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Women in Australia in 1920s

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Women in Australia in 1920s

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  • March 28, 2009
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Women

The end of World War 1 showed a new age for Australia. During the 1920s the women of Australia changed before they were quiet, polite and modest. Primary sources indicated that Australian women of the 1920s had a cultural, political and social change. They worked in factories, smoke cigarettes in public, wore short skirts, started swearing, wore make-up, had short hairstyles and went dancing in the evenings. Unfortunately, women still remained largely excluded from most areas of public life.

Many women left home for work but the society scowled upon women who did not complete their housework. Women which entered the workforce were not given the same pay as men. Although they worked the same hours women were paid less than men because men were referred as the ‘family providers’. On average, women were paid half that of what men were paid. Women were grouped as being emotionally and physically unfit to carry the responsibility of a more senior position. The occupations taken by women included factory and domestic work, nursing, teaching, clerical, secretarial and typing in offices, and shop assisting. Although women did complete some vocational training courses, university studies and higher education were still largely limited to men.

In 1920, women were finally seen in the politics. Edith Cowan was the first woman elected as a representative in an Australian parliament in 1921 and is on the Australian fifty dollar note. In 1925, Politician Millicent Preston Stanley was the first women to be elected in the NSW parliament. She campaigned strongly on women’s mortality in childbirth, child welfare, institutional care for mental illness, custody rights in divorce and encouraged women towards independence.

The 1920s was a decade caught between the old and the new. Changing fashions and the more liberal attitudes of younger people were a challenge to the older generation. The character of this more modern outdoor age was rejected in recreation,...