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Attitudes towards women and their right to vote had changed by 1918 - How important was the First World War in bringing about this change?

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Introduction

Attitudes towards women and their right to vote had changed by 1918. How important was the First World War in bringing about this change? The First World War had some importance in enabling women to be enfranchised, yet its influence was limited. There had been increasing long term progress before it, and it did not fundamentally change attitudes towards women. There is a lot of evidence to show that attitudes were already changing before the war. Women had won the right to vote in local elections, and also had new legal rights such as the Divorce Act of 1857 and the Married Property Acts of 1870/1872. It was still widely perceived that the woman's role was in the home, to be a wife and a mother. Those women that were employed were working class in majority doing unskilled jobs, and were frowned upon by society. Their pay was half that of men of equal position, and it was usual for a woman to be sacked after marriage. ...read more.

Middle

This is key evidence that attitudes towards women and the vote had already changed greatly before the war. During the war, women played a very positive role. Because of the lack of male workers during the war, there was a massive increase in the numbers of women in paid work. New jobs that had previously only been available to men had opened, women were now working in munitions factories, transport, even in the armed forces as cooks, drivers or nurses. Most of the Suffragettes and Suffragists immediately stopped their campaign, and encouraged woman to serve their country. It was partly because of their calling on the government that women were allowed to serve. Women's social habits changed; they were now more independant, and were free to do many things previously regarded as unacceptable. The war was such a massively demanding period of time that it brought the whole nation together. ...read more.

Conclusion

Because each party had their own respective interests, they were happy that there would be balance between the voters for each party. The war also meant that the vote could be given to women as a way of thanks for their service in the war. They had wanted to give them the vote previously but did not want to seem to be giving in to Suffragette militancy, or literally, terrorism. In the long term, attitudes towards women did not greatly change. The war, whilst contributing to the slow progress that women were making, did not significantly change society's opinion. Women were still not regarded as men's equals, and the vote that they did receive in 1918 was not on equal terms. Evidence for the inequality would be to look at political figures. In 1918 there were only 17 women candidates out of over 600 MP's. Even looking at 1935's figures there were only 35 women candidates; so it is noticable that there was not a significant change. In conclusion, overall the continuities were more significant than the changes. ...read more.

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