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The lives of British women underwent enormous and permanent changes as a result of the First World War To what extent do you agree with this statement?

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Introduction

Jamie Buckler 11S "The lives of British women underwent enormous and permanent changes as a result of the First World War" - To what extent do you agree with this statement? Before, during and after World War One women's working, social and political lives underwent enormous and permanent changes. Women were affected in different ways depending on their social class. This essay will consider many of the changes which women underwent, as a result of the First World War, and how enormous and permanent these changes may have been. Before the war women were thought of as fragile things that belonged in the home, caring for their families. This attitude was mainly towards middle and upper-class women because they were better off and were not expected to work. Between 1870 and the outbreak of WW1 more well-educated women were coming through because education was improving, e.g. elementary schools were extending and Girton, Newnham, Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall colleges were opened as all-women colleges. This increase in well-educated women opened up new jobs for working and middle-class women. More working-class women were getting "middle-class" jobs, such as, in teaching and nursing. Even so, lower class women were the "industrial drudges of the community", according to Arthur Marwick, so they were expected to work in jobs such as textile industries and as maids and cooks for the middle and upper-class. ...read more.

Middle

At the start of the war things were slow to change for women; the number of women employed in munitions rose from 212,000 to only 256,000 between 1914 and 1915. The pace of change began to increase, though, because by July of 1916 this number rose to 520,000. Women received a huge pay increase relative to what they were paid before the war; this was a reason why so many women went to work in industries and left domestic services behind. The war sped up the rate of change for middle and upper-class women. Women had a huge variety of jobs to choose from during the war, middle and upper-class women would get the cleaner jobs, in nursing, transport and offices; the working-class women were stuck with the dirtier jobs, such as in munitions factories. There was a huge increase in the amount of women involved in banking and commerce and women were even becoming doctors which is probably the first time they would ever have had to do hard work. Having jobs was a huge change for the middle and upper-class women, but less so for the working-class women because the majority of them had jobs before the war. The biggest change in work from before the war was the rise in pay. Women's social lives became much more relaxed during the war; they could behave and dress more freely. ...read more.

Conclusion

Upper-class saw quite a small change because when their husbands came back the husbands had the same attitude they had before the war, limiting the women. Women's politics saw enormous changes; after the introduction of the vote things continued to improve. In 1919 an act was introduces which stated that married women would not be prevented from getting jobs, and the Property Acts in 1923 and 1925 allowed women to hold and dispose of property on the same terms as their husbands. Finally, in 1928 the vote was given to all women over the age of 21. Although, politically, things were slow to change for women at first all these events show just how far women had come, throughout and after the war, in gaining equal rights to men. Overall, womens' lives were changed in every way as a result of the First World War. The war increased the amount of women and the range of jobsthey were able to do, and changed their attitudes towards work forever. The social expectations of women were completely different after the war; they could wear virtually anything they wanted, go out whenever they wanted and were generally more free. Finally, the war made women more equal to men than ever before, in terms of political rights. Many changes were permanent and continued to improve and it is evident that World War One brought women higher in society and completely changed their lives. ...read more.

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