'more war work'
'tips for employers'
[Mass Transportation, July 1943]
All in - 'more war work'
[Army Museum of South Australia]
Large numbers of women were employed in industry, agriculture and other areas of employment that had previously only been available to men. The three armed services, all of which had employed women in medical roles from the beginning of the war, began enlisting women for employment in non-combatant units in 1941. More than 65,000 women enlisted in the three services between 1941 and 1945 with others joining the Australian Women’s Land Army and voluntary organisations.
The increased entry of women into war work had a significant impact on Australian society. Although many of them were encouraged to leave their wartime jobs in 1945-46 when the men returned, employment levels for women remained far higher than before 1939. Despite their new, if somewhat limited, opportunities, women were employed at much lower salaries than their male counterparts. Those who worked in industry were paid far less and there was little thought given to the workers’ health and safety. Some of the women were called up (‘manpowered’) to work in essential wartime industries and others worked voluntarily.
The labour shortage was also felt on the farms and some thousands of Australian women joined the Australian Women’s Land Army (AWLA).
Many of those who weren’t able to participate in the paid labour force joined voluntary organisations such as the Australian Comforts Fund (ACF), the Australian Red Cross, the Country Women’s Association (CWA) or just joined other members of their community contributing in some way towards the war effort. Comfort parcels were sent to the men both at the front, in hospitals and in POW camps in Europe and south-east Asia. Parcels contained essential items for morale and wellbeing such as food, tobacco, soap books, clothing and socks. Some volunteer organisations provided meals, accommodation and entertainment for men on leave or members visited servicemen in hospitals. Others formed local groups and met together to knit, sew, pack comfort parcels or anything else that would help the war.
Children and teenagers were also expected to do ‘their bit’ and many of them were ‘recruited’ for school holiday farm work. They were also involved in the collection of recyclable goods like rubber, paper and metal.