As we commemorate the 108 year anniversary of our ANZACs, we have decided to take a look back at the role of women throughout World War One and in relation to ANZAC Day.
Whilst Australian women were not allowed to serve in the military during the first World War, they played a significant role in World War I, unfortunately, however, this role is often unrecognised in light of our husbands, sons, brothers and fathers’ service in the front lines. Women abroad served key roles as nurses, ambulance drivers, cooks, voluntary aid detachment staff, and medical support staff, often experiencing dangerous and challenging conditions. These women worked in hospitals, on trains, hospital ships, or even closer to the front line in casualty clearing stations from Britain all the way to India, experiencing everything from freezing temperatures and frostbitten soldiers to heatwaves and malaria. Around 3000 women enlisted in WWI, were captured as a prisoner of war, and 25 dying during their service. Whilst often underappreciated, their assistance was essential to the military medical service working around the clock to care for and feed hundreds of casualties, with a strong sense of duty and unbreakable will.
Women at Home
Whilst serving in a different world, women back home had the critical job of ‘keeping the home fires burning’, managing the household and raising the children alone, often with loved ones thousands of kilometres away with no idea of their safety. Outside of their role as carers, these women dedicated as much time as they could in caring for Australia’s troops, knitting vests, mufflers, mittens and socks, writing letters, packing parcels, and fundraising. There were an estimated 6 large women’s fundraising organisations operating during this time:
- Australian Red Cross
- Women’s Christian Temperance Union
- Country Women’s Association
- Australian Women’s National League
- Voluntary Aid Detachment
- Australian Women’s Service Corps
Some women even invested significant efforts in peace and anti-war efforts (e.g. the Women’s Peace Army), a potentially divisive topic to engage in, but a risk they were willing to take for the peace and protection of their fellow Australians. Without these women showing unwavering strength, life at home would have fallen apart during these times.
ANZAC Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the contributions and sacrifices of Australian women during times of conflict. It is a day to honour their bravery and resilience and to acknowledge the significant role they have played in supporting the military effort and promoting peace and social justice. As we honour another ANZAC day this year, let us remember the incredible efforts of these women both overseas and at home during the war, and their inspiring and important role they play in history.
Lest We Forget
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