Women & WW1 - Coatbridge High School

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Social Science, Sociology, Discrimination
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Women and WW1


What will I learn?  What is meant by the reward theory.  The work carried out by women during WW1.  Arguments for and against the reward theory.


Reward Theory: Historian Arthur Marwick 

  

Marwick argues that women still did not have the vote by 1914 and in fact the last Conciliation Bill 1912 – 208 voted for and 222 MPs against women’s suffrage. Yet by 1917 – 387 voted for and 57 against. Marwick states that something dramatic must have changed politician’s minds. Was the vote purely a reward for women’s war work? 3

Suffrage Societies   

Both NUWSS & WSPU Patrioticsupported the war effort. Pankhursts called off militant campaign. WSPU organised a pro-war rally in 1915 attended by 30,000 women which demanded “The Women’s right to serve” WSPU “white feather” campaign.


War Work      

Women found themselves undertaking all kinds of work, some unfamiliar, much of it dangerous or physically demanding. Munitions 1917 = 819,000 female workers. Nursing 1917 = 45,000 female workers. Transport 1915 =117,000 “ “ Example of dangers in munitions = explosion at Silvertown factory in East London killed hundreds. Toxic Jaundice/canaries. 5

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Analysis - Changing Attitudes  Women – work gave them the taste of freedom, better wages, more interesting jobs, promotion and responsibility. Many women would no longer put up with their old pre-war lifestyle and discrimination. In turn, women would want the vote to ensure their position in society improved.

 Marwick argues men working beside women and observing their hard work and responsible attitudes fostered a new respect for them. Women now appeared more deserving of the right to vote. 7

Changing Attitudes continued  Newspapers called women workers “heroines”.  “The Nation Thanks The Women” posters went up all over Britain  Politicians – before the war many argued that women like the suffragettes could not be trusted, but some such as former Prime Minister Asquith changed their minds because of war work or more likely the changing mood of the public towards women. 8

Representation of the People Act 1918  Parliament knew it would have to allow young men who had fought on the Western Front the right to vote. The act passed easily with a large majority of 387 to 57 against.  Men over 21 allowed to vote.  Married women over 30 or property holders allowed to vote.  Still unfair but 8 million women did gain the right to vote. 9

Analysis  Did the war alone change attitudes to women’s suffrage?  Arthur Marwick says - YES! There was a connection between war work and the vote.  “The nation thanks the women” billboards.  Former PM Asquith was the best example of an anti-suffrage MP who was converted to the cause of votes for women. 10

Marwick Quote:  Arthur Marwick states:  “The war brought a new confidence to women, removed apathy, silenced the female anti-suffragists. Asquith was only the most prominent of the converts among men. Undoubtedly, the replacement of militant suffragette activity by frantic patriotic endeavour played its part well”. 11

The Vote was not a reward  NO! – As argued by historians Martin Pugh and Paula Bartley.  Pugh argues Suffragists not given enough credit for having shaped attitudes before WW1 e.g. 2 weeks before war broke out leading suffragists were negotiating with government representatives over the suffrage.  Bartley argues it was a strange reward as most war work done by young women in early 20s but they were not given the vote – only their mothers or older sisters over 30 – who 12 didn’t do nearly as much war work.

Arguments against the reward theory:  Pugh argues women would have been given the vote eventually, as Britain would not want to seem undemocratic and lag behind other countries – e.g. New Zealand, Australia and Canada, especially as WW1 was supposedly fought to preserve democracy  Bartley states: pre-war suffrage campaigns had a high profile. Even though women in France did war work they did not get the vote until much later (1945) – largely because there was no pre-war campaign by women to push politicians towards votes for women. 13

Arguments against reward theory  Martin Pugh states “…it has been claimed that women’s valuable work for the war effort radically changed male ideas (about women)… seems simplistic and erroneous. It obviously overlooks the pre-1914 changes of attitude as well as the hard campaigning by the suffrage groups..” 14

Arguments against reward theory  Paula Bartley states:  “It would be naïve to believe that women received the vote solely for services rendered in the First World War”.  “The significance of women’s war work in the achievement of the vote is therefore perhaps not as great as first assumed.”  She states it was easier for crafty politicians like Asquith to give women the vote in 1918 as they were “heroines” rather than to militant suffragettes. 15

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