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Did giving women the right to vote in 1918 improve their role and status in the 20th century?

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Introduction

Did giving women the right to vote in 1918 improve their role and status in the 20th century? During the 20th century the position of women within British society changed dramatically. Women's rights, legislation and political freedom have changed their roles and status within society. But has it improved? In this essay I will consider what the position of women was prior to being given the vote in 1918, and circumstances leading up to the change in law. I will also discuss what has happened affecting women since that time and what I consider to be the current role and status of women. Before 1918 women were viewed as second-class citizens and inferior to men. This was due to the Victorian ideas of women's status, which said a woman's duty was to be a good wife and mother. Women had barely any rights at this time; they couldn't vote, didn't have free health care, education or any employment rights. Girls were expected to live at home and dependent on their fathers until they were married. After marriage they would just be seen as a possession of their husband. Any property or money, which the woman owned before her marriage, became the property of her husband on marriage. Even children were considered as belonging to the father, not both the parents. Although some reforms had started during Victorian times to redress the many inequalities between men and women, most of them only had a minor impact on the wealthiest classes of society. ...read more.

Middle

This left many women with no choice but to remain unmarried and work. Therefore the structure of society changed to include these women who were able to support themselves without male guidance. Nancy Astor became the first woman Member of Parliament to actually take her seat in 1919. During the period between world wars, women continued to campaign for more change in their status. By 1925 legislation concluded, "a father could no longer be considered as a sole guardian of his children." Laws were again changed in 1928 to make men and women's voting rights equal, this allowed women over twenty-one to vote. As with the First World War, the Second World War saw large changes in societies expectations of women. Social dependency on men disappeared and women were again needed to leave their homes and work on farms and in factories to help with the war effort. By this time women were able to spend more time with men unaccompanied, which lead to a rise in sexual behaviours before marriage. Although society still frowned on this it was a little more expected than it had been in the past. There was a change in women's attitude towards marriage as now women entered into it for personal happiness and not because it was a necessary course of action. In the 1930's family planning clinics were introduced and free contraception was available. Nevertheless these benefits were only given to married women who were seriously ill. ...read more.

Conclusion

Legislation in 1970 stipulated that within the next five years men and women should have equal wages for equal jobs. Many employers avoided this by giving men and women's jobs different titles although they were doing the same work. Due to this the Equal Value Amendment to the Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1984, which allowed women to claim equal pay for doing different jobs they considered to be of the same value. In 1975 another important piece of legislation was introduced, the Sex Discrimination Act, which banned sex discrimination from not only employment but also education and advertising. However even today, women's roles are similar to before being given the vote, as many women do prefer to stay at home with the children if financially possible, but some women enjoy the freedom of getting away from the house and children and this option is now open to them. Women's status on the other hand has changed completely; women are now considered equal to men and can work in any profession they choose. The twentieth century saw many new pieces of legislation, which had an important impact on the role, and status of women. However in my opinion the legislation only reflected the increasing social power of women in most cases. Most legislation followed a change in society rather than creating one. The only exception was giving women the right to vote, which was the first major step to improve the social standing of women, and was the cornerstone of enhancing and improving their role and status in the twentieth century. Laura Bond 11GY2Y ...read more.

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