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Comment on the suggestion that women gained “illusory progress” in the societies of Western Europe during the inter-war period?

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20th Century European Economic and Social History Coursework Comment on the suggestion that women gained "illusory progress" in the societies of Western Europe during the inter-war period? In this essay I will clarify the meaning of illusory progress. Discuss the main arguments about the progress of women in Western European societies in the inter war years with respect to a large range of relevant sources. The main arguments are that women gained temporary progress after World War One (WW1) to help rebuild Western European economies which were left serious structural problems, for example a very large ship building industry. In order to do this women progressed in society, for example after WW1 women in Germany gained the vote. The main argument by historians is that this progress was temporary and was reversed with the depression, shown by Hitler removing the vote for women. Using the views of authors such as Bridenthal countered with opposing views from writers such as Stephenson to try and illuminate the major debates of this issue and then discuss them myself. The term Illusory Progress is advancement towards a higher social standing based on a deception. ...read more.


The long term prospects for women as stated by Koonz is that under fascist regime "women could never become equal" (Credential 1987:529). The inter war period saw a differing view of the standard of education women received. Stephenson highlights how "the 1920's saw an improvement in educational and professional opportunities for women". But also points out "Hitler's dictum that future motherhood is to be the definite aim of female education"(Stephenson 1975:116). This highlights that in Germany progress for women's education was being made. The Nazi's only allowing an anti-progressive education for women halted any such advancement. It is clear in Germany that the progress for women is different in the 1920's than the 1930's. In Britain there were 1, 253 doctors and surgeons by 1921 and there was double this by 1931 (Marwick 1977:136). This shows illusory progress during the inter war years, as medical associations put quotas on the number of females allowed to enter the profession (Bridenthal 1987:486). The longer implications of allowing women into education is that it is a catalyst to change. The evidence indicates that the authoritarian Italian and German states offer fewer opportunities for progress in the long term than the more democratic states like Britain. ...read more.


The economic cycles affected women's progress; there is a positive relationship between progress for women in society and the economic situation. An exception is Germany under the Nazi regime as it is an inverse relationship. The type of regime within a country greatly affected women's progress. Authoritarian regimes, of Italy and Germany, seemed to allow independence in the welfare state in order to tie women to their regimes. The greater implications though were that women would not gain power under these regimes. The long-term trends were that women were achieving better employment opportunities, experiencing a greater freedom socially and politically in Western Europe. To conclude my essay it is clear women gained illusory progress during the inter war period. This illusory progress appeased women in the short term but in the long term it inspired and allowed women to gain equality and access to power. The First World War had a great influence on the interwar period, using a quote from Bruley to close my essay, "Historians are still assessing the impact of the war British society" (Bruley 1999:59). This shows that answering the question "Comment on the suggestion that women gained an "illusory progress" in the societies of Western Europe during the inter-war period?" cannot lead to a definitive answer. ...read more.

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