Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Night In A German Munitions Factory

“Approximately 1,600,000 women joined the workforce between 1914 and 1918 in Government departments, public transport, the post office, as clerks in business, as land workers and in factories, especially in the dangerous munitions factories which were employing 950,000 women by Armistice Day (as compared to 700,000 in Germany)” (http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/womenww1_four.htm)

A Night in German Munitions Factory by Käte Kestien tells us a story about a typical day in the factory in the life of women during World War I. When the war started most of the men left for the front lines, which left no one to work. Although receiving welfare, women had to go to work in order to support the household. Most of the women, who did work in the munitions factories, chose to work the night shift because they would have to be home caring for the children during the day. The unfortunate side of this is that most of these women did not get much time to sleep before coming into work. This is one of the many things that added to the dangerous working conditions. There are a couple of key quotes that I have picked out, which summarizes the story.

“It’s the ether ‘said an elderly worker’ you’ll get used to it. Tomorrow you won’t even notice it.”

I feel this quote is a great way to visualize the way it must have smelled in the factory. “Munitionettes produced 80% of the weapons and shells used by the British Army and daily risked their lives working with poisonous substances without adequate protective clothing or the required safety measures.”(http://www.firstworldwar.com/features/womenww1_four.htm)

“I was working with gun powder which had to be filled into missiles”

“It was my job to reach past razor sharp blades, grab the neatly cut sticks of gun powder and push them across the table where four pairs of hands were putting them into bundles and packing them into cases.

The materials and machines that are described here (gun powder, missiles, razor sharp blades) are dangerous on their own and when you put them together, they seem to be a disaster waiting to happen.

“The machine had severed half her hand” “She simply had not been quick enough”

“Her response, “Thank God, its only the left.”

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