Investigating the reality -- why some women did not join

Look at this 1942 report written by a Sydney professor into why women were not joining the WAAAF.

  1. Summarise what the report says is the response to recruiting appeals for the WAAAF.
  2. Judging from this, do you think the advertisements referred to in the first component of this activity might have been successful?
  3. How could you try and find out what the situation was during the war for most women?
  4. What more would you need to know about this report before you accepted his conclusions as accurate?

Professor Elkin's Report

Bad name


Low rate of pay/civil work important


Personal fears and objections


Unsatisfactory recruiting methods


Time lag in muster


Accommodation problems


Objections to discipline


Fear of unemployment after war/compensation problems




An explanation of some of these reasons:

Low rate of pay

The low rate of pay is a very strong and indeed, unanswerable, argument for many girls, especially for those who contribute to the upkeep of their parents' home.

Fear of unemployment after the war

There is fear that if they give up their present position to enter the Auxiliary Air Force, they run a big risk, not only of losing status in their work, but even of being unable to obtain work at all after the war. This is of special importance to young women who occupy responsible positions in the commercial world.

Unsatisfactory propaganda and recruiting methods

The basis of the appeal which urges women to release Air Force men for the front by taking their base jobs as clerks, cooks and so on is not effective. Possibly many women do not want to be merely substitutes for men; if they can do certain duties as efficiently as men, they want to be regarded as fellow members of the Air Force - not as substitutes.

Social and personal objections

A number are deterred by a fear, or impression of snobbishness. Many girls are genuinely attached to their homes, and the desire that they should not leave them for comparative hardships, possible unpleasantness and risks of membership of a 'fighting' service, is mutual between them and their parents.

It's not 'our' war

Indifference and selfishness must be included in the personal reasons which in some cases prevent enrolment.

Moral aspersions

There is no doubt that stories about the moral conduct of W.A.A.A.F.s have put many girls off joining up, and have caused parents to dissuade their daughters, and Air Force men, to dissuade their girl friends and sisters from seeking to enrol.

(Professor A. P. Elkin, University of Sydney Archives Document, AWM PR 84/291)