"The Impact of World War 1 on women's role in British society was only temporary - Do you agree?"

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“The Impact of World War 1 on women’s role in British society was only temporary.  Do you agree?”

WW1 played a vital role in the change of attitudes towards women throughout the world, not just in Britain.  In Britain should women have been more dubious of this sudden change, or should they have expected it to be long term?  The majority of women were optimistic however there were a small number who remained pessimistic.  The aim of this assignment is to discover which ones were right, the optimists or the pessimists.  

Before the war women usually only held domestic roles, for example maids and servants.  This is because it was tradition in Britain – men did the hard work, and women tended to look after the higher classes.  Women were thought of as not being strong enough to carry out the type of work men did.  Only few women worked as it was, many of them, particularly married women, stayed at home and looked after their husbands and children.   There as ever some exceptions, such as Barbara Bodichon who campaigned from an early age for equality and more rights for women.  She established an undenominational school, in the 1850’s campaigned for women’s legal rights, and later moved on to campaign for the franchise.  She also believed that women were equal to men and there was no need for everyone to marry.  Bodichon argued that “a marry women’s dependence on her husband was degrading”.  

Previous to 1914 women had no political influence of any form.  This is not due to lack of trying, the Suffragettes had been attempting for many years but to no avail.  The Suffragettes were an organisation established solely to gain the vote for women.  Many Suffragettes for example Emmeline Pankhurst were extremists and imprisoned for their efforts.  This did not deter them but simply made them even more determined to succeed.  

The women of pre-WW1 had their lives dominated by men.  This started at a young age when boys were expected to attend school however girls very rarely went and were not expected to do so.  This domination continued throughout their lives.  Only men had the power to make decisions about women’s lives.  They had all political power, and made up all employment figures except for the   24%, which were domestic roles – filled by women.  When a woman married she was effectively handing over her life to her husband and giving him all power.  As this was all they knew, most women did not see what was wrong with this, and gave their husbands the utmost respect.  

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However during the Great War 1914-1918 women’s expectations and the expectations of women changed.  As men were expected to go off and fight in the war it meant there were few left to make the munitions and equipment needed by the soldiers.  The government therefore enlisted the help of women who had been left on the Home Front.  This decision faced opposion from industrialists and trade unionists, who didn’t want unskilled women to hold jobs traditionally held by men.  However in 1915 the ‘Ministry of Munitions’ was established with its primary aim being to enrol women in munitions factories.  This ...

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