Women during World War Two
During the war many men were fighting or on government schemes related to the war effort. It was not enough, and in 1941 women were conscripted. If you were a woman aged twenty or older you had to register for war work at a labour exchange, unless you had small children or were pregnant. Many women did jobs that men would usually have done, such as being a fire fighter or working in the armed forces. Women also played a major role in evacuating children, although it was mainly women in the countryside who helped to look after children. The trade unions supported the idea of women workers and campaigned for women to be respected in the workplace and complained about the fact women were paid 25% less than men. Some women found it difficult doing war work and looking after children at the same time, so the government organised flexible working hours to help women overcome this problem.
Attitudes towards women working
- After the war, women who had helped with the war effort enjoyed their jobs and were worried about the government taking them away. Luckily, this wasn't the case. The government still needed workers to rebuild Britain, and so many older women whos children were at school anyway took part in these jobs.
- The government also tried to attract women to work by offering part time jobs.
- In contrast, many young women did not continue to work after the war. Instead they got married and had children.
- There were a lot of people who didn't believe women were up to the task of working. During World War Two, although women worked in important organisations crutial to the war effort, they were only made to do small jobs or "assist men". The recruitment posters for women emphasised glamour and the magazines from the time portrayed the ideal woman as being a housewife and a mother.
- However, it was believed that working gave women more opputunities and time to socialise with other women. It also gave them more confidence and they were less inclined to think that the man was superior to the woman.
After the Second World War, one man named Sir William Beveridge drew up ideas for the Welfare State. One of his proposals was the National Health Service, which was free health care for everyone. This particularly affected women, as before women had to pay for the doctors or take advice from friends and family, and many women died from child birth. The NHS reduced the number of women dying in child birth and diseases. The average age for women dying was raised from just over 45 in 1910 to 76 in 1970. After the war, it was also discovered that more women were having sex outside marriage and the divorce rate had increased.
Women in the 1950s and onwards
In some ways, the early 1950s was an exciting time for women. They could go to work if they wanted…