The Role and Status of Women in the 1940s and 1950s
After the First World War women had gained a huge step towards having
equality with men. In 1918 married women over the age of 30 were given
the right to vote. During the war women had proved themselves as
capable as men, not only as nurses near the front lines working in
very dangerous positions but also back in Britain working to help the
war effort in jobs that before the war they could never have even had
a chance of getting.
However women were still a long way of having any vague equality with
men, and when the men returned from war things changed as men were
still considered far above women. Although it had got worse since the
end of the war it should be recognised that women's role in society
had been greatly improved since the days before the First World War.
During the Second World War many of the men were conscripted to go
away to war. This meant that their jobs now needed to be filled in
order for the country to work., women got jobs in all areas of
employment from working in manual labour to working in banks. They
also managed to prove that they could do the jobs just as well as men
and were able to work in jobs that had previously been for men only.
Gaining all these new jobs had been a huge leap towards women gaining
equality with men, however when the men returned from war most if the
women lost their war time jobs. This happened because of a number of
reasons. Firstly, public opinion in general believed that the soldiers
who had been fighting deserved to come back to jobs and not have to
struggle with unemployment. Also some bosses of small and large
companies felt that men were still better and didn't want to employ
women over men.
A women who had worked as a welder during the war years was told, "Oh
my goodness, you've got the best qualifications that we ever had apply
for the job, but your a woman, and I wonder what the boys would say if
I employed a woman." A newspaper editor was told when she was
dismissed, "Oh its nothing wrong with your work, but we have to
safeguard the succession and the successor has to be a man."
Bosses who were taking this line, and most of them were were infact
taking and supporting the government's line. The governments official
line said " it is doubtless true that there are many jobs done during
the war by women for which men are better suited, both mentally and
physically. And, if there is to be a nation in the future, there must
be children and children mean homes and endless chores. So that there
must naturally be a drift back from the services and the factories to
I believe that this is showing that men and the government (dominated
by men) were showing an incompetence to realise that women were able
to do the jobs that men traditionally did....