GCSE History: The changing role of women in America 1929-1990

Suitable for the WJEC outline study of american history 1929-1990

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Women were discriminated against


Despite the flapper girl image, cutting their hair inot short bobs, wearing flapper girl dresses and dancing the charlstone very little changed for the economic and social status of women. If women worked it was generally in domestics or secretaries, teachers or nurses and they were often paid less than men for the same work.


During the great depression Roosevelt's measures actually worsened sex discrimination as women were seen as taking men's jobs. The NRA allowed women to be paid less than men and the Social security act of 1935 gave no help to women.

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Women help win the war


WW2 provided an employment boost for many women. 6 million women worked in factories and a futher 200,000 worked in the armed forces. This gave them a sense of independence that they didn't want to give up. It was a very busy time for women as not only did they work but they were often left as head of the household while their husbands were away fighting.


New time saving domestic devices such as dishwashers and washing machines made life easier for women and encouraged greater freedom. Women went to tupperware parties and socialised with their friends. However most women still worked in sterotypes conditions or were house wives.

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Women became Pro-active


*This decade was the birth of the feminist movement, arguing for equal political, economicand social rights as written in Betty Friedan's book "The feminine Mystique" (1964) which also ridiculed the belief that women should be judged on their success as wives and mothers.

*In 1964 the civil rights act banned disrimination on sex as well as race grounds. In 1966 Friedan and other set up the national organisation for women (NOW) They demanded an ammendment to the US constitution and the "right for women to control their reproductive lives" Abortion was, at the time, illeagal.

*Women became pro active in campaigning for their rights for sexual equality with petitions, striked and leagal action to put forward their views.

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Was enough done by the government?


In 1973 the supreme court leagalised abortion. By the mid 1970s laws allowed equal rights for women in employment, pay, credit and entry into higher education.


In 1989 women's average earnings were still only 70% of men's. By 1990 women were six times more likely to be living in poverty as men and female headed families made up nearly half of all poor american families.

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