsory registration of women under
the Registration for Employment Order
inaugurated with the registration of women
horn in 1920.
September 1941_______ More selective basis adopted for interview­
ing women registrants.
December 1941 Schedule of Reserved Occupations for
women withdrawn.
Dec. 18,1941--------------- Single women 20 but under 31 made liable
for military service under the National
Service (No. 2) Act, 1941.
Jan.23 (Feb. 16), 1942— Employment of Women (Control of En­
gagement) Order, 1942, issued, under which
women 20-30 (later 18-30) could be hired
only through employment exchanges or, in
certain cases, other authorized channels.
The order excepted women with children
under 14 living with them and married
women with household responsibilities.
Aug. 15,1942-------------- Fire-guard duty made compulsory for
women 20 to 45, unless employed 55 hours
a week, whether or not on war work.
Oct. 3,1942 _ -------- Registration of women born in 1897, thus
completing registration of women 18 to 45.
Nov. 20,1942-------------- The Beveridge Report—Social Insurance
and Allied Services, by Sir William Beve­
ridge—submitted to the Government.
Jan. 13, 1943---------------Royal Proclamation under National Service
Acts reduced the lower age limit for com­
pulsory service by women in the uniformed
forces to 19 years.
Jan. 28, 1943--------------- Powers of direction applied to work not
scheduled under the Essential Work Order,
including part-time work.
Jan. 28 (Feb. 22), 1943__ Employment of Women (Control of En­
gagement) Order, 1943, extended to cover
all women 18 to 40. The order required all
women covered to obtain employment
through a local office of the Ministry of
Labor and National Service or other ap­
proved agencies.
March 1943---------------- Government postwar education and training
scheme announced.
Mar. 30,1943-------------- Special registration of nurses and mid­
wives ordered.
Apr. 19, 1943-------------- Compensation for civilian war injury pay­
able to women equalized with men’s.



Apr. 28 (May 8), 1943_Control of Employment (Directed Per­
sons) Order provided that persons directed
into full-time work not covered by Essen­
tial Work Orders, including part-time work,
might not be discharged or leave employ­
ment without approval of the National
Service Officer and that directions were to
apply to a specified period, usually 6 months.
Aug. 10 (Aug. 20). 1943_ The Control of Employment (Notice of
Termination) Order, 1943, requiring an
employer to notify the nearest local office
of the Ministry of Labor and National Serv­
ice when any man 18 to 64 or woman 18 to
60 is about to leave the job, if enjployed 20
hours or more per week.
Sept. 20 to Oct. 2, 1943 Special registration of cotton operatives,
Sept. 21,1943--------------Announcement in the House of Commons
of the extension of mobilization to women
Sept. 28,1943-------------- National Conference of Women held in
London sponsored by the Government. The
purpose of the conference, which was na­
tional and nonpolitical, was “to bring
women into contact with those of H. M.
Ministers who are responsible for aspects of
national policy which particularly affect
Nov. 6,1943--------------- Registration of women born in 1893, thus
completing registration of women 18 to 50.
Note.—Where two dates are shown for a single regulation, the first is the date
issued, the second the date effective.

Table 1.—Unemployed persons 14 years of age and over on the
register of employment exchanges, by quarterly period, 1939
to 19431


Men and boys

Women and

1,644, 394

1, 266,020

483, 591

827, 266



695, 606
410, 511
277, 280

214, 549

131, 751

January___________ ______
July______________ ______

127, 499

76, 549


April........ .................................



26, 253




July ...

1 Source: Ministry of Labor Gazette.

Table 2.—Trade-union membership among women, 1913 to 19411

Number of
Percent of
women trade- total
union mem­
bers (thou­


____ ..

1929 -1928.............................1927




1923 -1922.........






1915___ _________


i Source: Ministry of Labor Gazette, September 1939 and December 1942.


Number of
Percent of
women trade- total
union mem­
bers (thou­




16. 1





Table 3.—Arrangements as to wage rates for women fully replac­
ing men, by industry or occupation 1
Men’s rate payable to women fully replacing men, after a probationary period
Boot and shoe manufacture.2
Cement manufacture.
Chemical manufacture.
Corn milling.
County Council roadmen.
Drug and fine chemical manufacture.
Electrical cable making.2
Electrical contracting.
Electricity supply.
Felt-hat manufacture.
Flour milling, machine women.
Heavy leather tanning.2
Local authorities (nontrading services).
Pig iron and iron and steel, other than
laboring work.
Printing and bookbinding.

Printing-ink manufacture.
Railway service (conciliation grades).
Railway workshops.
Retail cooperative societies, general dis­
tributive and transport workers.
Road haulage (goods).
Road passenger transport, tram and
bus, drivers and conductors.
Rubber manufacture.
Sheet steel manufacture and galvaniz­
ing, semiskilled and skilled labor.2
Shipbuilding and ship repair.
Tin-plate manufacture, other than la­
Wholesale clothing manufacture, cut­
ting departments.

Men’s rate payable to women fully replacing men, with no specified probationary
Admiralty establishments, except
Beet-sugar manufacture.
Building brick, roofing, tile and refrac­
tories manufacture.2
Cast stone and cast concrete manu­
Cinema theaters, cinema projection­
Fertilizer industry.

Glue and gelatin manufacture.
Home-grown timber.
Ocher mining and grinding.
Potato drying.
Royal Ordnance Factories, building
trade craftsmen.3
Royal Ordnance Factories, skilled me­
Soap and candle manufacture.
Tobacco manufacture.

Lower rates payable to women replacing men
Admiralty establishments, ordinary
Asbestos manufacture.4
Flour milling, truckers and mill clean­
ers ; packers.
Furniture manufacture, porters, labor­
ers, others.2
Hosiery bleaching.
Leather-belt manufacture.2
Leather currying and dressing.2
Light castings manufacture.1
Packing-case manufacture.

Paint manufacture.5
Pig iron and iron and steel manufac­
ture, laboring work.
Plywood manufacture.
Royal Ordnance Factories, manufacture
of propellants, explosives, and acids
previously carried out by male labor.
Sheet steel manufacture and galvaniz­
ing, unskilled labor.
Tinplate manufacture, laboring work
(6s. 10% d. a shift plus man’s bonus).
Vehicle building (full man’s basic rate
but women’s war bonus).
Wholesale grocery trade.

1 Source : Memorandum from Ministry of Labor and National Service, ‘‘Rates of Wages
Employed on Work Previously Performed by Men,” Appendix C, Proceedings
of Select Committee on Equal Compensation, London, Feb. 16, 1943, unless otherwise indi­
cated. This should be consulted for further details.
2 Same piece-work rates to be paid to women, though time rate paid women is lower
during probationary period, or in cases where woman does not fully replace a man or
where man’s full-time rate is unattainable.
3 Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers’ Monthly Journal, June 1943, p. 216.
4 Piece-work rate lower for women, or may be negotiated.
_’■ yational Union of General and Municipal Workers' Journal, November 1942 pp 395­
396, and December 1043, p. 378,



Table 4.—Distribution by minimum-wage rates of women em­
ployed in Royal Ordnance Factories, 19421
Type of factory or product

Type of work

Basis of wages

Fuzes, small-arms am­
munition, small arms.

Light engineering work commonly performed by
Filling propellants and high
explosives into containers.
Manufacture of shells and
certain cartridge cases.
Manufacture of propellants,
explosives, and acids—
previously carried out by
male labor.
Manufacture of guns, gun
barrels, gun mountings,

Women’s rate.. __ ...

Shells______ __________


Minimum Percent of
rate for
women in
total (ap­
week (in proximate)

Youths’ rate at 20
80 percent of men’s
Men's basic rate plus
75 percent of men’s
industrial bonus.









2 69


1 Source: Great Britain, Parliamentary Debates, House of Commons Official Report, Vol. 383, No. 103»
cols. 525-526, September 11, 1942.
2 Minimum rate for areas other than London, where it was 62 shillings for a 47-hour week.

Table 5.—Increases in average weekly earnings of men and
women in 16 industry groups, October 1938 to January 1943 1
Percent increase in average
earnings October 1938
to January 1943

Ratio of women’s to
men’s earnings

Industry group
(21 years
and over)

(18 years
and over)








43. 6

43. 4


54. 5









workers 2
All industries_____________


Iron, stone, etc., mining and quarrying__
Treatment of nonmetalliferous mine and
quarry products. . _________
Brick, pottery, and glass________ _____
Chemical, paint, oil, etc___
Metal, engineering, and shipbuilding
Textiles_______ ____ ____________ ___
Leather, fur, etc _____________________
. _______ _____
Food, drink, and tobacco____
Paper, printing, stationery, etc__ ....
Building, contracting, etc__________ ___
Miscellaneous manufacturing industries...
Transport, storage, etc. (excluding railways)
Public utility services. __________
Government industrial establishments__

1 Source: Ministry of Labor Gazette, June 1943.
2 Includes earnings of youths, boys and girls, hi addition to adult men and women.