During World War II, women all over Britain contributed significantly towards the war effort by taking over the jobs that the men who were fighting had, and more importantly, by keeping order in the household. Question 1. British women played a very important part in the war effort by the contributions they made in their homes, which were acknowledged and greatly appreciated. Women in Britain had to take on the role of both mother and father during the war, as the man of the house would be fighting for his country. A woman would have to come home and look after the children, and was solely responsible for their safety.
She had to do all of the washing, cleaning and mending around the house, as well as provide a nutritious and filling meal for the children, so she had to be sensible and responsible with the rationings, putting her family before herself. Women also started gardening as well, this was greatly encouraged by the government and the media, because if a woman would cook and eat home-grown vegetables, it would help a lot with rationing elsewhere, and the children would have more to eat. The most important thing the women had to do was ensure the safety of their families.
There were many different things to remember in order to achieve this. A woman had to be extremely aware of things like air-raid sirens, because if one went off, she would have to rush her children to the nearest air-raid shelter and put a gas mask on the children in case of a gas bomb, keeping her family’s security before her own. If the sirens went off at night, she had to hurry and draw all of the curtains and make sure no light was escaping the building and was shining onto the street so that the enemy planes flying overhead could not see that it was a residential area and would not be able to bomb it.
This was called a blackout. Women also took precautions by taping up windows, so if they were in the path of a bomb or one had exploded near them, there would be a less chance of pieces of glass shattering everywhere. Question 2. Similar to the what had occurred in World War I, during World War II women also had to work outside of the home, they had to continue the jobs the men had left behind when they were taken to fight in the war effort, many lives had been changed as a result of this, largely for the best.
Women would have done a large variety of jobs spanning from factory work for the making of weapons for the war, to secretarial work. Like a ritual of Britain, class had a large affect on even what jobs women were to have. The lower (working) class women whose husbands/fathers were poorly paid manual workers, would have manual labour-directed jobs themselves, like working on farms, in factories, in the markets and driving busses. Middle and upper class women, whose husbands had more well paying and sophisticated jobs, were given easier and better paying jobs like secretarial work, in banks, radio/television broadcasts and telephonists.
Some women also worked in the Royal Army, Navy and Air Force as nurses, cooks, drivers and in operations rooms. This had a tremendous affect upon women’s status in society and more importantly, women’s independence from the traditionally viewed “lady”. Women now had freedom to make friends with other women of different classes, women got paid, which gave them the option to take up hobbies and indulge in the luxuries only men previously had. Some women even had affairs with other men whilst their husbands were away.
This was such a shock for society because it was a huge step up for women. Before 1939 women had little to no respect and were seen as inferior to men. Although women had the right to vote since 1918, women’s rights and opinions were not as valued as those of men’s. The average woman was at home; a woman was expected to cook, clean, look after the children and tend to her husband/father’s need and wants, and was not expected to earn her living outside of home, or make any male friends, let alone having an affair. Women’s lives were changed massively for the best.
The work they did and the freedom they achieved in World War II sparked off the start of a domino effect, which led to them getting more and more rights and liberties, and ultimately to reach the social equivalent of being a man. Question 3. Women’s contribution towards the war effort has often been seen as less important than those of the men’s. This is mainly because, not many people know the kinds of jobs and responsibilities women were confronted with during the war; people have seen men fighting and dying in battle, which naturally seems more significant.
People also think that the women’s contribution to the war effort was less important than the men’s because all throughout history women have been seen as the weaker sex. Before the women’s rights movement had become very powerful, women had been “ruled over” by men, and their opinions and contributions toward society were not valued as much as it would have if it came from a man. The woman had always been seen as the parent that who’s sole objective was to look after the children, and the man was seen as “the provider” of the family; the parent that was supposed to earn a living outside the house and look after the woman.
This idea was very popular in Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany. It was used in Nazi propaganda keep the women ‘under control’ in the house and keep the man as the one that earned the money, and make them feel good and appreciated for looking after the Aryan children. They used an analogy of the woman being a mother bluebird; feeding and looking after the babies whilst staying in the nest, and the man being the big, strong the male bird; the protector of the family who fights off enemies and is superior to the female of the species.
This, along with many other tricks, kept the women happy with being second best as long as they were appreciated in Nazi Germany. Question 4. World War II lead to significant, permanent changes in the way British society saw and treated women. Gradually, women’s rights movements achieved the equal rights for women, and freed them of the domestic ‘shackles’ society had put on them. Before World War II, women were largely seen as inferior to man; her place was in the home and her duty was to look after the children and tend to her husband/father’s needs.
However, when the war came around, women in Britain began to experience independence and self-determination, many for the first time, as they had to take up the jobs the men would have done but couldn’t, because they were sent away to serve in the army. This was the crucial first step in the gaining of equal rights for women in Britain. Soon after 1945, the end of World War II, women made great advances in society. Although the end of the war saw many women to return home and back into the old routine, the women that stayed on to work outside the home slowly made a difference. The first big change came in the 1950s.
In 1955, after much appeal, women accomplished equal pay in teaching, this was the first significant achievement that sparked off the chain reaction that ultimately produced and fulfilled many women’s wishes. The 1960s brought the formation of the Movement for the Advancement of Women in Work and Society. This was a big help in the changing of roles of women in British society. They organised protests and sit-ins, demanding equal rights wherever women were discriminated. But the biggest, most significant breakthrough to benefit women everywhere was in 1960, when the contraceptive pill was invented in America.
This was huge, one of the most important things that helped women change how they were seen in society and achieve total independence. This amazing new drug meant that women could have sex and not get pregnant at all, as it works by making the woman’s body already believe she’s pregnant. Furthermore, unlike condoms women were in control, and responsible for their own acts – so consequently they didn’t have to rely on a man to be responsible for not getting her pregnant. This gave women the biggest boost on the road to independence.
Eventually, these events along with others encouraged more and more women to break free and become independent. In time women started to fight for equal in different, more modern ways: in parliament; in the media; in the public, etc. Some women became famous throughout the world for the amazing and courageous acts and battles they fought against prejudice and stereotypes. Many women both in the past and present like Sally Gunnel, Margarate Thatcher, Diana Spencer and even the Spice Girls made a huge difference by breaking stereotypes and traditional views of women and fighting in their own unique ways for sexual equality.