The World War One contributed significant changes in women’s social, political and economic structures. Women were allowed to enter in war and emerged as essential members of troops and battalions. Women, Bochkareva included, worked in military home fronts, tended the wounded soldiers and mobilized donations to support the war. The war signaled significant changes to women’s roles in societies brought about suffrage movements advocating for equitable political and economic rights.
Women Participation in War
The onset of war combat led to the establishment of a female volunteer movement that encouraged women’s desire to join and serve in the army to defend Russia. Patriotism and desire to defend Russia was a key reason why women desired to participate in the war (Chinkin and Kaldor 169). Additionally, since most of the men were out fighting, women partners sought to stay close to their husbands to offer necessary protection and retaliate for the deaths of loved ones. Even though women represented absolute minority in the army, they played essential roles. Their main efforts were concentrated on the home front where they tested ammunition and operated switchboards. Women equally collected donations to support the war. Furthermore, they also worked in hospitals as nurses and helped refugees and families affected by war.
Modification of Women’s Roles
The onset of World War One prompted aggressive nations to re-evaluate the previous history regarding women’s demand for political, civil, and economic rights. These rights included equality for married women, the right to possess property, right to undertake higher education, as well as access to equal employment opportunities. Chinkin and Kaldor report that some of the demands had been realized prior to 1914, and many were still being fought for during and after the war (178). Women’s movements believed that the right to vote way key in achieving all the rights and demands (Jones 128). Women suffrage organizations in Russia supported women’s movements committed to the war. For that matter, women were recognized as essential organizers on the home front and served in government councils.
Britain and United States had perceived the inclusion of women in societal activities as a noble idea. The mentioned nations had already established first societies for women’s suffrage and contended with decades of suffrage campaigns (Chinkin and Kaldor 175). In Germany, working women organized in Social Democratic or Socialist Parties influenced women’s political rights (Chinkin and Kaldor 180). Thus, different nations emphasized that women’s qualities would benefit countries in war, as well as societies once admitted in war and political life respectively.
Contributions of Maria Bochkareva
Maria Bochkareva commanded the battalion of death. She was a peasant farmer who worked hard to be included in the traditional Russian Army in 1914 (Jones 130). Bochkareva persuaded the government to put the women’s battalion under her command which consequently attracted more than 2000 female volunteers (Jones 133). The first test of the unit under Bochkareva’s command was during the Kerensky Offensive, in which they faced the Germans. Bochkareva and her troops made it through the German territory trenches and received honors for their bravery and initiative (Jones 135). During her time, Bochkareva was recognized internationally as a war veteran dedicated to Russia’s continuing war efforts. Bochkareva was a role model to many women because of the critical roles she played during the war. She endured onslaughts of enemy artillery, rescued the wounded, and volunteered for myriad scouting missions.
Government’s Thoughts about Women’s Participation in War
The government saw the women battalions as an impractical idea as they presented threats to military stability. The women’s battalion of death was disbanded by the government because the women received hostility from their masculine counterparts. Chinkin and Kaldor claim that men were upset with women for not allowing the former to retreat in many occasions during the war (183). Furthermore, even though there were official women battalions, some movements did not prevent the formation of unrecognized female troops without the government’s authorization. Additionally, the government discovered the women did not raise the male morale during war as had been anticipated. The infighting between women and men threatened to disintegrate the armed units.
Germany and Russia’s Women Mobilization
Russian women were mobilized to participate in war through female volunteer movements. Even though these movements received limited support, they mobilized women to pursue their desires to defend the Russian Empire. In Petrograd, For example, campaigns to allow women enter the army were conducted in newspapers (Jones 137). Additionally, female activists called for women reconnaissance allowing women to be employed as clerks and messengers signaling the growing desire of women to serve their nation even in war. In Germany, women’s mobilization was conducted by the local and state authorities. As such, financial support was provided to families whose female members had agreed to volunteer in war. The allowances helped women volunteers feel better about abandoning their loved ones.
The World War One accelerated the pace at which women were integrated in social, economic, and political life. The women waged war, worked in home fronts, nursed wounded soldiers, and mobilized donations to support the war. Consequently, women gained economic and social opportunities anchored on equitable rights advocated by suffrage movements. However, the communist ideology anchored on discrimination would discard self-realization and consciousness of women. The women battalions in Russian were abolished because the government thought women were rivaling men.
Chinkin, Christine and Mary Kaldor. “Gender and New Wars.” Journal of International Affairs, vol. 67, no. 1, 2013, pp. 167–187.
Jones, Heather. “Violent Transgression and the First World War.” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, vol. 104, no. 414, 2015, pp. 124–143.