Wars Turned Men into Heroes but Women Turned Yellow, Facts About the Canary Girls
Men who survived in World Wars I and II were honored as heroes. Unfortunately, many women who carried out equally heroic deeds during the war received no such honor. Instead, they were dubbed the Canary Girls because their hair and skin turned canary yellow. Here are some of the most heartbreaking facts about them:
Canary Girls served as munition workers
During World War I, thousands of British women entered the workforce to fill the gaps left by men who were sent to the battlefield. While others worked in ordinary factories, some of them worked in munition plants as trinitrotoluene (TNT) shell makers, fully exposed to the harmful effects of TNT.
The toxic chemical TNT caused their skin and hair to turn bright yellow. TNT primarily affects the liver, which was the reason for the worker’s yellow color (jaundice). Records showed that there were 400 women who suffered from toxic jaundice during World War I.
Canary Girls gave birth to yellow babies
Canary Girls were not the only ones affected by the harmful effects of TNT. Those who were pregnant also gave birth to babies with the same bright yellow color. The poor children did not only inherit the skin stain but the nickname as well since they were called “Canary Babies”.
Canary Girls were exposed to great dangers
Apart from aesthetic problems caused by TNT, the Canary Girls were also exposed to serious dangers. Since they handle toxic chemicals daily, they were consistently at risk of contracting life-threatening diseases. Moreover, they were also at risk of burning, losing hands and fingers, and even blindness as the explosives can detonate any time.
Considering all the dangers they faced daily, it was truly disappointing that the Canary Girls were not only ridiculed for their appearance, but they were also had to work long shifts with very little pay.