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“Women were second-class citizens in the year 1900”. How far is this a true assessment of women at the beginning of the Twentieth century? This is difficult to answer as it is hard to determine whether all women had the same problem or whether some were better treated than others. There are many views as to whether women were second-class citizens and it is a widely speculated point as many different people have many different answers. There is much evidence that women were second-class citizens in the year 1900, but there is also evidence that they were not treated too badly and some even liked the way things were.
In spite of this, some campaigned for more equality in many areas such as political rights and marriage. This is shown in many ways. There were limited job opportunities and women were only allowed to do domestic service, nursing, teaching, factory work, shop work or living at home and working there. Despite this, women seemed happy with most of the jobs available to them and did not really want new jobs. Women also had limited education opportunities.
Women, like men, had a compulsory primary education and occasional secondary education, and a few even went on to study at Cambridge. However, few were allowed to do degrees in university and the quality of the education women got was lower than that of the boys. Also girls were generally taught things that only women do such as needlework and housework as well as letters and arithmetic etc but the boys were taught how to do farming and office work instead. This meant that women had few job opportunities due to the limit in their knowledge and education.
The women in 1900 had quite good right when it came to marriage, due to campaigns in the late 1800’s. Even though the church saw women as subordinates, they managed to get many new rights for themselves due to hard work and campaigning. There was a Custody of Infants Act passed which meant that women who were divorced were able to keep their children. The Married Women’s Property Acts in 1870 and 1882 meant that they were able to keep any land they owned before they got married as their own and not their husband’s.
The Guardianship of Infants Act and Married Women’s Act in 1886 allowed women even more freedom when it came to marriage and divorce. This shows that in 1900 women were not too badly treated when it came to marriage. Working-class and Middle-class women had life very differently. Working-class women generally worked all day and came home to housework, cooking, cleaning etc. In contrast to this, most middle-class women did not have to work as their husband supported the family.
Despite this it meant that the middle-class women had very little freedom and although they were not tied down to working life it gave them very little to do and therefore they were probably treated more like second-class citizens than the working-class because of their limited opportunities. Women had very little freedom when it came to the vote. They were almost certainly classed as second-class citizens when it came to political rights. This is evident because, although women were allowed to vote in all kinds of local council elections, they were not allowed to vote in parliamentary elections.
This meant that they were classed with criminals and the infirm of mind. Some women objected very strongly to this. Women in 1900 had very little political power, if any at all and this is an indication that they were viewed as second-class citizens. In conclusion I think that women in 1900 were not completely viewed as second-class citizens in many respects because, as is shown above, they had previously gained a lot of rights not open to them before the 1850’s.
This meant that, although in some areas such as the vote, political rights and many job respects they were treated as less than the men, they were not completely treated as second-class citizens. The fact that they were viewed as second-class citizens in some respects shows, in my opinion, nothing but human nature as every being looks down on something, in this case, the men looked down on the women and the women looked down on the children who had even less rights than they.
This is still true nowadays as humans, even though we are now largely equal, look down on people of different nationalities, race, religion, colour etc and also humans look down on animals which in turn look down on each other for example; the lion is the “king of the jungle” so it probably looks down on the tigers etc. This is just the nature of living creatures so in my opinion, women were not treated too badly in 1900 and have come a long way since then.