Canary Girls of World War One
August 8, 2018 12:34 PM   Subscribe

They made ammo and noxious chemicals turned them yellow. The Act also forced factories to employ women because of the shortage of able-bodied men, most of which were fighting the war. By the end of the war, the British government had more than four thousand munitions factories under its control, employing nearly a million female workers. While women who worked the assembly lines were spared the horrors of the trenches, their jobs were no less dangerous. Munitions factories were often the enemy’s prime target with sites routinely flattened by bombing. There was also the risk of explosions.
posted by MovableBookLady (12 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
This is very interesting and sad. 'Amusing Planet' seems like a weird forum for this.
posted by es_de_bah at 12:40 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Freak accidents with explosives were common"

posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:22 PM on August 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Amusing Planet seems to have a lot of articles that I find interesting but not "amusing." I don't know what their definition of "amusing" might be.
posted by MovableBookLady at 1:32 PM on August 8, 2018

Interesting article; I was a chemistry major in college and as soon as I read the first sentence I thought of nitric acid. The photographs really intrigued me. Some of them definitely looked like they were taken using a flash, but early 20th century flash technology was not something you would want anywhere near high explosives.
posted by TedW at 1:35 PM on August 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Munitions factories were often the enemy’s prime target with sites routinely flattened by bombing.

Are they confusing the wars here? It is my understanding that Zeppelin raids on the British isles caused (relatively) few casualties and did far more damage to morale than war production. In any case, the Royal Flying Corps 'flattened' many more square miles of the Kaiser's backyard in retaliation than the Germans ever managed with their balloons.

This is not to downplay the actual dangers these women faced, which were formidable enough by themselves without added excitement.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 1:36 PM on August 8, 2018 [4 favorites]

That said, the situation clearly was different on the continent where artillery was at play (links to that effect much appreciated). I was merely going by the FPP and tags.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 1:44 PM on August 8, 2018

“Nylon and silk clothing were banned as these materials build up static electricity which can create sparks,”
Considering nylon wasn’t produced until the 1930s, this wouldn’t have been very difficult.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:48 PM on August 8, 2018 [9 favorites]

Also banned: Iphones, Microwaves, and all rechargable Lithium Ion Batteries.
posted by Megafly at 1:58 PM on August 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm watching Foyle's War and there was an episode featuring British women munitions factory workers during WWII. Similar dangers and half the pay of the men. Young, childless women were conscripted to work in factories starting in December 1941 and by the next year, it was all women between the ages of 19 and 43. The show showed them being inspected at the start and end of work each day. A single dropped bobby pin could create a spark.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:00 PM on August 8, 2018

Are they confusing the wars here?

Yes, they absolutely are (see also the reference to non-existent nylon). The German air campaign killed 1,414 civilians of all stripes during the entire First World War; that was a pleasant afternoon at the front, so the idea that for anyone at home it was "no less dangerous" is absurd.

It would be nice if we had more articles on overlooked elements like this, but with fewer examples of exaggeration in an attempt to convince people that the subject is important. Sadly, this is all-too common (see the number of books about weapons, vehicles, individuals, and projects all given breathless subtitles like, "The X that Stopped Hitler!", or "The X that Won the War!", for example). It's sort of the equivalent of ebay auctions with WOW L@@K in the title. Things like this deserve to stand on their own.

Still, good images, and once it gets into the details of the job itself it's much better. Thanks for posting, OP.
posted by Palindromedary at 4:15 PM on August 8, 2018 [7 favorites]

There was a great TV show called BOMB GIRLS about women working in a munitions factory in Canada. Was on Netflix for a while. Not sure where you can watch it now. But well worth finding.
posted by pjsky at 2:39 AM on August 10, 2018

Yeah, definitely conflating the two wars. In all honestly, though, as they recede from the present, it's going to be more and more common. I expect in less than a century they will be glossed over as just be "the World War of the early 20th century parts 1 and 2." Eventually I suspect they'll be combined with the Cold War and the other modern conflicts as a Heinleinian "Crazy Years."
posted by Blackanvil at 12:00 PM on August 10, 2018

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