Women- Advantages of wartime work (notes)

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Do you agree with the view that, in terms of employment opportunities, women did not gain
`any significant advantage from their wartime experience'?
To some extent, I agree with the statement that women did not gain significant advantage from their
wartime experience in terms of employment opportunities. During the First World War, the
demobilisation of millions of men had a dramatic effect on women's public lives; skilled labourers
were scarce and women stepped up to fill farming, industrial, laborious and manual jobs while the
shortage of men ensued. However, throughout the war itself, there were concerns as to the short term
empowerment of such women, and whether by working for less, they would provide a genuine threat
to the soldiers' previous vocation stability. Women were dismissed from their jobs within two weeks
of the war ending, and by 1921 the total dismissals was at 600,000. Source 16 agrees, in it's statement
`economic independence was short-lived' In this way, it could be argued that although women had
been subject to employment opportunities initially, it did not provide great improvement to their
overall status in the public sphere; with female employment dropping 2% lower in 1921 than before
the war in 1914. In addition, the post-war government policies `encouraged women to return to their
domestic responsibilities', implying that no significant change had been made in the attitudes toward
their place in society. Source 16 is written with the intent to inform, adding weight to these
arguments.
To some extent, however, their wartime employment did provide benefit. As argued by the WSPU,
women were able to demonstrate their potential in industry- doing their bit for the war effort. This
will have, undoubtedly changed the opinions of women's potential in some men's eyes. This is
demonstrated in source 17, `the legal profession was opened to women like Christabel Pankhurst'
suggesting that they had proved their ability, enough to be recognised in employment on somewhat
similar grounds as men. This is also supported in the source with `women were also allowed to
become chartered accountants and bankers', implying that their widened post-war employment
opportunities was a direct result of the war-time work. There are limits to this view, however, as it
would have only been middle and upper class women who were provided these executive career
chances. It could be argued that the majority of the 4.5 million women who provided the WW1
workforce were working and lower-middle class, and would never be able to benefit from the
privilege of sufficient education to access such jobs. Source 17, although produced by a historian, is
part of a book called `Votes for Women'. The title suggest some room for exaggeration of the huge
progress that women's work did for the eventual enfranchisement of women. The source lacks
objectivity, but is mostly reliable.
Similarly, any `significant advantage' gained would have most likely been extinguished by the
discriminations present; with many women being severely criticised for retaining jobs that, in popular
opinion should have been `given back' to the men. The Sex Disqualification (removal) Act of 1919,
aimed to combat this, by allowing women the right to `not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the
exercise of being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial office'. This had the potential to make the
advantages of women's war-time work more present for those who'd worked for them; however, the
government failed fully to implement the act, by reserving posts in the civil service for men only.
In addition, the post-war government policies `encouraged women to return to their domestic
responsibilities', implying that no significant change had been made in the attitudes toward their place
in society.
In conclusion, I agree with the statement that in terms of employment opportunities, women did not
gain `any significant advantage from their wartime experience' due to the fact that, although to some
extent, attitudes were reformed about the potential of women at work- with the introduction of
women in professional careers- it was still thought that their place was in the private sphere, as `the
mothers of tomorrow'- suggesting that the advantages of their wartime efforts were not as
acknowledged as they could have perhaps thought. In addition, the discrimination they faced as a
result of their wanting equality in employment adds weight to the idea that the advantages gained
were slight, but marginal. Sources 16 and 17 directly supported this, while source 18 directly
opposed. However, source 18 disagreed with my own knowledge that the act was not correctly
implemented, and therefore had less impact than expected.

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