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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in womens rights

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Watching a really interesting documentary on the social history of women the other week, I was struck again forcibly by how truly humungous have been the changes in both the role of women in our society, and in attitudes towards them, over the past 100 years. Reading the wealth of material which has been floating about recently in commemoration of the anniversary of the First World War, it strikes me that my generation of late 50‘ish (aargh...nearly the big 60!)  women are probably the generation who truly had a foot in both the old world and the new.

Most young women today can sort of accept that full voting equality was only achieved in 1928 (although that seems to them a date in a history book rather than a time which was well in living memory when I was young) but simply stare at you in disbelief when you point out  that in my youth, the vast majority of women not only were unlikely to have had a career that was not menial, but also would have had no money of their own. It was not until the 1970’s can you believe, that a woman was able to take out a mortgage on her own without having to provide a male relative as a guarantor - and that was when she wished to pay the mortgage herself! It was also only at this time that the first Acts begun to be passed to enforce parity of pay between the sexes. A woman’s role was that of a subservient home-maker whose job it was to look after a husband or parents and not to express opinions about anything which really mattered. I recall my Grandmother (born in 1898) telling me never to express a controversial opinion nor to mention sex, religion or politics - frankly about the only subjects I find interesting! By law women were required to divulge any income they may possess to their husbands, whilst men, on the other hand, had no requirement to divulge any information pertaining to their financial affairs to their wives at all. Her income was his but his was most certainly not hers! Furthermore, no man in those days would have dreamed of undertaking any housework or childcare, both of which remained clearly the female preserve until well into the late 20th Century.    Womens Lib, social change, social history, women's rights, photos, billboardsWhilst the two wars had originally brought about striking changes in the work place with women stepping into the working world by necessity, the impact did not seem to sustain past the end of the war as many had hoped and the vast majority of women until the middle of the Century reverted back to subservient roles and would only find employment in low paid shop and factory work or caring positions. Women were few and far between in professional careers and generally were not encouraged into further education.


In real terms therefore, it is only in the last 50 or 60 years or so that the vast majority of the massive change in social attitudes has come about. Many of the young today simply do not have a clue about the huge strides which have been made in terms of equality and attitudes, nor about the massive effort which it took by legions of women who fought to create a world with more balanced gender opportunity. It would be simply unthinkable today to encourage a boy to strive to gain a university degree and not suggest the same route for a girl, nor to advertise a job which specified one sex or another. Likewise women have rapidly gained traction in many professions previously seen as male preserves such as medicine, scientific research and other bastions including engineering and manufacturing.It is heartening to see the confident, bright and educated young women of today aspiring into all career sectors, regardless of sexuality and not even thinking about accepting any personal relationship where the two parties are not equals. The young of today simply expect to share chores and childcare, to pursue the career which seems likeliest to succeed and to partner each other in a much more meaningful way than was the case last century. 

Women's Lib, social history, social change, photos, protest, demos, women's rightsLest we get too complacent though, there is still a way to go. Depressing statistics remind us that attitudes still need to change further: women only hold 20% of powerful political offices globally, while female representation on corporate boards averages a measly 12% and, frighteningly, 95% of domestic violence victims are women.


As I say, a way to go but let us not forget the progress made to date and I for one am so grateful that my daughter is able to reap the benefits of a much healthier and balanced society than the one I grew up in. 

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