“Fires Were Started” is a 1943 British documentary that demonstrates the heroism of London firefighters during the Blitz. In this clip, women answer phones at a fire station in order to direct firefighters where they are most needed during one night of the Blitz. When a bomb lands near the fire station, the women are nonchalant, one apologizing to the person on the other line “for the interruption” as she dives beneath her desk for safety. While these telephone operators exhibit the masculine characteristic of stoicism, the nurses in the 1940 Australian film “They Serve,” display female characteristics only. The film highlights the importance of the Australian Red Cross to the war effort and depicts female Red Cross workers as merciful, caring, and sympathetic—all stereotypically feminine characteristics.
What do these two depictions of women in stereotypically feminine work suggest about the willingness of British and Australian propagandists to reinterpret or uphold traditional gender roles?