What Was Life Like During WWI?

Life during WWI was characterized by the inescapability of the conflict; soldiers faced imminent danger and unhealthy trench conditions, while civilians dealt with rationing, evacuations and air raids. During this time, entire nations pulled together to support their respective war efforts. In addition, the war brought many opportunities for women, who stepped in to fill the social and economic roles of the men deployed to combat.

Life for soldiers during World War I was hard. The trenches were dark, dirty and extremely confined spaces. The food rations were usually flavorless and monotonous. Long stretches of time between battles could be boring and tedious, but they were also dangerous. The “breaks” from one battle to the next were full of “wastage,” regular trickles of sniper and cannon fire. Extensive medical attention was unavailable. In the tight, wet space of the trenches, diseases, such as tuberculosis, spread rapidly.

Civilian life was also centered around the war. Cities lived under the perpetual fear of air raids. Families in Europe had to adhere to a very strict rationing system so that the men on the war front would have enough supplies. Quantities of meat, bread and vegetables were very limited. Clothing was also rationed; women would often have to go without stockings.

The war was a unique socioeconomic opportunity for women. Because the men left home to fight, women went into the workforce like never before, performing jobs and earning wages that had previously been unavailable to them. The most sought-after jobs were in the munitions industry, where women making weapons derived a strong sense of pride from directly furthering the war effort.