Prior Winifred Ashton had written a play ‘A

Prior to the wars began about 29 per cent of women were working in diverse employments; however, they faced a problem with the ‘double burden’ of work and home life, and they were also degraded of their work as unimportant in the eyes of male co-workers, employers or observers. This suggests that women were not seen as equals in the eyes of society during their workplace, there were not many opportunities presented to women to work in places other than factories such as the textile industry. Before the First World War broke out, the rights that women had were limited, they did not have the benefits we have today such as the right to vote or to have a divorce. The most recent divorce law was the Matrimonial Cause Act 1857 which granted divorce, but it was easier for the husband to seek it, they were able to accuse the wife of adultery but if the wife was to appeal for a divorce, adultery alone committed by the husband would not be accepted as sufficient grounds. Women would have to prove that their husbands have committed other acts such as extreme cruelty, incest etc to secure a divorce. After the First World War, there were many protests arranged by women to demand a more equal representation of divorce and argued for a new law to be passed, there were many ways of these protests to be presented. For example, Winifred Ashton had written a play ‘A Bill of Divorcement, 1921’ to highlight the inequality that divorce laws had which was revealed by the Royal Commission on divorce. This illustrates that women were using different methods to get their message across to the public and to the political leaders, they were making sure that their message was being heard and demand impartiality between men and women. After such strong protests and campaigns, the Matrimonial Causes Act 1923 was passed and made adultery the sole reason as grounds for a divorce made by either a man or a woman therefore showing that a positive after effect from the War which had resulted in a change for a woman’s social status in society.During the War as most men were away fighting there was not enough people to keep the country working, this resulted in over 600,000 women going into work and made contributions in places such as labs, mills and factories.  New jobs for instance, munition factories were also created to make and supply products for both military and civilian needs; the numbers for women being in employment grew by 792,000 from 2,178,600 to 2,970,600 between July 1914 – July 1918. Despite the initial hindarance of hiring women to do ‘men’s work’ there was an urgency for the women to work as conscription was introduced in 1916. This led to women working in various areas of work that were previously reserved for men, for example railway guards, bus conductors, postal workers, police, firefighters and as bankers and clerks. Furthermore, by 1917 munitions factories, which primarily employed women workers, produced 80% of the weapons and shell showing that the War had enabled women opportunities that would not be so easily available for them previously, the War had allowed women to reach positions that wouldn’t be accessible such as working in the civil service or precision machinery in engineering and thus changing the roles and social status for women.Women were considered second-class citizens in London, however, the suffragette movement helped women to strive be acknowledged as equals to men. Women proved that they are capable to do the same jobs as men during the War but had no representation of themselves in parliament; a substantial step was taken when different MPs had supported the women’s suffrage movement and could band together a decision. In 1918 the Representation of the People Act was established, and it gave over six million women to the government local electorate; women over thirty could now vote, they could vote in nine ways: five in their own ways and four as married women. This may suggest that this was the way of the government ‘thanking’ women for their sacrifice and hard work that they had done while the men were away at war, the work that women had done had gained respect from men and political parties such as the Liberal Party and the Labour Party, they were now considering extending the franchise to a once excluded class of society. Hence showing a change of role and social status of women, although it may seem like a minor move as only a portion of women can vote, and a significant portion is still not heard in parliament, the suffragettes had been able to accomplish an important step to decrease the gender gap in society. It is generally agreed that the war had removed major obstacles to reform, prior to 1914 the women’s suffrage was blocked by Asquith. This shows that the war facilitated the recognition of how women can work, and it also removed political leaders who were not in favour of them as Asquith had resigned as Prime Minister due to an unsuccessful coalition and becoming overwhelmingly unpopular with the public and media.There were many personal entries during war time from women who were working describing their experiences of employment. For example, a diary entry from a VAD cooker at a munitions factory outlines her ordeals in her workplace; ‘Wed. My first night duty. Quite enjoyed it thought I felt very sleepy. Boys come in & out to buy buns, tea, lemonade etc & at 11.30 a big batch of girls come to dinner. It is much more exciting than at Farnborough’. This may be interpreted as the War presented a new freedom woman were not accessed to previously, the chance to work at night; they were able to move from their hometowns to different city as this woman moved from Farnborough to London and observe the different way of living. Life for women changed greatly during the war due to so many men were away fighting. Many women were able to take paid jobs outside the home for the first time. By 1918 there was an immense number of women working in Britain, the money they earned contributed to the family’s budget and earning money enabled working women to become more independent. Many enjoyed the camaraderie of working in a factory, office or shop rather than doing ‘piece work’ at home.Moreover, there was a consensus of support and a sense of responsibility to ‘step in’ and help wherever is necessary for the goodness of the country. For instance, Millicent Fawcett stated, ‘Women your country needs you… let us show ourselves worthy of citizenship, whether our claim to it be recognised or not’. The war demonstrated to be a significant prospect to prove that women were determined to be apart of the war and help in any ways they can. Suffragette propaganda was imposed to inspire support and contributions to secure a strong home front and help the men who were away at war, the propaganda also served another purpose which could be argued as a bigger aim trying to be achieved by women and that was to connect the war effort placed by them in creating a political identity and trying to obtain the right to vote for women as they had no representation. Ergo, the war motivated important events for women to establish their dedication to the country and showing society, that women are an important class and should not be ignored and this led to a change in role and status for women after World War I.However, the First World War may have seen as a ‘temporary’ change for the roles and social status for women in London. Despite women doing the same jobs as men during and after the war women were paid 80% of what a man would be earning in the same job. War bonuses were always higher for men; and trade boards, the arbiters of wages for the low paid, staunchly upheld idea that no matter how low wages were, women should have less than men. This may indicate that the government did not dwell on women’s successes for too long, they congratulated on their achievement and moved on to concentrate on a new ‘problem’ as men now have returned from war but now women have entered the workplace and have become more independent now than they have in the past. This also concludes that women were underappreciated for working in dangerous workplaces where they were physically harmed. An example of this is a woman munitions worker in the Perivale Royal Filling Factory: ‘We got home and had a lovely good wash, and, believe me the water was blood red and our skin from then on… the mercury didn’t show, it was more deadly to flesh I think, but it didn’t show so much except if it got into the eyes it would cause mercurial poisoning, which I had’. This piece of transcript shows women had to go through difficult and dangerous situations to help make the home front strong, but this effort was deeply underappreciated.Likewise, the increase of employment for women did increase during the War but the figure for women stayed consistent, official records for female labour forces stayed at 29 per cent until 1961. These statistic shows that roles and social status for women did not change until much later, only a fraction of women were working and able to be more independent from men; it is only from 1971, the statistic from female employment was steadily increasing from 52.8% to 70.8% in 2017.Another way in showing that the role and social status for women was changed due to the War is the Representation of the People Act which was seen as a step forward for women as they finally were able to obtain the right to vote but only women who were over 30 was allowed to vote whereas the age to vote for men was lowered down to 21. This granted 8,400,000 women, who compromised 39.6 per cent of the vote of the electorate. This act was mistakenly said to enfranchise women aged 30 and above. In addition to the age requirement, it restricted the vote to those women who were also local government electors or the wives of local government electors. It is estimated about 22 per cent of women who were aged 30 and above were excluded from the vote . This further exclusion from the already limited group farther weakened the representation women hoped to have and may show that the War did not enable for a change to occur to the roles and social status for women and they had to keep protesting for the right to vote until 1928 when Stanley Baldwin passed the Equal Franchise Bill.Another problem that women faced was when men were returning from war and had to do their daily jobs once again. Women were starting to get fired from their jobs to make room for the men, many had even complained and protested about women working at all. For instance, there were letters complaining about female drivers: ‘I would point out to you that already a very serious dispute has taken place at Croydon a few months back when two women were being taught to drive tramcars resulting in a cessation from work for many weeks, also upon women being appointed as mail drivers the men ceased work immediately, and as a result the women have since been withdrawn. When one takes into consideration the huge number of accidents to persons and property, owing to the abnormal conditions prevailing as a result of the lighting order and War conditions, and this at a time when vehicles are being driven by men who are thoroughly experienced we feel that the menace to the public will be very largely augmented by the introduction of female licensed drivers’. These protests against women and their nature of not being able to carry out the tasks that are traditionally done by men show the very little faith they in women and the conflict that has risen between men and women. Men wanted the women to return to their ‘rightful’ domestic place and not partake in the workplace anymore therefore showing that the War just offered a temporary shift from the traditional roles and status in society