VE Day was a celebration of the wars end, a way of recognising the sacrifices and hardships of the British soldiers who could now safely return home. For women in particular, this day also marked a shift in the way society operated and the roles in which people were confined.

The Second World War changed the world of work for women forever, banishing the notion that they were only fit to be housewives or to do ‘women’s jobs’, such as nursing or being a domestic servant or shop assistants, and ushering in an age where women turned established gender roles on their head.

As men were called upon to fight, it was the women who took over the running of the country, filling jobs that were long thought of as unsuitable for women such as working in factories to produce bombs or aircraft parts through to working as engineers, mechanics, plumbers and ambulance drivers. When the war reached its conclusion, these women would not relinquish their newfound freedom easily.

This unforeseen shift was triggered when women were called up for war work, beginning in March 1941. Initially only young, single women were called upon, but by mid-1943, almost 90 per cent of single women and 80 per cent of married women were working to ensure their country’s success.

The Women’s Land Army was one such project. As war was becoming ever more likely, the need for food grown within Britain was increasing, and the need for help to grow that food was even greater now that the men had gone abroad to fight. The government began the Women’s Land Army to combat this lack of food, recruiting women to work on farms and take up the positions that had become free.

Established in June 1939, the women of the land army were tasked with ploughing the fields, taking care of the animals and harvesting the crops, among many other crucial tasks, and worked long hours to keep up with demand, totalling around 50 hours a week over the summer months.

The contribution of these women kept the country fed and working, whilst the involvement of others helped the war effort directly.

During the course of the war, over 640,000 women were in the armed forces, with organisations set up specifically to include them. This involved The Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS), the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), whose most notable member was the then Princess Elizabeth who had trained as a driver and mechanic and reached the rank of Junior Commander. Mary Churchill, Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s youngest daughter, also served as a member of the ATS.

Besides these prominent examples there were many more women who flew unarmed aircraft, drove ambulances, served as nurses and worked behind enemy lines in the European resistance in the Special Operations Executive, each one of them doing their part in the war effort and fighting for their country.

But it wasn’t only the women taking up these tasks that need to be recognised. Regardless of their occupation or social standing, it was up to women to take on a variety of roles in order to keep their households running, fighting a daily battle of rationing, recycling, reusing, and cultivating food in allotments and gardens.

So this VE Day, take the time to recognise the contributions of women during that time, with the war impacting them in ways no one could have predicted and forever changing the way in which women were seen as a gender, their capabilities and experiences adding to society.