After the First World War women had gained a huge step towards having equality with men. In 1918 married women over the age of 30 were given the right to vote. During the war women had proved themselves as capable as men, not only as nurses near the front lines working in very dangerous positions but also back in Britain working to help the war effort in jobs that before the war they could never have even had a chance of getting. However women were still a long way of having any vague equality with men, and when the men returned from war things changed as men were still considered far above women.
Although it had got worse since the end of the war it should be recognised that womens role in society had been greatly improved since the days before the First World War. During the Second World War many of the men were conscripted to go away to war. This meant that their jobs now needed to be filled in order for the country to work. , women got jobs in all areas of employment from working in manual labour to working in banks. They also managed to prove that they could do the jobs just as well as men and were able to work in jobs that had previously been for men only.
Gaining all these new jobs had been a huge leap towards women gaining equality with men, however when the men returned from war most if the women lost their war time jobs. This happened because of a number of reasons. Firstly, public opinion in general believed that the soldiers who had been fighting deserved to come back to jobs and not have to struggle with unemployment. Also some bosses of small and large companies felt that men were still better and didnt want to employ women over men.
A women who had worked as a welder during the war years was told, “Oh my goodness, youve got the best qualifications that we ever had apply for the job, but your a woman, and I wonder what the boys would say if I employed a woman” A newspaper editor was told when she was dismissed,”Oh its nothing wrong with your work, but we have to safeguard the succession and the successor has to be a man”. Bosses who were taking this line, and most of them were were infact taking and supporting the governments line.
The governments official line said it is doubtless true that there are many jobs done during the war by women for which men are better suited, both mentally and physically. And, if there is to be a nation in the future, there must be children and children mean homes and endless chores. So that there must naturally be a drift back from the services and the factories to domestic work. I believe that this is showing that men and the government (dominated by men) were showing an incompetence to realise that women were able to do the jobs that men traditionally did.
So although women had again gained a further step towards equality after the war they had again lost some of that newly gained freedom when the war ended in 1945. However not all women were displeased at societys attitude as after the war many women wanted to start families and now the men had come back from the war they were able to do this. The evidence for this lies in an area known as the baby boom, when the birth rate soared dramatically after the war. Even after the war when women were gaining more equality with men they did not have equal pay rates as men.
A woman doing the same amount of work as a man would be paid two thirds of what a man would be paid. Women didnt, understandably find this fair and in August 1943 them women who worked at a Rolls Royce factory went on strike and after a week on strike they were given equal pay. However all over the rest of the country women continued be exploited by societies views. Even the government were not willing to even think about women being equal to men. When female school teachers asked for equal pay with men, Churchill dismissed their demand with one word.
Even though now he was falling out of favour with the people and was soon to lose the general election, it showed that some men and in incredibly important positions within society, had no respect still for womens role in society. This meant that their status remained below a mans status even though in some cases they had become more equal, such as the right it do certain types of jobs. Before 1948 the government offered no medical assistance to women or their children only a small amount to men.
In 1942 the Beveridge report was published which illustrated the importance of setting up a Welfare State which would look after all citizens equally. In July 1948 the National Health Service Act and the National Insurance Act were introduced for a weekly payment by all people earning wages. This was a huge advance for womens equality and their place in society as it now made them equal. In the first few months thousands of women went to the NHS to be treated of illnesses that they had previously had to suffer in silence. The introduction of the Welfare State also brought about the Butler Education Act.
This meant that the minimum age to leave school was now raised to fifteen for all children. This was another huge advance for girls in school as it meant that there was now not only had free secondary education, and therefor this meant that the government recognised girls ability to thrive within a working and intellectual environment. It also meant that they were being put on the same level platform and being given equal opportunities in schools as boys, which would then go onto to effect the whole generations and its way of dealing with women as equals. However the system was slightly corrupt and it was not entirely equal.
When pupils went up into secondary schools they had to take an 11+ exam to determine which type of school they would go in to. There were three different types, grammar for the most academic, secondary modern and technical for pupils who would be more suited to manual and primary sector jobs. Although the system seemed to give equal opportunities for both girls and boys there were infact more grammar schools for boys than there were for girls. The Welfare State also introduced family allowances to try and deal with poverty among families with a large numbers of children.
It meant that for each child a small payment was paid to the women to help keep the child. This meant that the women now had some control over the finances within the household and that the man could not just go out and spend the money needed for the children. I believe that in the 1940s and 50s womens role in society improved greatly and that there were huge leaps made towards equality. However there were still some major issues that still had not been resolved and needed to be if there was going to get equality between men and women