How have the rights and freedoms of women changed in the post World War II era?

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The rights and freedoms of women had changed dramatically in the post World War II era due to the Women's Movement of the 1970s. Prior the Women's Movement women were still limited in their employment opportunities and were restricted and expected by the public to traditional roles of household wives. However the Women's Movement tackled those traditional ideas and fought for the right for women to shape their own destinies. Through their persistence the government responded by the introduction of legislations such as the Maternity Leave Act 1973 and Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to counter gender discrimination.

During my interview with Sarah Jones a 63 year old Australian woman she explained much of how life was like for her and most women who lived during the 1970s. Mrs Jones explained that in the early 1970s Australian women like her were limited in their employment opportunities. Employers chose men over women as their believed that men were more dedicated and loyal to work as well as much more capable than women. Woman who managed to get a job was always paid less than half of the normal wage of a man. Sexual harassment was common in the workplace and in society as a whole. Women were expected to stay home, do the housework and obey their husbands. Divorced women were treated as outsiders with no respect and prejudice. Mrs Jones told me that this made it very difficult for her to be independent as she must rely on her husband to survive. She felt powerless as her husband was the man of the house and made all the decisions. Mrs Jones always had a talent for music however she was never given the chance to develop it. For most women, like Mrs Jones did not have a choice but to get married and try to become good wives, some were victims of domestic violence but were helpless to stop it.

The Women's Movement developed as a response to the injustice and inequity faced by Australian women who saw their needs and talents overlooked. It was a political and social movement that aimed to liberate women from the traditional views of womanhood. According to Mrs Jones most women at the time felt passionate about the Women's Movement and believed that they deserved a better life free of sexual discrimination with equal opportunities and rights. Women argued that there are no differences between the sexes in terms of ability, rights and opportunity. Mr Jones was very passionate about the Women's Movement and joined several of the many marches and protests held by the women's liberationist groups. These groups demanded better childcare, equal pay, higher educational opportunities and the removal of sexist language. Mrs Jones explained that more childcare facilities would allow women to work outside the home and higher educational opportunities for girls would encourage more girls to go on to tertiary study and into meaningful careers instead of staying at home ruing the household. Mrs Jones also said that many women like her were unhappy with the language that implied that women were weaker and inferior to men. She insisted on using non-gender titles, such as 'police-officer' instead of 'policeman' and 'chairperson' instead of 'chairman'.

The Women's Movent was immensely successful and flourished across Australia in the 1970s. The government began to adopt women's issues into their policies as the power of women's vote was significant. In particular the Whitlam Labour government that came to power in 1972 responded by the introduction of laws that supported the Women's Movement. The Maternity Leave Act 1973 gave women a 12 month unpaid maternity leave. This protected the jobs of women and encouraged them to work and have children. The women's movement was aided by the Whitlam government's decision to abolish university fees. Mrs Jones said that this was a significant help for her younger sister Mary. As often women completing university was regarded as a waste of time and many parents preferred to give their sons the...
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