[1970:] Before taking this job in the paint-shop [of the Cowlairs railway shop, my mother] had worked a machine at Hyde Park, where they made the big locomotives. She was very proud of her skill with the strong steel shapes, and sad when they had to sack all the women workers to make room for the men who needed the jobs. They made no fuss, the widows, at being ousted in this way. They accepted the fact that in normal conditions man was the breadwinner, and quietly looked elsewhere for work. (Weir 123)
[1986:] Written in 1982. I wrote this song for my mother (though not all its details are true for her), and for all the women of her generation who, it seemed to me, spent a large part of their lives waiting for their menfolk to come home from war. They were the women whose work during World War II showed us that women could do any kind of job and were perfectly capable of independence. For that example, although they had little choice at the time, my generation is grateful to them and I hope we have learned the lesson well. This remains my favourite of all my songs. (Judy Small Songbook 53)
[1986:] We met Judy in a club in Sydney where she sang this song which challenges the traditional role of women in times of war AND peace. (Notes McCalmans, 'Peace and Plenty')
[1988:] During the war women took on a myriad of tasks. Some took over their husbands' jobs and became blacksmiths, paper-hangers and grave-diggers. Others were drawn into nonmanual trades where women rarely worked: witness women dentists, ambulance- drivers and switch-pillar inspectors. In addition, banks and offices employed women tellers and clerks to do jobs traditionally reserved for men. These were instances of substitution in the domestic economy. But women were also required to help out in munitions production. It must be remembered that munitions meant more than guns and bullets; the term came to encompass virtually everything the armies needed.
[...] These changes elicited much anxious comment at the time. Employing women on jobs traditionally done by men presented a challenge to traditional sex roles. Some concerned voices were raised about the moral dangers of industrial work, the physical risks to the health of women, and the prospect of child neglect presented by the full-time labor of mothers. These (usually male) commentators [...] both understated the degree of women's industrial work in the pre-war period and overstated the change caused by the war. The French case illustrates this point. [...] In some areas, such as in metallurgy, fully a quarter of the labor force was female in 1918, compared to a twentieth in 1914. But this was the exception, not the rule. Elsewhere the proportion of women in the labor force did not go up much. Roughly 35 percent of the labor force was female in 1914; during the war, the figure rose to about 40 percent.
The same can be said of Germany. Women workers were recruited not from those previously unoccupied, but rather from those who had already been in paid labor elsewhere in the economy. Thus it is best to regard with considerable skepticism the numerous statements made during the war about its "revolutionary" effects on women's work.
After the Armistice, older patterns were restored in industry. In contrast, lasting gains in opportunities were registered in the clerical and commercial sectors. In Britain the female labor force in commerce rose by 400,000 during the war, and stayed high in the postwar years. [...] Many [women] recall the sociability of the job, and the satisfaction of learning new skills. But others recall the long hours and the double burden of paid work and unpaid child-minding and housework, which meant queuing up for scarce supplies either before or after working hours. (J.M. Winter, The Experience of World War I, p. 173f)
[1991:] Written for my mother and her friends after watching a T.V. programme on World War I. The people shown and interviewed were all men. (Judy Small, intro Tønder)
[1995:] Ich sollte in einem traditionellen Folkclub in Sydney für eine Freundin einspringen. [Deshalb] dachte ich mir, ich lerne besser ein paar traditionelle Lieder. Ich machte mich also auf die Suche nach traditionellen Liedern über Frauen, mußte aber feststellen, daß es so etwas in der australischen Folkmusik praktisch nicht gab. Die australische Tradition kennt nur zwei Lieder über Frauen, eins über Sträflinge, das andere über eine Schlacht zwischen Sträflingen.
Um diese Lücke zu füllen, fing ich zu schreiben an. [...] Ich schreibe erst seit 1980 eigene Lieder. [...] Am Jahresende fand ich Notizen zu vier oder fünf Liedern vor, die ich bisher nicht verwertet hatte. Ich setzte mich übers Wochenende ab und schrieb fünf Lieder, darunter Mothers, Daughters, Wives und Mary Parker's Lament. Diese beiden gehören für mich noch heute zu meinen besten Sachen. (Judy Small, Folk Michel 1/95, S. 13)