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  • Publication
    'We work with shells all day and night': Irish female munitions workers during the First World War
    (Irish Labour History Society, 2017-04-01)
    The ‘munitionette’ or female munitions worker is one of the most familiar images from the British home front during the Great War. The role of women in munitions industries is central to the histories of women and war and to perceptions of changing identities in wartime. These women have been variously described as challenging ‘gendered taboos’ through their active participation in the ‘culture of death’ and as ‘powerful symbols of modernity’. Angela Woollacott argues that British munitions workers undermined class differences through their increased spending power while simultaneously challenging the gender order by performing non-traditionally female roles. There were over one million women employed in munitions work in Great Britain during the Great War. They generated a significant amount of commentary in the contemporary press with attitudes varying from praise for women’s patriotism to criticism of their supposed extravagant spending of their wages. The Irish munitions industry was much smaller than that in Britain but it nonetheless offered expanded employment opportunities for Irish women from diverse backgrounds and a chance to participate directly in the war effort. This article briefly examines the extent of munitions work in Ireland, the class backgrounds of the munitions workers and their motivations for entering such work.