The Great War, a drawn-out total conflict on an industrial scale, saw two parallel destinies play out in the warring nations: on the front was the army, made up of men only, while at the rear, women would play a fundamental role for the almost five years of fighting.
They were workers, participating in the war effort in the fields, the factories and the hospitals. Women were conscientious and determined to shoulder their new responsibilities while supporting soldiers and ensuring life went on at home, despite difficult circumstances such as shortages, high prices, separation, displacement, grief and occupation. Often devoted, they sometimes revolted in defence of their rights or against militarism and war. But society and intellectual women also gradually engaged in the public sphere, contributing to the cultural life of the time.
While the war did not revolutionize women’s place in society, it certainly shook up their lives, submitting them to terrible physical and moral tribulations, changing their positions in their milieus, and opening up previously unimagined horizons of emancipation. The Great War was therefore a most particular moment in women’s history and the diverse circumstances and experiences opened doors that would close again.