Before the Great War the position of women in society depended on birth, class, marriage, and men

Women had to live up to an ideal created by men. This meant women had to appear less intelligent than their husbands, women had to be well mannered, and modest in behaviour and speech. Women from richer middle and upper class families had servants to look after their homes and weren’t expected to work. Upper class women were brought up and educated to be a dutiful wife. Lower class women had to look after their husband, manage everything in the house as well as finance, be utterly faithful to her husband and willingly manage a large family

Some women did go to work; in 1901 55% of single women and 14% of married women were at work. In 1914 the largest employer of women was the Domestic Service with 1,600,000 this is because the Domestic Service was regarded as better than working in factories. About 656,000 women worked in the factories of the textile industry – especially the cotton mills of northern England. Lots of women were in work but many of them hardly made enough money to live on.

Married working class women faced a lot of problems. Families were large: 71% of women had four or more children and 41% had seven or more. Many women however lost children to diseases like Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria, and Tubercular. Children died because they didn’t have any health care and doctors were expensive and hard to find. Poverty, bad housing and child bearing affected the health of working class women probably because they put the health of their husbands first as they had to be at work to earn money.

Lots of women wanted the vote before the Great War. Suffragists wanted the vote and played by the law where as Suffragettes were more militant. The Suffragettes committed many acts of violence such as destruction of property and arson. Lots of people were against giving women the right to vote, even queen Victoria was. This meant women’s suffrage had to gain support, so they continued with their marches and put posters up to try to gain support. The government passed a cat and mouse act which allowed Suffragettes to be released when they became ill because of their hunger strike and as soon as they were better again they were arrested and sent back to prison to finish their sentence. The outbreak of the First World War brought an end to the Suffragettes campaign.

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