Women War Workers of the First World War

Women munitions workers

Women munitions workers, Image © IWM (Q 27880)

In the our second post celebrating International Women’s Day, we look at the life story of Lottie Meade, who worked on the home front during the First World War.

The recruitment of men en masse to serve in the armed forces brought about changes in the make-up of the industrial workforce. Over 600,000 women took on previously male-dominated roles in industry.

Over the years they made an increasingly varied contribution, working in labs, mills and factories.


Lottie Meade

Charlotte, or Lottie as she was known, contributed to the war effort by producing munitions. But the chemicals she handled were poisonous, and Lottie succumbed to the effects of TNT on 11 October 1916.

Her husband Frederick didn’t make it back in time from the Western Front to see her before she died. She left behind four small children.

Frederick later remarried to a war widow who also had four young children. By 1920, they had a son of their own and there were 9 children in the household, all aged under 12. He sent a photo of Lottie in her work overalls to IWM.

Lottie’s story is a key example of just one of the personal stories that will be added to Lives of the First World War. Stories like this help to illustrate the changing role of women in the workplace that took place during the period.


Help us to remember the Women War Workers of the First World War

Do you have an item in your collection, like the one that Frederick sent to IWM, which you could upload to Lives of the First World War when it launches? Sign up to the mailing list so that you’ll be notified how and when you can contribute.

Find out more about women’s war work during the First World War.

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2 Responses to Women War Workers of the First World War

  1. Valerie Bowker says:

    Involved in research recently I discovered the Scottish Women’s Field Hospitals and was amazed to read about these remarkable women. Hospitals staffed and run by women across worn torn Europe. My research was concerning the first female doctor employed at our local hospital and she had worked with these hospitals in Salonika and Corsica. Her name was Catherine Emslie Anderson. I have great admiration for these women especially Frances Ivens and Elsie Inglis women of great strength and courage.

  2. I have to same photograph of the group of ladies that went to France on the 5th May 1917 they were the first group of ladies to cook for “Tommy” I believe one of these ladies is related to me, My local news paper is going to do a feature on this subject.

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