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women in the 20th century

By MeeThom Jan 22, 2015 898 Words


Prior the 20th century, women's and men's roles were completely separate. During the 19th century women were not allowed to work, vote, or use birth control and they were not seen equal to men in society, even at home women were expected to cook, clean and look after the children while their husbands were out working to support the family. All that began to slowly change throughout the 20th century. When the college ‘Vassar’ opened in 1865, it aimed at educating women, and that is where the idea of equality began. With more education for women, they were allowed to take part in society; however it was mainly upper class women that got that privilege. Those that got education may have had degrees, which could have allowed them to work professionally as lawyers or doctors; however women did not have the license to use them. Due to women not having the license to work and theories about them not being suitable for professional work, the idea of suffrage began. Suffrage is the right to vote in political elections, which was seen symbolically all the rights that women were denied, and believed that voting would allow them to gain more power and influence in society. So in 1897, groups of women who demanded the vote joined and formed National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). The organisation was moderate and its members were called suffragists. By the early 20th century, women began to participate more in society, although power and prestige was still controlled by men. However in 1903 a radical organisation was formed called the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Emmeline Pankhurst led it and its members were named suffragettes. Throughout the protesting some suffragettes broke the law and were imprisoned. Men were reluctant to give women the right to vote, because they feared the loss of control over women. Most men believed that women were incapable of understanding the process of voting and the situations on which they would be voting for. Others believed that because men and women were opposite genders, women therefore should not be receiving the same privileges and rights as men. The suffragettes abruptly stopped their campaign when the war began in 1914. Overall the political battle for suffrage (equal voting rights) took many years with some women and men working together, but eventually the 19thamendment was passed in 1920. After women voted in their first federal election in 1922, many were satisfied and believed that they were politically equal to men. After women got the rights to vote, they began to get more personal and social freedom.  Women begin engaging publicly. They were able to drink publicly (which was illegal at the time). Skirt lengths were shorter; their hair was cut shorter which was seen as a symbol of freedom. It seemed as though women were moving up socially, however in 1929 stock markets crashed and very quickly gender roles put back into place. Women were thrown out of work and many states had laws mandating that if a woman’s husband work, she could not or that women could not legally work. After the crisis the traditional gender roles were exaggerated, women’s hair were worn longer again, their dresses wear more frilly, louse and long, but roles were then altered again as a result of world war two. Because men were participating in the war, women take over the jobs that men were doing. Women were given new training and became very skilled, they also become better educated, and were able to fill seats in colleges as some young men were in the war. However, when the war ended, women were fired and replaced by men. In the 1950s and 1960s Items were marketed at women to provide them with more time and freedom, as vacuum cleaners, toasters, and washing machines¸ new technology in the home made it easier for women to work and it became common for women work at least part-time. In the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the bill wanted to eliminate discrimination based on religion, race, ethnicity, and age. Gender was not initially. When the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) refused to enforce the legislation, the National Organization for Women lobbied politicians, who eventually compelled the EEOC to enforce these laws. In 1970 the law was changed so women had to be paid the same wages as men for doing work of equal value. From 1975 it was illegal to sack women for becoming pregnant and also the Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate against women in employment, education and training. In the 1980s, many achievements of the equal rights movement (racial and sex-based) were eroded, and social problems for women accelerated. Domestic violence against women increased, and women’s poverty increased, many women and their children were homeless.   Many women felt resentful of the idea of choice, as they were working longer and harder in the same jobs for fewer wages than men. They felt the real necessity to work, as they were trapped into long-term mortgages. In 1984 a new law stated that equal pay must be given for work of equal value. By the middle of the 1980s, working women were still in traditionally feminine professions, like nursing and teaching, Women, at this time, were under pressure to prove that they could be as successful as men in the workforce.

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