How far did the role and status of women change 1914 and 1928

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Mehreen Karim

History coursework

How far did the role and status of women change 1914 and 1928?

We are studying how far the role and status of women changed between 1914 and 1928. It includes different aspects of life for the women; it will also refer to how and why life changed during the war.

In the early 20th century women’s lives were a repeated routine, which unfortunately was the same every single day. Women were not allowed to work unless she desperately wanted a job. She would have to work extremely hard to become a nurse or a teacher but the pay was very low. The women could also work as servants and worked in the textile industry.

During the war women did jobs that they had not been allowed to do before it, this was because all the men had gone to the war to fight and the government needed workers. There were only women left to do it. Many women had reliable well-paid employment for the first time. Women were, for the first time ever, paid an equal amount of money as the men, whilst they were doing the ‘men’s work’. The money gave the women greater freedom and more importance in British Society.

At the beginning of the war many of the women were given nursing jobs.23000 women served as nurses close to the fighting and a further 15000 volunteered to serve as assistants in the Volunteer Aid Detachments. Women were dealing with the sick and wounded the dying and the dead. The work was hard and unpleasant. At first the government did not allow women the same role in the armed services as well as nursing and industry. In 1917 it gave in. from spring of 1917 there were many jobs in the armed services which women were able to do as well. 100,000 women served in the various sections of the armed services: Women’s army auxiliary corps (WAAC), the women’s royal naval service (WRNS) and the women’s royal air force (WRAF).

Women in the WAAC were thought to be of a lower class. They quickly gained a ‘bad’ reputation for sexual misconduct with the troops in France. But the 21 reported pregnancies among the 6000 WAAC personal in France in 1918 suggest that these rumours were some what exaggerated.

Not every job filled by a woman was a replacement for a man. In 1915 the army blamed its defeat on a lack of artillery shells. The result of this was a huge increase in the production of shells by private companies. New jobs were created in these munitions factories, and by the end of the war over 900,000 women had filled them. However, this was very dangerous work. Explosions could kill and maim the workers. The chemicals used in the explosives caused workers to vomit and eventually turned their skin yellow, giving these women the name ‘Cannoves’. Nevertheless, Munitions work was very well paid; therefore many working-class women were willing to do this work.

When the war ended men came back to claim their jobs which meant that many women had to give up their jobs. Unfortunately many other jobs disappeared. There were fewer jobs in domestic service. By 1921 the economic decline meant that the number of women in work was actually lower than 1911. However, in 1919 the sex disqualification (removal) act was passed. This opened up professional careers to women, allowing them to become police officers with the same powers as man, as only certain areas of the country had allowed women to become police officers during the war.

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In the 1900’s women were expected to clean the house, look after the children and feed their husband and children. The only subjects they could study at school were the female’s ones such as cooking cleaning and childcare. They were not allowed to get to university either only men could.

There were no methods of contraception and they were not allowed to divorce their husbands on the grounds of adultery (sexual relations with someone other than their wife or husband). A husband could divorce his wife for having sexual relations with someone else, but this was not a ...

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