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The Role of Women in the 20th Century
   Thu Sep 03, 2020 10:50 am

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The Role of Women in the 20th Century

Permanent Linkby oliviafrancis on Thu Sep 03, 2020 10:50 am

The 20th century can be termed as the most gruesome regarding the events that took place and the changes that these events caused. The world’s population can be said to have gone through the worst of all times in this century. In this regard, femininity also endured a lot, in particular, the wars and revolutions. However, the hardships faced during these years are considerably the reason behind the little triumphs experienced by women in terms of their rights and freedoms.
The 20th century was a time for growth, aided by the lessons of a ghostly past. During these years, women became more appreciated in terms of their contribution to the society and their ability to do more. However, it was not all smooth sailing as the women had to endure the ridicule and opposition from their male counterparts and anti-feminist women who were comfortable with their roles as wives, mothers, and homemakers. As the roles changed based on new technology and a natural evolution among other things, the world in general also changed to adapt to the new roles of the women. Expectations and standards were set, most to which the female continue trying to live up even up to this day. As a point for consideration, it is argued whether the 20th century really was the turning point that defined the role of women in the world today. This paper discusses the various changes that took place in the role of women within the 20th century, and how these changes came about in order to establish the importance of this century to today’s women. Women made a contribution to political, social, labor, military, and others spheres of life in the 20th century.
The 19th century had a few remarkable events concerning the womankind. There had been a number of personalities who had become known for their fight towards the realization of equality between men and women concerning education and social status. As opposed to the prevailing social status quo in which the men were considered the citizens more than the women, the 19th century saw a few women coming out and opposing this arrangement although with no significant outcomes at the time.
This implies that all through the 19th century, women were strictly seen as mothers, wives, and daughters of men. They lived by the rules and expectations of the men, as their subordinates and never as equals. Generally, the role or rather the destiny of a woman dictated that she married early, had children, and dedicated herself to home making for the rest of her life. Rather than a partner in the household, the society defined a wife as a property of the husband, and her value was in taking care of him and his offspring.
Academically, women were in some instances allowed to go to school. However, even with this provision, only those from rich and influential families found the opportunity useful. The rest were just easily married off at a tender age to suit the political or social interests of their fathers. Thus, despite the successful efforts to get the female child educated, a great deal of loopholes continued to hold them back.
At the turn of the century, a number of things happened and changed the role of women in the European society for good. Some of these events can be considered as catastrophic and regrettable, but they helped to push the cause of the female in the 20th century. These events include the wars and revolutions that were widespread, as well as the advancement in technology that led to convenience in home making.
The Wars
The First and Second World Wars are considered by far among the most regrettable aspects of the world’s history. These wars left behind a lot of casualties, including women and children. This was a time that could not be celebrated by anyone who respected humanity, especially human security. It was however during these wars that the society as a whole came to appreciate the value of the women. While all the men were shipped off to fight in the wars, the womenfolk were left to work in the factories to sustain the country’s economy and support the war. They also had to take up the role of a family protector, becoming the pillar of the family system in the absence of the men.
The society seemed to be awakening to the fact that the women were as capable as the men to be economically productive while taking care of their families without the support of the men in the house. This experience also challenged the women not to depend on men for validation. As they enjoyed their few years of financial independence, they started questioning the motives of their men in keeping them at home as homemakers when they could do much more.
The wars thus generally brought with them a rebellious mood amongst the womenfolk who had taken over the reign of the society while the men were at war. When the wars ended, the men sought to return to common mode of life, and the governments ensured it. The women were sent back to their homes to take care of their husbands and children while the returning men were given jobs to provide for their families. The few women who had managed to climb the corporate ladder may have been able to retain their jobs but at a great cost as most of them were forced to choose between their jobs and their families. A small number chose their jobs while the rest opted to go back home to the familiarity of home making once again.
The Revolutions
The Industrial Revolution resulted in a great demand for labor, and womenfolk were not left out. They however were only given small jobs that were ‘feminine’ by definition, and they received less pay than their male colleagues did. In addition, the women were allowed to work part time only, as they also had to take care of their families. The jobs were considered necessary due to the tough economic times and the hardships that made it difficult to sustain a home on one person’s income.
In Russia, the March Revolution led to the approval of women suffrage by the provisional government thus recognizing the rights of the women to participate in the democratic practice of voting. In addition, communism as a prevailing dispensation required the female to be allowed to participate in economic activities just as the men. This elevated the status of the women from strictly domestic work to common productive labor even though most of them were rarely employed beyond farms and other informal dockets.
Other parts of Europe also experienced various aspects of revolutionary reactions such as the formation of the Women Social and Political Union (WSPU) to voice the concerns of the women in Britain and beyond its borders. All these efforts culminated in a more sensitized public concerning the definition of being a woman in the 20th century.
Technology
The advancements of technology, as they were experienced at the time, implied that the role of the woman in the society should change as well. First, there were a wide range of domestic appliances that made home making very easy. With the creation of new technology, equipment such as vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, indoor plumbing, and refrigerators among other things made the work of the women about the house significantly reduced leaving them much time to waste. This prompted them to redefine their role in the society as home making no longer sufficed to occupy them. Thus, more and more women went out looking for work and yet still managed to take care of their men and children. This significantly altered the perception of the male gender concerning the abilities of the womenfolk.
The Role of Women in the Early 20th Century Europe
Early 20th century Europe was a place full of contradictions and lessons. The women were seeing taking over the society while the men went to war, and yet they were considered as inferior to their male counterparts. This was a period when the women had to fight hard in order to be recognized and appreciated for their capabilities beyond housekeeping and child bearing. The early 20th century Europe also had clear divisions by class and culture. The wealthy and affluent members of the society had more privileges than their less fortunate counterparts in the lower class. This also applied among the womenfolk where the ones from rich families had access to good education and had a voice in matters of the society whereas the peasant women had nothing to brag about besides their children and farms. They had no access to education, and they were considered as the properties of the husbands and the unmarried ones of their fathers.
The Role of Women in the Late 20th Century Europe
Considering the events that happened in the 20th century and the changes that followed these events, it follows that the role of women was redefined to suit the new social and political environment. These roles were redefined because of capabilities and political will as well as social status.
As mothers, the women were more respected and honored in their role of child bearing and rearing. They were allowed to choose their preferred method of childbirth and even take birth control measures as they saw fit. It was however not until 1921 when Dr. Marie Stopes opened the first birth control clinic in England. The birth control pills then followed in 1961.
This implies that the role of a mother was considered beyond child bearing and rearing. Among the financially privileged families, child rearing was left to wet nurses as the mothers took an active role in the society. Some of them pursued education and became renowned scholars and writers while others became activists and political figures. Among the lower social class, wet nursing was too expensive; thus, the mothers had to single handedly take care of their children. When the latter grew, they could comfortably leave home and get work in the factories and other areas of production.
As wives, women were allowed to work and own property just as their husbands did. They were also allowed to file for a divorce unlike in previous eras where they had to wait for the man to initiate a divorce. Generally, the 20th century European woman was more emancipated and appreciated by the law than had ever been seen before. In addition, the wives had more rights than they had ever had since they had the option of pursuing financial independence and covering their own expenses. They were thus accorded more respect and recognition beyond their roles as homemakers and child bearers. Moreover, they were recognized as partners in a marriage and not as property or slaves.
As leaders, women became more vocal in the 20th century as they assumed active roles in politics. After they were granted suffrage, they became active participants in politics and even started vying for political positions such as parliamentary seats among others. Generally, in the 20th century, women became recognized for their leadership skills and efforts towards a higher social status.
As daughters, European women of the 20th century had rights and freedoms previously unknown to them. They were entitled to education regardless of social status implying that their fathers had to take them to school. They also realized that they did not have to marry and devote their lives to child bearing and home making. As a result, the 20th century daughters had ambition and career goals. They were focused on doing more than just living for the men and becoming influential members of the society. For example, in 1916, the first policewoman in Britain with full police powers was certified, and in 1922, the first female solicitor and the first female chartered surveyor were also registered. All these professions were previously considered too manly, and women would only be allowed to work in lesser capacity such as secretary and giving care. The role of the 20th century woman thus grew from being an office assistant to a practitioner in mainstream professions.
As laborers and professionals, women in the 20th century Europe were equal counterparts concerning the kind and quality of work, in which that they were allowed and expected to participate. They had more employment opportunities than before, and they also received equal pay as their male colleagues owing to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Sex Discrimination Act of 1975. Generally, the role of the 20th century woman in Europe moved from a homemaker to an economic pillar with the capability to support her family and herself. They moved from being undervalued as laborers to being respected, appreciated, paid equally to their male colleagues, and given equal job opportunities.
The 20th century was a remarkable time for the women. This era was tainted with the occurrence of wars and revolutions that almost destroyed humankind; however, it taught lessons that seem to have improved this civilization. Considering the effects of these events on the role of women, it can be stated that the 20th century developed and redefined the concept of being a woman, making them more active and significant members of the society in terms of the social, economic, and political aspects of their lives. This means that from being homemakers and generally, behind the scenes, women in the 20th century became active participants in decision making and nation building as they became more vocal activists and professionals in various fields. The women in the 20th century have set the pace and generally dictated the terms within which today’s women live. They worked and fought hard for the recognition and appreciation that led first to their emancipation and suffrage and later to access to education and their entry to the main professions.
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Olivia works as an author at https://essaysbank.com/essays/american-history - an online service where you can purchase essay and get help with various types of jobs required for high schools, colleges and universities. You no longer have to deal with complex tasks.

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