The changing role of women in Britain, 1950-75

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Work, opportunities and pay

  • In 1951, women made up 31 per cent of the labour force, but this had increased to 38 per cent 1971.
  • In 1951, 36 per cent of women worked but this increased to 52 per cent by 1971.
  • In 1951, only 26 per cent of married women work but this gad increased to 49 per cent by 1971. This increase was partly due to the removal of the 'marriage bar', the unwritten rule that said women should give up their job once they married.
  • Many female workers were resented by their male colleagues. Women often took lower-paid jobs. Even when women did the same job as men their pay was generally lower.
  • In 1955, the Conservative Government agreed to give an equal pay to men and women in public sector jobs. It was not until 1970, however, that the Equal Pay Act was passed giving equal pay in the private sector, too. The Act was not enforced until 1975.Although a major step forward, the Equal Pay Act did little to help women gain promotions over men.

Women in the home

  • At the beginning of the 20th century, nearly 14 per cent of women never married. After 1945, there was a major increase in the numbers of young women getting married and this caused a 'baby boom' between 1950 and 1965.
  • The availability of electricity to power appliances and gas for heating made home life more comfortable. In addition, technological developments significantly improved the lives of many women. Vacuum cleaners, washing machines and refrigerators made cleaning and shopping easier.
  • Improvements in the home meant that women had more to take on more part time work or leisure activities. The average number of minutes per day spent on housework fell from 500 in 1950…

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