Throughout history, the roles of women have changed dramatically. Women have been enslaved, been stripped of their rights, been given more rights, have been put down in society and been brought up. Women slowly, but surely have evolved into individuals one sees today: in public office, law firms or even the five o’clock news. However, this evolution did not occur overnight. It took time and effort to attain the position in society they have today. A major era in which the growth of a woman’s place took hold was during and after the First World War.
World War 1 was declared August in 1914. This meant Australia, part of the British Empire, sent 332 000 men to fight for their freedom, leaving many more women to become the breadwinners of their families.
During the war, Australian women were not permitted to serve in the military, except for nurses. The many women not qualified to nurse, wanted a more active role in the war, however, were discarded by government regulations.
A group of women determined to do more for the war effort, formed the Australian Women’s Service Corp (AWSC) in 1916. The aim of this organisation was to prepare women to take up roles they had never considered before and allow able-bodied men to enter the military service. A similar organisation, The Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps, was also formed among many others.
All these associations were largely but politely ignored by the Australian Government, receiving little success in getting society to change their traditional views on the role of women.
Nevertheless, for the women who did get the opportunity to contribute, thought it as an invigorating experience and a step in progress on the road to women equality. Women devoted to the war effort were mostly middle-class women whose husbands or fathers owned businesses and had reasonably comfortable incomes.
Due to the withdrawal of about half a million men, most of whom had been in the workforce, many women were forced to become the breadwinners of their families, therefore forcing them to work under-paid jobs with measly hours.
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