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Women During the Second World War.

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Introduction

Women During the Second World War 1. Describe the ways in which women's work in the home contributed to the war effort 'You women at home are winning the war as much as your menfolk in the services,' reads Source D from the 1941 Ministry of Food. The theme of the importance of women on the home and 'Kitchen Front' is continued by the 1970s school text book in Source K, "It was the ordinary housewife who was in fact decisive...if she had once revolted the whole system would have become unworkable." 'Food is a weapon of war,' states the Ministry of Food. As the German U-boat campaign strengthened, not only valuable military equipment, ammunition and fuel were lost, but food imports were jeopardised and rationing was necessitated. Britain had to become more dependent on its own resources and it became clear that women at home had, 'The job of using...foods to the greatest advantage.' The Ministry of food advertisement, Source E, shows how women were encouraged to help in the making of, 'A second front - the Kitchen Front - against Hitler.' Here, they are encouraged to increase their use of home-grown vegetables, to try new things and experiment on cooking recipes and hints from Kitchen Front Wireless Talks (and the like), to save and re-use all bread crusts and crumbs, not to accept unfair ration hand-outs, not to buy over-priced scarce food and to serve larger portions of vegetables than usual. Although it was one of the most important, food was not the only area in which women's work in the home contributed to the war effort. The ordinary housewife is said by Source K to have been able to lose, 'The war in any week. ...read more.

Middle

Why have women's roles been seen as less important? Quite simply, there's the fairly straightforward, yet short-sighted notion that the men were in the battle, bravely doing the fighting that the women physically, mentally, morally and ethically couldn't do, many of them getting killed for the noble cause of their king and country. It was them, from this view point, that actually progressed the course of the war, whereas the women, in comparison, did far less significant tasks, such preparing food and making the ammunition, weapons and vehicles that the men bravely used in battle. However, the actual truth about why women's roles were often seen as less important than men's may be a little more complicated There are, for a start, the basic facts. Many men were actually the ones in frequently life-threatening situations. Even though women did face some danger and did some specific military work in the WAAF and the WRNS or bravely performed tasks as air raid wardens or members of the fire brigade throughout the Blitz, they couldn't really compete, in terms of glamour, importance and patriotism, with the roles of even less-skilled, less-patriotic and less-brave male soldiers. Source E, advertising, 'Medals for Housewives,' implies this by encouraging British housewives to create the Kitchen Front. It is likely that the Ministry of Food published this piece of propaganda to encourage the idea that women were as important as fighting men in the war and to therefore inspire them to work harder. Although this does not, in itself, suggest an attitude, it is highly possible that the source came about because of an attitude of male superiority. If women had already been under the impression that they were making a second front against the opposition, then this source probably wouldn't have been written. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Equal Pay Act was not introduced until 1970. Women teachers and civil servants were awarded equal pay in 1955, after campaigning, and in response to a growing amount of children. However, the strongest point that suggests that the war did lead to permanent changes to the role of women in British society, is the awareness that the war seemed to create. Although Suffragists and Suffragettes had already been campaigning for over 75 years, the realisation of the imbalance in society created by the Second World War worked on a far larger scale. The effects were nation-wide because almost all women's lives had changed in some way because of the war. It is also fair to say that from the end of the war, there was a rise in women's rights and opportunities until today's society of more-or-less equality. Women teachers and civil servants won equal pay in the 50s, the invention of the contraceptive pill in the 60s solved problems of unwanted pregnancy. Renewed optimism followed and Women's Liberation came into being. A series of laws were made, or changed, finally ending with the Equal Pay act in 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act in 1975 and a woman Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, in 1979. More labour-saving machines were invented, education for girls was improved and the Equal Opportunities Commission was established. The Second World War, itself, did not bring any of these changes, however, it was an important factor in the realisation what women should have been able do in post-war society. It is possible that without World War Two, women's equality would have developed more slowly on a much smaller scale. ...read more.

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