The First World War only occupies a few paragraphs in Anita Elizabeth Hughes’s biography. The only aspects of her life she says the war altered were the relationship she had with Frank and her job. Like many of the events explored within her autobiography, the war is explored with a detached tone, even when she discusses her brother Alex going to war: “decided to go and do his bit for his country” (8). If anything her life seems to have improved by going to war; she no longer had to work at the mill factory which she hated and she was able to work among men at the munitions factory, which she enjoyed.
Anita Hughes discusses the more mundane sides of war, such as a rationing. She writes a paragraph dedicated to rationing and the troubles that she incurred having to work nights: “Butcher’s meat could only be bought on certain days…I had to take my ration book… it meant getting to bed later still” (9). This mundane detail shows the reader how the war effected the people back home and their every day lives.
During the war, Anita was courting with Frank through letters because he had joined up. But his role in the war is never mentioned even though it was the main obstacle to why they could not be together. Anita’s heartache came after the War and in a incident all together removed from it, when her sister died in 1918.
Anita Hughes’s is one of the authors in the Burnett Archive to live through two World Wars, though it is not a subject Hughes writes a lot on. She writes less than a page on the First World War and the Second World war is not mentioned. But the First World War did have an impact on Hughes’s life. She was no longer shackled down to a job at the mill and unlike her mother she could choose to have a smaller family. As Gail Braydon states: “the war resulted in little lasting improvement for working-class women” (Braydon, 93), 2012.
- Braydon, Gail. Women Workers in the First World War: The BritishExperience. Routledge, 1981.
- Hughes, Anita Elizabeth. “My autobiography” 1.357 on your author in The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography, ed. by John Burnett, David Vincent and David Mayall (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1897, 1989) 3 vols.
- Image taken from a website about rationing during the first world war – http://www.1900s.org.uk/1918-food-rationing.htm