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Why Had A Strong Feminist Movement Emerged By 1900 And What Had It Achieved.

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Introduction

Why Had A Strong Feminist Movement Emerged By 1900 And What Had It Achieved. By Ali Gosling A strong movement had occurred by 1900 due to a number of factors. These were the rights of women, the growth of democracy and gaining the vote as a means to an end. These beliefs gave rise to some changes for women in aspects of their lives such as education, work, marriage, sexual morality and politics by 1900. However it can be seen that the achievements of this feminist movement were also limited. There were many reasons why women wanted the vote. Women wanted the vote for many reasons. Firstly, they believed it was (and always had been) their right - i.e. it was not seen as a campaign to gain a new privilege as much as to restore an old right. This went back as far as the sixteenth century when female freeholders were allowed to vote. Another example of women playing a significant role in parliamentary politics is the abbesses who were involved in high level policy making - in early parliament. Activists were angered that more and more acts were passed allowing more men to vote. Working class men were franchised meaning often farm workers could vote but their female employees could not. The fact that land owning women had to pay taxes but had not say in how it was spent was seen as hugely wrong. It outraged respectable, middle class women that illiterate, uneducated men (who they viewed as inferior) ...read more.

Middle

Domestic service was the most common profession for working class women, but they also worked in cotton factories in the North and did other low paid, unskilled jobs. With the advancement of technology and increase in banking industries women gained jobs known as 'white blouse' work. Working conditions and wages improved due to legislation. Middle class women were generally expected to stay at home, but if the situation required they would usually become governesses and teach. As time went by women began to gain opportunities as nurses, architects, factory and workhouse inspectors and civil servants. The war also meant many women took on different roles. Before 1980 women were unequal partners in marriage. They were considered the property of their husband and he could do as he pleased to her. The husband also had custody of the children and all the woman's money and possessions became the property of the man on marriage. There were a number of acts passed which much improved the position of women. The Married Women's Property Acts of 1870 and 1882 did not create equal rights but were at least a stepping stone. The Matrimonial Causes Act 1884 made it illegal for men to confine their wives if they refused to have sex with them. A court also ruled men did not have the right to force their wives to live with them against their will. Divorce laws were improved in the 1870s and 80s meaning women who were beaten or deserted by their husbands had custody over their children. ...read more.

Conclusion

This privilege was taken away from women just after the turn of the century when Suffragist Lydia Becker encouraged boys as well as girls to do activities such as needlework and cooking. Men saw this as ridiculous. They made sure women could no longer exercise their feminist ideals so effectively. In conclusion it can be seen that although a strong feminist movement had emerged by 1900, only limited gains were made towards female Suffrage. The main reason for this was that Suffragists were challenging the philosophy their society was based on - the public and private spheres. Victorians believed men, who had hunted for food throughout history, were better suited to the public sphere of work and politics whereas women, who bore children and breast-fed, were considered to be better in their `natural domain' - home - looking after children, cooking and cleaning. Other reasons included general public opinion - of men (of course!) - having the view that women were inferior and were guided by their womb not their mind. Some feared family life would be destroyed because women would be off at political meetings instead of taking care of the house. It was the general feeling that most women didn't even want the vote - the Suffragists were just a minority of unstable and frustrated women. People were afraid of changing a political system that (in their opinion) worked perfectly, especially since Britain was the most powerful country in the world. Others believed women were represented by their husbands anyway because their political position was supposed to be the same. ...read more.

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