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Upper-class women could exert a little backstage political influence in high society. However, in divorce cases, rich women lost control of their children. Before , after divorce rich women lost control of their children as those children would continue in the family unit with the father, as head of the household, and who continued to be responsible for them. Caroline Norton was one such woman, her personal tragedy where she was denied access to her three sons after a divorce, led her to a life of intense campaigning which successfully led to the passing of the Custody of Infants Act and then introduced the Tender years doctrine for child custody arrangement.

Under the doctrine the Act also established a presumption of maternal custody for children under the age of seven years maintaining the responsibility for financial support to the father. Traditionally, poor people used desertion, and for poor men even the practice of selling wives in the market, as a substitute for divorce. It was very difficult to secure divorce on the grounds of adultery, desertion, or cruelty. The first key legislative victory came with the Matrimonial Causes Act of It passed over the strenuous opposition of the highly traditional Church of England.

The new law made divorce a civil affair of the courts, rather than a Church matter, with a new civil court in London handling all cases. A woman who obtained a judicial separation took the status of a feme sole, with full control of her own civil rights. Additional amendments came in , which allowed for separations handled by local justices of the peace. The Church of England blocked further reforms until the final breakthrough came with the Matrimonial Causes Act A series of four laws called the Married Women's Property Act passed Parliament from to that effectively removed the restrictions that kept wealthy married women from controlling their own property.

They now had practically equal status with their husbands, and a status superior to women anywhere else in Europe. Bullough argues that prostitution in 18th-century Britain was a convenience to men of all social statuses, and economic necessity for many poor women, and was tolerated by society. The evangelical movement of the nineteenth century denounced the prostitutes and their clients as sinners, and denounced society for tolerating it. The "regulationist policy" was to isolate, segregate, and control prostitution.

The main goal was to protect working men, soldiers and sailors near ports and army bases from catching venereal disease. Young women officially became prostitutes and were trapped for life in the system. After a nationwide crusade led by Josephine Butler and the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts , Parliament repealed the acts and ended legalised prostitution. Butler became a sort of saviour to the girls she helped free. The age of consent for young women was raised from 12 to 16, undercutting the supply of young prostitutes who were in highest demand.

The new moral code meant that respectable men dared not be caught. The rapid growth of factories opened jobbed opportunities for unskilled and semiskilled women and light industries, such as textiles, clothing, and food production. There was an enormous popular and literary interest, as well as scientific interest, in the new status of women workers.

From Scottish universities could admit and graduate women and the numbers of women at Scottish universities steadily increased until the early 20th century. Ambitious middle-class women faced enormous challenges and the goals of entering suitable careers, such as nursing, teaching, law and medicine. The loftier their ambition, the greater the challenge. Physicians kept tightly shut the door to medicine; there were a few places for woman as lawyers, but none as clerics. In the s a new employment role opened for women in libraries; it was said that the tasks were "Eminently Suited to Girls and Women.

Teaching was not quite as easy to break into, but the low salaries were less of the barrier to the single woman then to the married man. By the late s a number of schools were preparing women for careers as governesses or teachers. The census reported in that 70, women in England and Wales were teachers, compared to the , who comprised three-fourths of all teachers in It demanded equal pay with male teachers, and eventually broke away.

However the new redbrick universities and the other major cities were open to women. Florence Nightingale demonstrated the necessity of professional nursing in modern warfare, and set up an educational system that tracked women into that field in the second half of the nineteenth century. Nursing by was a highly attractive field for middle-class women. Medicine was very well organized by men, and posed an almost insurmountable challenge for women, with the most systematic resistance by the physicians, and the fewest women breaking through.

One route to entry was to go to the United States where there were suitable schools for women as early as Edinburgh University admitted a few women in , then reversed itself in , leaving a strong negative reaction among British medical educators. The first separate school for women physicians opened in London in to a handful of students.

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In , the King and Queen's College of Physicians in Ireland became the first institution to take advantage of the Enabling Act of and admit women to take its medical licences. In all cases, coeducation had to wait until the World War. The Poor Law defined who could receive monetary relief. The act reflected and perpetuated prevailing gender conditions. In Edwardian society, men were the source of wealth.

The law restricted relief for unemployed, able-bodied male workers, due to the prevailing view that they would find work in the absence of financial assistance. However, women were treated differently. After the Poor Law was passed, women and children received most of the aid. The law did not recognise single independent women, and lumped women and children into the same category.

At the time, single mothers were the poorest sector in society, disadvantaged for at least four reasons. First, women had longer lifespans, often leaving them widowed with children. Second, women's work opportunities were few, and when they did find work, their wages were lower than male workers' wages. Third, women were often less likely to marry or remarry after being widowed, leaving them as the main providers for the remaining family members. Many women were malnourished and had limited access to health care.

The Edwardian era , from the s to the First World War saw middle-class women breaking out of the Victorian limitations. Women had more employment opportunities and were more active. Many served worldwide in the British Empire or in Protestant missionary societies. For housewives, sewing machines enabled the production of ready made clothing and made it easier for women to sew their own clothes; more generally, argues Barbara Burman, "home dressmaking was sustained as an important aid for women negotiating wider social shifts and tensions in their lives.

Numerous new magazines appealed to her tastes and help define femininity. The inventions of the typewriter, telephone, and new filing systems offered middle class women increased employment opportunities. Education and status led to demands for female roles in the rapidly expanding world of sports. As middle class women rose in status they increasingly supported demands for a political voice. In Wales the suffragists women were attacked as outsiders and were usually treated with rudeness and often violence when they demonstrated or spoke publicly.

The idea of Welshness was by then highly masculine because of its identification with labouring in heavy industry and mining and with militant union action. The radical protests steadily became more violent, and included heckling, banging on doors, smashing shop windows, burning mailboxes, and arson of unoccupied buildings. These tactics produced mixed results of sympathy and alienation. As many protesters were imprisoned and went on hunger-strike , the Liberal government was left with an embarrassing situation.

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From these political actions, the suffragists successfully created publicity around their institutional discrimination and sexism. Historians generally argue that the first stage of the militant suffragette movement under the Pankhursts in had a dramatic mobilizing effect on the suffrage movement. However a system of publicity, historian Robert Ensor argues, had to continue to escalate to maintain its high visibility in the media.

The hunger strikes and force-feeding did that. They turned to systematic disruption of Liberal Party meetings as well as physical violence in terms of damaging public buildings and arson. This went too far, as the overwhelming majority of moderate suffragists pulled back and refused to follow because they could no longer defend the tactics. They increasingly repudiated the extremists as an obstacle to achieving suffrage, saying the militant suffragettes were now aiding the antis, and many historians agree. Searle says the methods of the suffragettes did succeed in damaging the Liberal party but failed to advance the cause of woman suffrage.

When the Pankhursts decided to stop the militancy at the start of the war, and enthusiastically support the war effort, the movement split and their leadership role ended.


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Suffrage did come four years later, but the feminist movement in Britain permanently abandoned the militant tactics that had made the suffragettes famous. In Wales, women's participation in politics grew steadily from the start of the suffrage movement in By , half the members elected to the National Assembly were women.

Welfare reform and lessons from the United Kingdom

Although abortion was illegal, it was nevertheless the most widespread form of birth control in use. Those who transported contraceptives could be legally punished. Newspaper advertisements were used to promote and sell abortifacients indirectly. Edwardian Britain had large numbers of male and female domestic servants , in both urban and rural areas.

Women in the Middle Ages - Wikipedia

The upper classes embraced leisure sports, which resulted in rapid developments in fashion, as more mobile and flexible clothing styles were needed. The Edwardian era was the last time women wore corsets in everyday life. According to Arthur Marwick , the most striking change of all the developments that occurred during the Great War was the modification in women's dress, "for, however far politicians were to put the clocks back in other steeples in the years after the war, no one ever put the lost inches back on the hems of women's skirts".

The Edwardians developed new styles in clothing design. A new concept of tight fitting skirts and dresses made of lightweight fabrics were introduced for a more active lifestyle. The First World War advanced the feminist cause, as women's sacrifices and paid employment were much appreciated. Prime Minister David Lloyd George was clear about how important the women were:. It would have been utterly impossible for us to have waged a successful war had it not been for the skill and ardour, enthusiasm and industry which the women of this country have thrown into the war.

History of women in the United Kingdom

The militant suffragette movement was suspended during the war and never resumed. British society credited the new patriotic roles women played as earning them the vote in Pugh argues that enfranchising soldiers primarily and women secondarily was decided by senior politicians in In the absence of major women's groups demanding for equal suffrage, the government's conference recommended limited, age-restricted women's suffrage.

The suffragettes had been weakened, Pugh argues, by repeated failures before and by the disorganising effects of war mobilization; therefore they quietly accepted these restrictions, which were approved in by a majority of the War Ministry and each political party in Parliament.


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  6. Women in Britain finally achieved suffrage on the same terms as men in There was a relaxing of clothing restrictions; by there was negative talk about young women called " flappers " flaunting their sexuality. The vote did not immediately change social circumstances. With the economic recession, women were the most vulnerable sector of the workforce. Some women who held jobs prior to the war were obliged to forfeit them to returning soldiers, and others were excessed.

    Legislative reform was sought for discriminatory laws e. She expressed the critical need for consideration of difference in gender relationships as "what women need to fulfill the potentialities of their own natures". Other important social legislation of this period included the Sex Disqualification Removal Act which opened professions to women , and the Matrimonial Causes Act The council continued until the end of the Second World War. Annie Besant had been prosecuted in for publishing Charles Knowlton 's Fruits of Philosophy , a work on family planning, under the Obscene Publications Act She and her colleague Charles Bradlaugh were convicted but acquitted on appeal, the subsequent publicity resulting in a decline in the birth rate.

    Britain's total mobilization during this period proved to be successful in winning the war, by maintaining strong support from public opinion. The war was a "people's war" that enlarged democratic aspirations and produced promises of a postwar welfare state. Historians credit Britain with a highly successful record of mobilizing the home front for the war effort, in terms of mobilizing the greatest proportion of potential workers, maximizing output, assigning the right skills to the right task, and maintaining the morale and spirit of the people.

    In some ways, the government over planned, evacuating too many children in the first days of the war, closing cinemas as frivolous then reopening them when the need for cheap entertainment was clear, sacrificing cats and dogs to save a little space on shipping pet food, only to discover an urgent need to keep the rats and mice under control. The success of the government in providing new services, such as hospitals, and school lunches, as well as the equalitarian spirit of the People's war, contributed to widespread support for an enlarged welfare state.

    Munitions production rose dramatically, and the quality remained high. Food production was emphasized, in large part to open up shipping for munitions. Farmers increased the number of acres under cultivation from 12,, to 18,,, and the farm labor force was expanded by a fifth, thanks especially to the Women's Land Army. Parents had much less time for supervision of their children, and the fear of juvenile delinquency was upon the land, especially as older teenagers took jobs and emulated their older siblings in the service. The government responded by requiring all youth over 16 to register, and expanded the number of clubs and organizations available to them.

    Food, clothing, petrol, leather and other such items were rationed. However, items such as sweets and fruits were not rationed, as they would spoil. Access to luxuries was severely restricted, although there was also a significant black market. Families also grew victory gardens , and small home vegetable gardens, to supply themselves with food. Many things were conserved to turn into weapons later, such as fat for nitroglycerin production.

    People in the countryside were less affected by rationing as they had greater access to locally sourced unrationed products than people in metropolitan areas and were more able to grow their own. The rationing system, which had been originally based on a specific basket of goods for each consumer, was much improved by switching to a points system which allowed the housewives to make choices based on their own priorities.

    Food rationing also permitted the upgrading of the quality of the food available, and housewives approved—except for the absence of white bread and the government's imposition of an unpalatable wheat meal " national loaf. In the aftermath of World War II, a new emphasis was placed on companionate marriage and the nuclear family as a foundation of the new welfare state.

    Women's commitment to companionate marriage was echoed by the popular media: Feminist writers of that period, such as Alva Myrdal and Viola Klein , started to allow for the possibility that women should be able to combine home with outside employment. Feminism in s England was strongly connected to social responsibility and involved the well-being of society as a whole. This often came at the cost of the liberation and personal fulfillment of self-declared feminists. The s saw dramatic shifts in attitudes and values led by youth.

    It was a worldwide phenomenon, in which British rock musicians especially The Beatles played an international role. One notable event was the publication of D. Although first printed in , the release in of an inexpensive mass-market paperback version prompted a court case. The prosecuting council's question, "Would you want your wife or servants to read this book?

    The book was seen as one of the first events in a general relaxation of sexual attitudes. Other elements of the sexual revolution included the development of The Pill , Mary Quant 's miniskirt and the legalisation of homosexuality. There was a rise in the incidence of divorce and abortion, and a resurgence of the women's liberation movement , whose campaigning helped secure the Equal Pay Act and the Sex Discrimination Act in The Irish Catholics, traditionally the most puritanical of the ethno-religious groups, eased up a little, especially as the membership disregarded the bishops teaching that contraception was sinful.

    However, Gordon Brown announced that he would not have a Deputy Prime Minister, much to the consternation of feminists, [] particularly with suggestions that privately Brown considered Jack Straw to be de facto deputy prime minister [] and thus bypassing Harman. Harman also held the post Minister for Women and Equality. In April after being sexually harassed on London public transport English journalist Laura Bates founded the Everyday Sexism Project , a website which documents everyday examples of sexism experienced by contributors from around the world.

    The site quickly became successful and a book compilation of submissions from the project was published in From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Women in the Middle Ages and Anglo-Saxon women. Witch trials in early modern Scotland. Victorian morality and Women in the Victorian era. Women in the Victorian era. Prostitution in the United Kingdom. Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom. Manchester University Press, p. Noblewomen, aristocracy, and power in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm.

    Ale, beer and brewsters in England: International Journal of Women's Studies. Eden Press Women's Publications. The age of Elizabeth: England under the later Tudors, 2nd ed. Representations of the Virgin Queen". The treatment of Elizabeth I's marriage in plays and entertainments, —". The life of Queen Elizabeth. State University of New York Press, p. Elizabeth I and Tudor construction of motherhood". University of Chicago Press. Bulletin of the History of Medicine. Oxford University Press, p. In Young, Bruce W. Family life in the age of Shakespeare. The Witchcraft Act, ", in Henderson, Lizanne, ed.

    Witchcraft and folk belief in the age of enlightenment: Basingstoke, Hampshire New York: Religion and the decline of magic: Cambridge University Press, pp. Witchcraft in Tudor and Stuart England: Journal of Women in Culture and Society. Marriage and the English Reformation.

    Women in the Middle Ages

    Oxford, UK Cambridge, Massachusetts: Reader's guide to women's studies. A review article ". Comparative Studies in Society and History. Women workers and the industrial revolution Women, work, and family. Fertility, class, and gender in Britain, A Journal of Demography. Besant, Annie ; Bradlaugh, Charles , eds.

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    Language English View all editions Prev Next edition 3 of 3. Check copyright status Cite this Title Working for women? Physical Description x, p. Subjects Sex discrimination in employment -- Great Britain. Women -- Employment -- Law and legislation -- Great Britain. Women -- Great Britain -- Social conditions.

    Equal pay for equal work -- Great Britain. Women's rights -- Great Britain. Notes Includes bibliographical references p. View online Borrow Buy Freely available Show 0 more links Set up My libraries How do I set up "My libraries"? These 4 locations in All:


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