This paper explores the nature and extent of Australian women’s unpaid work during the Great War. It examines the class basis of war work and considers the patriotic and philanthropic motivations behind it. Many accounts have dismissed war work with an empty tally of knitting and sewing. This paper considers the emotional labour invested in unpaid labour and recovers women’s crucial role as the mediators of loss and bereavement. It identifies the paradoxical nature of war work, surveying the tension between militarism and humanitarianism and concludes that the movement at once challenged and enforced traditional gender roles.