Women in the Great War

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1914 to 1918
Location: [unknown]
Surnames/tags: Great_War Women World_War_I
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Women in The Great War

In World War I women were organized in large numbers like never before. Most of these women were placed into the civilian work force to replace the men that had joined up or were conscripted.They were also sent to work in large munitions factories. Thousands of women served in the military in support roles, as nurses, in Russia some women saw combat as well.

Notable Women in The Great War


  • Madame Arno, a French artist, organized a regiment of Parisian women to fight the Germans.


  • Ecaterina Teodoroiu was a Romanian heroine who fought and died in World War I.


  • Maria Bochkareva: Мария Леонтьевна Бочкарева, née Frolkova, nicknamed Yashka, was a Russian woman who fought in World War I and formed the Women's Battalion of Death.
  • Olga Krasilnikov disguised herself as a man and fought in nineteen battles in Poland. She received the Cross of St. George.
  • Natalie Tychmini fought the Austrians at Opatow in World War I, while disguised as a man. She received the Cross of St. George.


  • Milunka Savić, Serbian war hero,and the most decorated female fighter in the history of warfare, awarded with the French Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour) twice, Russian Cross of St. George, English medal of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael, Serbian Miloš Obilić medal. She is the sole female recipient of the French Croix de Guerre (War Cross) with the palm attribute.


  • Olena Stepaniv, a Ukrainian officer of Legion of Ukrainian Sich Riflemen. Was the first woman to receive officer rank in the world.

United Kingdom

  • 1914: British nurse Edith Cavell helped treat injured soldiers, of both sides, in German-occupied Belgium. Executed in 1915 by the Germans for helping British soldiers escape Belgium.
Dorothy Lawrence
  • Dorothy Lawrence secretly posed as a soldier during WWI she persuaded two British Army soldiers to smuggle her a khaki uniform, changed her appearance cut her hair and obtained forged identity papers as Private Denis Smith of the 1st Bn, Leicestershire Regiment, and headed for the front lines.After 10 days of service she went to the commanding sergeant, who placed her under military arrest.
  • Flora Sandes, an English woman, joined a St. John Ambulance unit in Serbia and subsequently became an officer in the Serbian army.

United States

  • In 1917, World War I Army nurses Edith Ayres and Helen Wood (nurses held no rank during World War I) became the first female members of the U.S. military killed in the line of duty. They were killed on May 20, 1917, while with Base Hospital #12 aboard the USS Mongolia en route to France. The ship’s crew fired the deck guns during a practice drill, and one of the guns exploded, spewing shell fragments across the deck and killing Nurse Ayres and her friend Nurse Helen Wood.
  • Twin sisters Genevieve and Lucille Baker of the Naval Coastal Defense Reserve became the first uniformed women to serve in the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Frances Gulick was an US Y.M.C.A. welfare worker who was awarded a United States Army citation on May 30, 1918 for valor and courage on the field during the aerial bombardment of Varmaise, Oise, France.
  • Julia Hunt Catlin Park DePew Taufflieb. First American female to be awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor in the First World War for her efforts in turning her Chateau d'Annel into a front line hospital.
  • Opha May Johnson became the first woman to enlist in the United States Marine Corps as part of the United States Marine Corps Women's Reserve on Aug. 13, 1918.
  • Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the first active-duty U.S. Navy woman, and the first woman to serve in any of the U.S. armed forces in a non-nurse occupation on enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on March 17, 1917. Walsh subsequently became the first woman U.S. Navy petty officer when she was sworn in as Chief Yeoman on March 21, 1917.

Canaries To help with the "war effort", jobs opened and hired women that previously only hired men. Such as Railway guards, postal workers, clerks, and many began working in factories. Pay was a lower wage than what men would earn. Soon women began asking for equal pay.

Munitions factories hired women in Britain. These were producing the weapons and shells that they British Army used. (A bad side-effect was caused by the chemical ' trinitrotoluene', the explosive agent for shells). This chemical exposure with no safety protective clothing (there was no OSHA then) caused many women to be exposed. They were known as canaries because they had to handle TNT. Their skin turned yellow (jaundice). An estimated 400 women died from this overexposure to TNT during WWI.

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