The role of women in society between 1900 and 1914

In between 1900 and 1914 a man was the head of his household - The role of women in society between 1900 and 1914 introduction. His wife along with all she possessed was his property. Her role in the house was to be a wife. And in being a wife her role was to obey, help and make her husbands life easier. She was to have a large family of 6-8 children. The majority of her role changed dependant on her ‘status’. 1If she was middle class she was to sew, knit and to play music. She was also supposed to decorate the house according to her gentility. Women had to dress in the view of true femininity, long full dresses (crinolines) held out by layers of petticoats to show off their tiny ‘Hand-Span’ waists of 17″.

The life for a working class woman was very different. She was supposed to look after her husband etc but also to cook, wash and mend clothes and go to work. In society whatever the class a woman had very few rights. A woman could not own property, her children were her husbands and for a woman to get a divorce it was virtually impossible. If a woman were to run away from a marriage and be captured her husband could have her imprisoned. All of this was perfectly acceptable by law and society. The law was on the husband’s side.

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A woman could not own property after marriage; even if it had been left to her in a will the husband instantly inherited the property. 2When a woman married her husband she verbally gave her body to her husband by swearing an oath in the house of God and in front of the congregation. Education for a woman was very basic. Working class girls rarely got any other than ragged schools or Dame schools. Governesses taught some girls. These were middle class women who wanted to teach but often were mistreated and only paid 1d per hour. Women were barred from all well paid work.

A very popular job in 1851 was for working class girls to be employed as domestic servants. In 1851 there were said to over one million girls working as domestic servants. Other lines of work open to women were unskilled factory hands or agricultural labourers. The only skilled job said to be good enough for a woman was to be the clothing trade but even this line of work was ill paid. Careers were almost unthinkable for middle class women. All they mainly were allowed to do was stay at home and look after the house and be there for her husband. For working class women a career was essential.

She had to work and still be home to have tea ready for her husband. A suitable career was almost unthinkable for a upper class woman. They had a lowly status in society and so they were believed not be able to work. There were two groups of women that fought for women to be given the vote and more responsibility in society. One was called the ‘Suffragettes’ and the other, ‘Suffragists’. Millicent Fawcett led the Suffragettes. She believed in peaceful protests and felt that any violence or trouble would persuade men that women could not be trusted to have the right to vote. Her game plan was patience and logical arguments.

Fawcett argued that women could hold responsible posts in society such as sitting on school boards – but could not be trusted to vote; she argued that if parliament made laws and if women had to obey those laws, then women should be part of the process of making those laws; she argued that as women had to pay taxes as men, they should have the same rights as men and one of her most powerful arguments was that wealthy mistresses of large manors and estates employed gardeners, workmen and labourers who could vote…….. ut the women could not regardless of their wealth. Later on in 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst set up her own group with the same goals in sight as Millicent Fawcett’s Suffragists. Emmeline Pankhurst’s group was known as the Suffragettes.

The Suffragettes are better known by the title of the ‘Women’s Social and Political Union” (WSPU). They were nicknamed the Suffragettes as a laugh but that nickname seemed to hang around longer than expected.

In conclusion, I think women failed to get the vote between 1900 and 1914 because of many different factors. One factor was that women were thought to be low in society so were treated with no respect and so had no real job opportunity’s. Men had built up an ‘Ideal View’ of what a women should be like (true femininity) and women had to hold up an act for the men. Women were said to faint at the sight of blood and that legs on pianos were covered up because they were believed to be to arousing for women.

Small things such as that gave the women a hard time to live up to the expectations set by men. Further more when some women decided enough was enough and wanted change, they were met with stiff competition and had to overcome lots of problems to make their point heard. Also with the outbreak of WW1 both the suffragettes and suffragists decided to hold all protests until the war was over.

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