How far did the lives of women in Britain improve in the period 1939 - 1975?

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How far did the lives of women in Britain improve in the period 1939 - 1975?

After World War II, women began to see many major changes to their lives with the introduction of new laws. Some may argue that these changes helped to improve their lives, however some would disagree and claim they had little effect.

On one hand, women’s lives did improve. Source D, from an obituary for the Labour MP Roy Jenkins, outlines several of the laws introduced which helped to change women’s lives for the better. One such law is the “Divorce Reform Act of 1969”. In 1969, the government passed this Act which allowed a divorce on the grounds that a relationship had broken down, in contrast to the previous requirement to show some type of offence by either the husband or wife. The source also refers to the “Matrimonial Property Act of 1970” which was passed, giving women a share of the assets built up during a marriage. Before this Act, many women were left in poverty after a divorce. Both these Acts helped to ensure quality between men and women in a marriage. Source H, a 2006 history textbook, also shows how women in the 1970s were able to expand into the workforce. This was partly due to the Acts introduced to let women have more control over having children, as shown in the source: “to have children when and if she wanted”. Family planning had been available since the 1920s, but in reality women had little control over the amount of children they had. This changed in 1957 when medical researchers produced the first oral contraceptive pill, which was made free on the NHS in 1961. ‘The Pill’ transformed the lives of women because they could control how many children they had. After 1965, the birth rate fell dramatically, with the average number of children per family reducing to two or three, in contrast to six or eight like the previous generation. The Abortion Act was also passed in 1967, making abortion legal if two doctors agreed. This helped to prevent over 200,000 illegal abortions
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per year in Britain. In summary, women’s lives improved because they had begun to gain equality with men, and they had more control over the amount of children they had.

However, some may say that women’s lives had not improved. Source F, from a report by the leader of the Six Points Group in 1971, shows how many employers did not abide by the Acts introduced to help women. Concerning the Equal Pay Act, it says: “Those men are putting heels on the men’s shoes. The women are putting heel’s on women’s shoes. It’s not the same ...

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