Women in World War I


Under the direction of the YMCA, the GFWC created the Overseas Service Unit, a group of 100 women sent to Europe to assist wounded soldiers in the aftermath of World War I. Photo courtesy of the Women's History and Resource Center, General Federation of Women's Clubs.

After the United States entered the war in 1917, women supported the war effort in numerous ways. In addition to continuing their pre-war reform work, women reformers in the club movement, the settlement house movement, and the suffrage movement sold war bonds and conserved food. Women sent relief supplies to suffering Europeans. Some women’s groups sent delegations to Europe to provide relief for American soldiers.

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Women's Committee of the Council of National Defense Poster, Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-9556

The government established an advisory committee, the Women’s Committee of the Council of National Defense, headed by suffragist Dr. Anna Shaw, to coordinate women’s war efforts. Despite valiant efforts, the Women’s Committee was only able to achieve limited coordination.

During the war, women also entered the workforce in new ways. Women served in the navy and marines, and thousands served as nurses. On the home front, women worked in factories and in the government.

World War I led to several important advances for women. Women’s war work increased support for woman suffrage and contributed to the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. In addition, during the war, the Department of Labor created the Women in Industry Service. After the war, the Women in Industry Service became the Women’s Bureau, headed by Mary van Kleeck.

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Women inspecting automatic pistol parts at a plant in
Hartford, Connecticut, Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-51348


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YWCA World War I Poster, Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-3686









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