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Women Serving as Firefighters in London, 1916

With so many men dead, wounded or away at the front – women were needed to run the factories and take over what had been traditionally male jobs. Here a group of women can be seen practicing evacuating people from a building using a ladder.

Today, a woman working as a firefighter is not longer unusual, so much so that the use of the word fireman has fallen into disuse in favour of the more inclusive and gender neutral “firefighter”.

The women in this picture were definitely trail blazers, but I can’t help notice that even though they were doing non-traditional jobs, these women were still saddled with traditionally female clothing. The women are all wearing long skirts and large platform shoes. Imagine trying to rescue someone from a burning building in these outfits. They would be likely to trip or even catch fire because of all of the excess fabric flapping dangerously around.

Still, World War 1 did much to break down gender stereotypes and free women in the west from being pigeon holed into traditional occupations.