The First World War and Women's Equality

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The First World War and Women's Equality The Great War of 1914 - 1918 was a turning point in the history of many things, including the Women's Rights Movement. It is the effect the war had on the women's movement that I will be focusing on in this essay. Before the war women had very little rights compared to the men. They were forbidden from working in the heavy industries (mining and factories) or the higher paid 'full' professions of the time (lawyer, manager, etc). Women were only paid to work in the domestic industries such as childcare, housekeeping and nursing. If men were in the same industry (i.e. butlers) they were always paid more than women. If women did work they were also expected to do all the household chores at home as well. In 1911 only a third of the female population was in paid employment. Women had no say in whom was in the government and they were generally as second class citizens, a different race. A saying concerning women was that 'they should be seen and not heard'. Despite their being downtrodden many women who wanted reforms refused to give up and in 1912 the suffragette movement was formed. With the onset of the war things began to change. The men that usually did these jobs had enlisted in the army and if they weren't already dead they certainly weren't working so it left huge gaping holes in the industries that they came from. The demand for shells at the front caused women to start filling the jobs of the men. The effects of total war had caused the need for women to be employed in the heavy industries such as munitions, drivers, welders, and mechanics. Total war meant that instead of just the... ... middle of paper ... seen that during the war when women were working alongside men they were still not regarded as equal. The war did nothing to improve the lives of women directly but it changed many women's views of themselves and as a result support for equality increased. It was only after the war that many men began to realise that women were not second class citizens and that they could work alongside them. Although full equality was reached in 1928 (ten years after the end of the war) there is no doubt that had the war not taken place then it would have taken a lot longer for the full equality of women to happen. It is an interesting to note that today there is still a significant pay gap between men and women in the same industry just as there was in 1914. So perhaps the war did not help in bringing about equality at all.
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