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The employment opportunities for women pre world war one were generally very limited. They depended very much on whether you were working class or middle class. However attitudes remained the same for both classes. They had to dress suitably showing no flesh nor go out without a chaperone and never go into a pub! These attitudes were still very much Victorian. Job opportunities for women and many attitudes towards them pre world war one remained the same whether you were a working class women or middle class.
Women weren’t allowed to vote in Parliamentary elections, work as lawyers or work in the civil service and they were also expected to run the home. They were generally less paid than men due to them being considered inferior to men. Upper class women didn’t work before or after the war but working class women had to too support their families. Working class women made up most of the 29% of women who worked. They were employed in the less skilled areas of working life. For example domestic service; which is made up of cleaning, working as a servant or cooking.
They also worked in the textile industry or secretarial work. Working class women mainly worked in factories but some professions like teaching they were forced to give up once they became married. Although some workers were expected to carry on working. Some women worked in very bad conditions and lived in the attics of their employees houses. They worked long hours and the pay was very little. Often only i?? 5 – i?? 10 a year. Although servants who ‘lived out’ often got better paid but often still two thirds less than men. If they were lucky they got a half day off a week but sometimes only once a month.
Very unfair considering they worked such long hours. In the sweated trades possibly 950,000 women were employed. Women often worked in the houses of their employees and got paid for each garment they produced. It was almost impossible for them to set up Trade Unions as the number in each workshop was so small. It wasn’t difficult for women to get jobs but they had to put up with very bad conditions. There was a significant difference in what women were paid to men: Cotton workers – men i?? 1. 47, women 93p, Shoemakers – men i?? 1. 43, women 65p, bakers – men i??
1. 45, women – 63p, Printers – men i?? 1. 84, women 61p. Many women weren’t educated as they were believed to be less capable than men. The school leaving age was raised to 12 which meant two more years in free education and if women wanted to stay on after that their parents had to pay (very reluctantly) or win a scholarship. More men carried on into further education as they were more capable and also the parents would lose the girls earnings. Only 10% of children attended school after the age of 12 and only 2% of them were girls.
Women had to accept this as there were no laws and they didn’t have the vote so they couldn’t put their views across to stop them from being discriminated against. By the outbreak of the war women worked in almost all professions. They could even become doctors although there was some resistance to employ them and some universities would accept them for degrees. Since 1870 however women were not allowed to become lawyers or work in the civil service. The Suffragettes were a group of women who fought for women’s rights.
They believed that women should be allowed to wear trousers and be treated in the same way as men e. g. being allowed to vote. As they approached different issues they distracted from real world wide problems which infuriated politicians. They aimed things that were said directly at people and would ruin the British Constitution in some peoples eyes as for mature, married women over 30 could Vote! However once the war broke out the suffragettes stopped their campaigns and got behind the war effort. Women would finally have a chance to prove themselves and carry out work previously considered ‘only for men. ‘