The view that women made no progress in society untill granted the vote in 1918
In my opinion I disagree with the opinion that women had made no progress in society until 1918 when they were granted the vote due the women of Britain had to establish a high enough status in order to change the governments opinion of whether the women deserved the vote. So up to 1918 women of Britain had worked on establishing status to an equal political level that of men. The struggle for equal education took root in the Victorian period during the mid-eighteen hundreds women were expected to live up to a feminine ideal. This ideology required women to be “pure, pious, domestic and submissive” (Eisenmann Appendix).
None of these ideals would be achieved through education. In fact, the concept of receiving an education in the Victorian Period was considered an “act of nonconformity”(Solomon xviii). A woman could not fill her preordained place in society if she wasting her time gaining knowledge. Education was thought to make women become delusional with their current status as a wife and mother. Women’s suffrage did not become a political issue in the United Kingdom until 1832, when the 1832 Reform Act specifically disenfranchised women.
Women then saw eduation as their key to unlock the door to equal rights. By the 1860s whilst sufferage campaging began to have an affect on the country the majority of women in Britian lacked in formal education. It was thought that educational developments limits the working class yet to open up new opportunities for the middle class. Untill 1870 working class females attended a narrow range of schools such as factory schools for potential facory workers. And still the rest of the female popualtion remained uneducated.
When Mary Wollstonecraft published her book ” A Vindication of the Rights of Women”, she attacked on the educational restrictions that kept women in a “state of ignorance and dependent on men”. This lead Feminists in the 1880s agreeing with Wollstonecraft and opening the public’s ideas to girls having the same educational opportunities as boys. However, this proved to be difficult as there were few schools in the country that provided a good academic education for girls, these schools that catered for girls taught that of needlework and household work set subjects.
This meant that some feminists educated their daughters at home. So an inspired Louisa Martindale set up one of the first decent academic charity school for girls in Lewes but she experienced so much opposition from the people in the town she decided to abandon the school completely. This example shows a key lack in progress in education for women in the early stages of campaigning. However still feminists were determined for women to receive a full education. At the beginning of the 20th century it was very difficult for women to obtain an academic first and secondary let alone university education.
In 1870 Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon helped to set up Girton College, the first university college for women, despite it not being recognised by the university authorities. This showed men that women were just as capable of obtaining a full education as men at more academic subjects like maths despite the authorities the women were still using there intelligence to accomplish this and succeed in their studies set at the university . Without a university degree it was very difficult for women to enter the professions. After a long struggle the medical profession had allowed women to become doctors.
However due to constant campaigning, examples like above and the government becoming more widespread parliament decided to set up state schools system replacing the old system in 1870, by 1918 it was compulsory for children up to the age of 13 to go to school by 1918. As a result literacy rates soared and by the end of the nineteenth century 97% of all children could read and write. However despite this females were still attending non-academic female lessons such as needlework and cooking and were not being allowed any opportunities to even try more mentally challenging subjects such as maths and physics.
When it came to working class girls state schools emphasised on domestication rather than emancipation its aim was clear, to ensure men were the brains behind the country and women produced the best groomed and fed brains of the future. This idea was not good for feminists across the country, they did not want education in order to become better at what they are striving to escape from yet they want education in order to escape. Women could only therefore only escape by being home schooled of which many middle class children were.
However by 1918 some schools began to offer academic subjects yet were only open to middle class and upper class families. Soon women were allowed into universities and by the end of the nineteenth century both London and Manchester universities accepted women. This shows the improvement of which women had on the education system and how all the campaigning had paid off since in under a century a women now had the chance to become a professional at there desired job. Even so, by 1900 there were only 200 women doctors. It was not until 1910 that women were allowed to become accountants and bankers.
However, there were still no women diplomats, barristers or judges Still women were still making a huge progress in the world of schooling if we consider 50 years ago the majority of women did not have any education that went beyond a factory. Without education to empower them, many women believed that they should not hold the power to influence politics and so women therefore had to make progress before they were granted the vote. In the 19th century upper class and middle class women were not expected to earn their own living and were totally dependent on their husband income as the ideology being that men were the providers.
Women rarely had careers and most professions refused entry to women. In the middle of the 19th century it was virtually impossible for women to become doctors, lawyers, architects or bankers. The majority of women worked in factories or as nurses. Women were allowed to become teachers. In 1861 over 72% of teachers were women, but teaching was a low status job and was also very badly paid. However Britain cotton trader remained on the strongest in the world and textile work came in surplus however this work was more set in northern England and Scotland and discontinued into other parts of the British isles.
Women were then set in low paid jobs was no skills if not easy skills were required. Working class women remained at the bottom of the economic scale feminist new that a desperate change was needed. Being that women started of the lowest of the low having a high work profession became a huge hurdle that became easier to manage whilst the education quality rose dramatically. With women earning 65% of the male wage in the late 19th century equality was a far-fetched dream. However improvements in professions were not as drastic as they were in education. Education way improved dramatically due to laws being enforced.
Since the sex discrimination act was not introduced into Britain until 1975 and the equal pay act in 1970. So therefore women did not make a huge impact before 1918 as women were unlikely to become employed in a job which would be considered non appropriate for a women unless the employer was a woman even then non-feminists had there doubts, and this was often the case simply because it was not against the law to. However from 1914-1918 women replaced the majority of “manly” jobs in the cities and towns due to the First World War men were sent of to the army.
The nature of women’s work did alter dramatically in this period and so between 1914 to 1918 women did make progress in the work area however in my option this was not due to feminist campaigning and women’s rights but simply because there was no one else to do the job. However this may of swayed a mans opinion as since we became the successors of the war it properly showed the male population that women could do the jobs to achieve success. However when the male army came home they would of properly thought that they could have done the job better.
However from a source I can see that in 1851 a women’s wage was about 1/3 of what a male earnt in the same occupation however by 1890 the wage was just under half. Thus showing a slight improvement. Due to the increase in democracy in the government and the impact of suffragists Woman had a large impact on the politics on the British government before 1918. They to have an impact in order to gain the vote. Working class women knew that their lives had to improve and formed the radical suffragettes.
The NUWSS had a large impact of politics during the end of the 19nth century with their aims to be placed on equal footing as men who already had it and the men that would be given it in the future. The WSPUs also had an impact on politics. They set up shops of which sold vote for women goods, which help fund, their actions. Parties like these also got a lot of press, press makes a large impact on politics as what the public reads can sway there opinions and therefore sway the politics of the country so this had a large impact on the politics of the nation.
In 1905, the WSPUsconvinced the Member of Parliament Bamford Slack to introduce a women’s suffrage Bill they had drawn up. The Bill was ultimately talked out, but the publicity launched the rapid growth of the group. However the bill was not passed yet they then changed tactics focused on attacking whichever political party was in government, and refused to support any legislation which did not include their demands for enfranchisement, thus dropping their commitment to other immediate social reforms. This example tells us that women were listened to in government and had some say in the runing of the government as they introduced a bill.
Yet it alos tells us that there policies were not appriciated by the political powers of England. In 1906, some members of the WSPUs group began a series of demonstrations and lobbies of Parliament, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of growing numbers of their members. This tells us that women did either not have the right to protest against the acts of the government or that they were being violent. However the protests did have an effect on the politics. This lead to The Labour Party then voting to support universal suffrage.
The group then began to more explicitly organise exclusively among middle class women, and stated their opposition to all political parties. On January 1rst 1881, 700 British women were allowed to vote on the Isle of Man. This was an obvious example of an impact of which women had on politics before 1918. Womn also achieved the vote on there local government before establishing the right to vote as a whole this is a clear sighn of progress as it gave them saying on how there town was run. Towards the end of the 19th century the country witnessed a change when women we In 1864 when Parliament passed the Contagious Diseases Act.
This legislation allowed policeman to arrest prostitutes or any woman that may have looked “contagious” in ports army towns and garrisons and bring them in to have compulsory checks for sexually transmitted disease. If the women carried sexually transmitted diseases then they were forced into a hospital until cured and were not allowed to leave. It was claimed that this was the best way to protect men from “infected” women. Many of the women arrested were not prostitutes but they still were forced to go to the police station to undergo a humiliating medical examination.
The majority of women knew that this law discriminated against women, as the legislation contained no similar sanctions against men. However Many people were shocked by the idea of a woman speaking in public about sexual matters. The Contagious Diseases Act was finally repealed in 1886 showing us that women did make some progress in gaining more equal rights in terms of sexual morality yet despite the law being repelled the campaign to remove the law did not raise moral of women despite there being “leaders” of the campaign.
Josephine Butler and Elizabeth Wolstenholme led the campaign against this legislation and formed the Ladies’ Association Against the Contagious Diseases Act. They both toured the country making speeches calling for a change in the law or for it to be removed. Despite this women did not speak openly about sexual matters in the 19th century openly and the campaign was kept quiet after the law had been removed.
In conclusion I do not agree with the statement claiming that women made no progress in society until 1918 as women had made progress in so many aspects of society it would be hard to claim they didn’t. They allowed women to achieve high academic status earnt a more respected opinion on the political front. Also the main group of extreme feminists let the other women in Britain know that some of the laws just were not fair and that something ought to be done. With the help of such groups as the suffragettes the women achieved newspaper headlines and they were allowed into university along with males.