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ANZAC DAY 2023 - Australian Women at War

Thanks to Neil on FMI Committee for this year's ANZAC DAY article.

The past few years have seen an ANZAC Day article in Footnotes, the FMI in house magazine. This is complemented by a small exhibition in the library. In the last editions we have looked at the local men at Gallipoli, and the Australian forces in Korea. This year will be focused on women’s role in conflict.

Women have played a role in all wars Australia was involved in. This can be seen thru Australian Women at War by Patsy Adam-Smith which is available for loan in the FMI library. In the Second World War 1939-1945, women generally did not play combat roles in the Allied forces such as Australia, but they played supportive and auxiliary roles which contributed much to the final victory. One example is in the records of the FMI which show the Women’s Committee organising events for troops on leave. The role of women did not end there as books within the FMI collection show.

The Second World War was fought between 1939-1945, and saw many changes to the world political structure. Many social changes occurred also. For example, in many parts of the world especially USA, UK and Australia far more women entered the world of work and the military. Women were not only in the armed forces but also employed as nurses, land girls, transport pilots and industrial workers in the munitions factories. Some of the books in FMI collection recount stories of these women. The WAAF at War by Turner a generalist account of the UK experience of war, or specific missions such as The Secret Rescue by Lineberry, a real adventure of American nurses behind Nazi lines. The stories such as Bullwinkle’s and the Australian nurses are well known, as female Army nurses served in several sectors of the Pacific.

One aspect of Australian women’s involvement in the wartime economy was that of land girls. After the war developed to include the Pacific region in 1941 many men were conscripted to defend the nation directly and this led to labour shortages especially on farms, so women stepped up to fill these roles. Both full time and occasional workers were recruited. The women were reimbursed at a lower rate than the males. From mid-1942 to the end 1945 thousands of women filled these positions ‘on the land’.

In Industry the role of women can be viewed thru the munitions works in Footscray. The forward planning for war in the 1930s led to technological innovation and import replacement at the ammunition plant on the banks of the Maribyrnong River. As part of this transition women were included in the workforce and at one point in the mid-1940s constituted 40-50% of the eight thousand plus workforce at the plants. The plant reverted to a male workforce after hostilities. The site of the plant is now vacant, but does have open days.

Todays generations living as they do owe a debt of gratitude to these many nameless and unheralded women.



Thank you to Wikipedia and all other sources.

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