By rationing, governments could alter the food women could obtain and eat; by imposing censorship, they tried to restrict the information they could know or share.
The waging of the war placed enormous expectations upon able-bodied men in the prime of life to serve in the military and upon their female counterparts to contribute to the war effort in many ways, in addition to maintaining their domestic roles.
Yet women’s full participation in political life remained limited, and some states did not enfranchise their female inhabitants until much later (1944 in France).
Imperial subjects and racial minorities, such as those in the United States, continued to be unable to exercise their full political rights.
However, they were also celebrated for their quiet heroism in keeping the home intact whilst their men were absent.
For all of women’s extensive and varied war work, most public celebrations of their contributions underlined that such labour was part of ‘doing their bit for the duration’.
Indeed, women’s designated role as guardians of morality meant that in most countries, ‘separation allowances’ – funds paid to soldiers’ dependents – were tied to their good behaviour, including in some cases demonstrating their sobriety and fidelity.
Women could support the military effort and the nation’s men in uniform as nurses, female military auxiliaries, ambulance drivers, farm workers, and factory labourers as well as in many other occupations, something evident in many of these documents.
Even where women did not live with such daily reminders of war, states and agents of civil society invested considerable energy in trying to connect women who were not near war zones with the front lines via propaganda.
In addition, the scope and duration of the war meant that governments enlisted women in the war effort by reorganising basic aspects of their lives.