How much impact did war have on social attitudes, 1939-1950 in Britain?

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How much impact did war have on social attitudes, 1939-c1950 in Britain?

This essay will examine the central topic relating to the impact of the Second World War on British society in regardance to their social attitudes. Attention will be focused on the question of whether the experience of war on the Home Front led to an ‘impact’ on social attitudes and whether this was large, minute, short term or long term. The greatness of this war caused an impact and changed people’s viewpoints & social attitudes.

One major change in social attitudes, was that of the attitudes towards women. During World War II many women took up jobs that had previously been considered only for men. Women worked in heavy industry and on the land, among other things. In the years from the outbreak of World War II until the early 1950s, many social changes took place that contributed towards the birth of the women's liberation movement. These social changes can be seen extremely clearly as data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau show that from 1940 to its peak in 1950, the labor force participation (LFP) rate for all women increased by 24.3 percent [2]. It is an interesting statement on the social attitudes toward female labor that ‘the war did not inflate women’s wages. Employers would hire several women to replace one man. By 1939, a working woman’s weekly wage had returned to being half the male rate.’[3].Clearly social prejudices and the needs of employers were not so much against women working as against their entering new fields of employment and receiving higher wages. These pieces of evidence show how World War 2 only had a minor impact on social attitudes towards women. Whilst on paper all women seemed free, there were still issues which made the major social attitude changes appear illusory. For instance, stereotypes of women had not completely changed, with ‘the home and childcare still seen as primarily women’s responsibility, however with the added expectation to work as well’. Even though, the employment of women could be argued as ‘still concentrated in low skill, low status occupations’, they were still finally able to join the workforce. As well, as the social attitudes to women being minor, they were also short term, as many were expected to give up their jobs to returned soldiers after the War.

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Whilst many were expected to give up their jobs to men after the war, social attitudes towards what women were capable of doing had been changed by the experience. This fuelled women's attempts to achieve better conditions and pay for themselves in the workforce, therefore the war had a major impact on the social attitudes of women themselves. Their mobilization was a critical social phenomenon of the war, giving many of them a sense of fulfilment they had not known in their peace-time lives. The war had given them the opportunity to finally work, and they weren’t willing to give it ...

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