Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts


Kayleigh Duggan 

Women on the Home Fronts of World War I

Pat Barker: Inner Turmoil Revealed

Citizens from various nations on the home fronts of World War I perceived women in a new light, and granted them recognition as pivotal role players in the war effort. World War I was a total war, including soldiers on the battlefronts and civilians on the homefronts. Many women contributed to the effort on the home fronts through the difficult labor in the medical, industrial, and agricultural fields.Women impacted the war in tremendous ways on the home fronts by successfully fulfilling jobs perceived prior to the war as only being “masculine trades.” With the job security women provided, nations were able to focus entirely on the war, elevating their chances at success. Also, with women working in jobs that were once viewed as primarily “masculine,” they found a new sense of empowerment in society. With this sense of empowerment came women seeking active citizenship through suffrage in both the United States and England. Women were a fundamental asset to the success of nations in World War I, and the war would not be remembered the same without them.

Novelist Pat Barker’s works explore the hardships of life and the inner turmoil experienced by those suffering in England as World War I unfolds. Barker analyzes the intense feelings of belonging of men who serve their nation in war and, in contrast, the feelings of marginalization that her female characters face. War destroys the characters’ relationships, both by separating them physically, and by polarizing opinions about whether the outcome of war is worth the tremendous loss inflicted by it. Additionally, war destroys relationships through death, and many characters believe that death is inevitable, and therefore no longer value human life. In the novel Toby’s Room, protagonist Toby rapes his younger sister Elinor just days before being deployed to battle. Barker depictsToby’s inner turmoil due to his lack of control over his deployment to war as being at the root of his violent actions. Ultimately, Barker’s novels focus on the impacts of war on the individual, and how it has the potential to reveal troubling and disturbing emotions within.

Major Works Consulted:

Barker, Pat.Life Class. New York: Doubleday, 2013.
--. .Toby's Room. New York: Doubleday, 2012.
Darrow, Margaret H.French Women and the First World War: War Stories of the Home Front.Oxford: Berg, 2000.
"Women's Roles on the Home Front."BBC News. BBC, 2014. Web. 31 Mar. 2016.
Photo Credit:Canter, Alicia..Pat Barker Interview. 2015. The Guardian. Web. 8 Apr. 2016.