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on 8 January 2014
At the end of WWI few (women) 'realised how much they had done for future generations. They had become citizens. Even if the law, prejudice and convention were still obstacles to full recognition, they had taken great strides towards equality, leaving footprints all over traditional male-only territory.'

Kate Adie's excellent history of women's involvement from all walks of life in the war machine made me think deeply about how far we've come in a century. By taking concrete examples from all walks of life, the 'glamour' of the nursing staff, the well-known munitionettes and Land Girls, to the women who clean the trains (but were never allowed to drive), the clippies on the trams, the poster-pasters and the skeleton women's police force, she shows us women determined to do their bit, to prove that they were not the equal of men, but a more-than-acceptable replacement, women who fought in their own way just as hard as men for victory. Their grit and determination and sheer hard work wasn't so much surprising to me as the obstacles put in their way. We forget that 1914 was an Edwardian world of clearly-defined class positions and extremely rigid sex discrimination. Women were the weaker sex - literally, physically and mentally. They were the guardians of morality - and therefore to blame when morality 'failed'. French brothels were accepted, the very idea of a British woman mingling with the troops though, would damn them all. The resistance to women doing their bit, even when that encompassed the nurturing roles such as nursing for which they were accepted, was unbelievable, and Kate Adie's book is unbelievable full of examples.

It's a book about the politicisation of women, but it's also a book about the failure - or perhaps I should say the limitation - of it. It's a book that shows how women succeeded by playing to the strengths learned the hard way before the war - of organisation and mass mobilisation - through the much-derided women's suffragist movements. It's a book that made me think about why women don't seem to have been so traumatised by the war as men - Adie argues that because expectations of courage were so low, they couldn't fail, an interesting perspective. And it's a very readable book too - it's not just for the history buff, not just for the feminist, you don't even have to know much about the War. It's not a military history, and in fact the War itself is largely absent from it. But it brings the War slap bang into perspective, a century after it started.
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VINE VOICEon 6 October 2013
I ordered this book because Katie Adie seemed to be approaching the war from a very different angle to most other volumes being published at present (Max Hastings, Richard van Emden and Saul David stand out amongst the current crop). Kate Adie has produced an illuminating and erudite book - it is well written and very well researched (the extracts from various sources really bring the subject alive). Shifting the focus from the war front to the home front and an analysis of how women stepped forward to fill a wide range of occupations traditionally fulfilled by men has resulted in an enlightening account of the war. During the second decade of the last century social attitudes to the role of women changed markedly as a result. In particular, she is very effective at debunking stereotypical myths about the role of women during the war. Overall, this is a lucid, compelling and highly readable examination of the Great War but from a totally different angle. Highly recommended.
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on 13 June 2014
This is a beautifully researched and written book about women's contributed to the war effort and the legacy it laid for future improvements and recognition of the value of women in the workplace. Interspersed with nuggets about her own experiences and family, it shows how far we women have come, which by the end of the war included a limited franchise for women, and how much further we still have to go in recognition of equality with men. Having said that, it is not a treatise on women's lib or bra burning. Kate Adie shows how women of all classes stepped up to take the place of men in the workplace for the 'duration' from filling shells to working in the fields. from making nets for hay to feed the horses to arranging concerts, from funding and organising hospitals in the front and at home to bringing a touch of home to the front with tea and writing paper. This has been a good read.
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on 17 November 2013
Kate Adie writes beautifully and often movingly about women about the time of the Great War. Vera Brittan would have been proud of her.
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on 12 March 2014
I had no idea of the role that women played in the war before I read this book. Nor had I understood how the war provided such a pivotal platform for women to gain independence, employment and status outside of the home. There were so many incredible women who I had never heard of before I read this book. Thank you Kate Adie.
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on 26 January 2014
I'm generally unwilling to bitch about new books but Fighting on the Home Front has really got me annoyed. I've read a lot of books about women's experiences in the Great War and I'm amazed that this one ever got published. Kate Adie pays minimal attention to the food shortages and rationing imposed on the population during the war, thus ignoring the huge part played by housewives, shopkeepers and everyone who spent hours in queues, coped with shortages, substitutions, price hikes and conflicting government advice, and cooked with hay boxes, indifferent gas supplies and over-priced and generally scarce wood. Her bibliography is random (which is a polite way to put it) and patchy: it's next to impossible to tell which facts come from which books. There is no direct index entry for 'munitions' and therefore no mention of incidents such as the Silvertown explosion, although there is a chapter on munitions (assuming the general reader knows where to look as the chapter headings are a touch vague). NB I've since read on a bit and lo, the Silvertown explosion is mentioned in the text (but not the index) under its official name Brunner Mond: again, this is annoying if you don't know this. Many of the anecdotes are not attributed: the interview with Lesley Davis (p59), the talk between Queen Mary and Mary MacArthur, and the quote by E Sylvia Pankhurst (p70) have no reference in either text or bibliography, the munitions chapter has no references, and Ms Adie's assertion that before 1914 women were mostly portrayed in fashion magazines as underwear models (p8) is just plain wrong: many of the hugely popular women's magazines of the time were aimed at housewives and so were concerned with food, cooking, shopping and domestic matters. All in all, this could have been a much better book. Where Kate Adie does score is in her empathy with the victims of war (no rhyme intended) as her observations on shell shock, panic and general mental dislocation are very thoughtworthy. However I'd be inclined to recommend other books first and leave this one until the first-time reader has filled in a few gaps elsewhere as Fighting on the Home Front, although very easy to read and informative on a wide range of topics, is annoyingly vague about a lot of things. My recommendations for books about women and the Great War include
Ian Beckett: Home front 1914-1918 (National Archives, 2006)
Deirdre Beddoe: Back to home and duty (Pandora, 1989)
Gail Braybon and Penny Summerfield: Out of the cage (Pandora, 1987)
Arthur Marwick: Women at war 1914-1918. Fontana, 1977)
E Sylvia Pankhurst: Home front (Cresset, 1987, 1st published 1932)
Jacqueline Percival: Breadcrumbs and banana skins (History Press, 2010)
Anne Powell: Women in the war zone (History Press, 2009)- this book makes mincemeat of pretty well all other books concerned with WW1 nurses
Richard Van Emden and Steve Humphries: All quiet on the home front (Headline, 2001)
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on 9 May 2014
A very readable book which highlights at last the role of women in WW1 , underlining their competence to achieve and take on a variety of roles previously considered too much for them. Precursors to subsequent female achievement in the 20the and 21 Centuries. What a legacy.
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on 21 September 2014
A fabulous book in every respect. Kate Adie enhances the facts by adding just the right amount of personal interest to spice the already fascinating text - the glass down the back of the sofa, her adoptive family's memories and tales from the first decades of the 20th Century, and of course her own vast experience of being a woman in war zones, frequently in male-dominated countries where women are still seen as second class beings. This subject had to be tackled by a 21st Century lady with unique qualities and that is what we have in this book. 5 stars are nowhere near enough.
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on 5 March 2014
Extremely well written in Kate Adie's distinctive style. So much interesting and fascinating information . Good reading for anyone interested in modern social history.
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on 26 February 2014
This is a most enjoyable book it made me feel proud to be of the female gender I am sure there are women in society now whom, we know nothing about at this time.
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