Iycee Charles de Gaulle Summary The Role and Significance of the Feminist movement in Britain Essay

The Role and Significance of the Feminist movement in Britain Essay

The Role and Significance of the Feminist movement in Britain.


Feminism is a diverse collection of social theories, political movements, and moral philosophies, largely motivated by or concerning the experiences of women, especially in terms of their social, political, and economic situation. As a social movement, feminism largely focuses on limiting or eradicating gender inequality and promoting women’s rights, interests, and issues in society1. It also incorporates concern about the effect of gender roles on men, and encouragement for men to change and transcend traditional male roles and norms of masculinity. (Wikipedia Online).


1 Feminism, wikipedia.org/wiki/feminism

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

Since the World War I the female plays a great role in combating enemy, assisting husband, caring the child and older people. But the role of women does not end it continues in the World War II and even today. They showed that women not just for sex and making baby, and assisting the husband, but it can lead even in the highest position that male usually occupy.  The success of Britain in what they achieved now owed these the in the struggle of the women. Without their contribution, the war effort would have been severely weakened and it is probable that Britain would not have been able to fight to their greatest might without the input from women. This term paper will discuss the role of women since World War I in politics up to the present status in Britain.

Page 2

The Role of Feminist movement in Britain during World War I

Excerpted in the history learning site, during the World War I, women played a significant role in developing women’s political rights. But during those days the women’s progress is slow in gaining political rights. On June 19th 1917, the House of Commons voted by 385 to 55 to accept the Representation of the People Bill’s women’s suffrage clause2. Suffragists were astonished by the margin of support given to them by the still all-male Commons. The suffragists was afraid that they might be heard so they contacted the  MP’s to support the bill and not leave the house until the vote is over this strategy of the Suffragist  were important when the size of the support given to the bill is taken into account. The huge majority of 330 were to play an important part when it came to the bill moving to the House of Lords.

The women get the vote because the contribution they made during the World War I3. The work done by women during the war was vital but its importance to the passing of the bill may have been overstated. Historians such as Martin Pugh believe that the vote in favor of female suffrage was simply a continuation of the way the issue had been moving before the war had started in 1914.


2-4 http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW1.htm

The 1918 Representation of the People Act was the start of female suffrage in Great Britain.4 The bill was passed by an overwhelming majority in the House of Commons (385 for to 55 against) – an element of support that surprised the Suffragettes and other suffragist movements. The 1918 Representation of the People Act gave women of property over the age of 30 the right to vote – not all women, therefore, could vote – but it was a major start. The act done in favor of the women is a reward of the vital work done by women during the World War I. During the war, Britain had experienced a potentially disastrous munitions shortage and this was only solved by the work done by women in munitions factories. Women had also driven buses, worked on surface jobs in coal mines etc. Vital work was also done on farms to keep Britain well stocked with food5.

Page 3

But even the after in 1918 act the women still feel not equal to men in Britain because the men can vote at the age of 21 and 19 if it is active in the service of armed forces while the women can only vote at the age of 30 and if it I not living in the place they live were excluded from the right to vote as they were not property owners. The unequal treatment of women in voting had made them to continue their struggle in the World War II6.

The Role of Feminist movement in Britain during World War II

Still excerpted in the History of Learning, as in World War One, women played a vital part in this country’s success in World War Two. The Women’s in the World War I able to exercise their rights to vote and have heard thus the 1918 Representation of the People Act was finally achieved7. Even though only ages 30 are able to vote but at least they can start voting.  They have made a great mark in the face of men when they able to convinced MP to side with their demand.


5-6 http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW1.htm

7-8 http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW11.htm

However, between the wars, they had got full voting equality with men when in 1928 a law was passed which stated that any person over the age of 21 could vote – male and female8. The war once again gave women the opportunity to show what they could do. During the war the mothers with young children were evacuated from the cities considered to be in danger. In all, 3.5 million children were evacuated though many went with a teacher. As young children were normally taught by females, many of those who went with the children were women. The fact that women were seen to be the people who taught the youngest was something that had been going on for years.

Page 4

As in World War One, women were called on to help on the land and the Women’s Land Army (WLA) was re-formed in July 1939. Their work was vital as so many men were being called up into the military. In August 1940, only 7,000 women had joined but with the crisis caused by Hitler’s U-boats, a huge drive went on from this date on to get more women working on the land. Even Churchill feared that the chaos caused by the U-boats to our supplies from America would starve out Britain9.

But, as with World War One, women at the end of World War Two, found that the advances they had made were greatly reduced when the soldiers returned from fighting abroad. At the end of World War Two, those women who had found alternate employment from the normal for women lost their jobs. The returning soldiers had to be found jobs and many wanted society to return to normal. Therefore by 1939, many young girls found employment in domestic service – 2 million of them, just as had happened in 1914. Wages were still only 25p a week10.


9-11 http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW11.htm

In 1943, the shortages of women in the factories and on land lead to the government stopping women joining the armed forces11. They were given a choice of either working on the land or in factories. Those who worked on land did a very valuable job for the British people. Many women decided that they would work in a factory. They worked in all manner of production ranging from making ammunition to uniforms to aero planes. The hours they worked were long and some women had to move to where the factories were. Those who moved away were paid more.

Page 5

Even before the women has seen to struggle in their rights for the receiving equal salary as men enjoy.  The women before can be seen in the on a street demonstration for them to exercise their rights that resulted in the part-victory as they returned to work on the pay of a male semi-skilled worker, not the level of a male skilled worker but better than before the strike.

During the Blitz on London women in voluntary organizations did a very important job12. The Women’s Voluntary Service provided fire fighters with tea and refreshments when the clear-up took place after a bombing raid. The WVS had one million members by 1943. Most were quite elderly as the younger women were in the factories or working on farms and were too exhausted to do extra work once they had finished their shift13. The WVS also provided tea and refreshments for those who sheltered in the Underground in London. Basically, the WVS did whatever was needed. In Portsmouth, they collected enough scrap metal to fill four railway carriages in just one month. They also looked after people who had lost their homes from Germans bombing – the support they provided for these shocked people who had lost everything was incalculable. When the WVS was not on call, they knitted socks, balaclavas etc. for service men. Some WVS groups adopted a sailor to provide him with warm knitted clothing14.


12-15 http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW11.htm

In the military, all three services were open for women to join – the army, air force and navy. Women were also appointed as air raid wardens. In the army, women joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). Like soldiers, they wore a khaki uniform15. The recruiting posters were glamorous – some were considered too glamorous by Winston Churchill – and many young ladies joined the ATS because they believed they would lead a life of glamour. They were to be disappointed. Members of the ATS did not get the glamour jobs – they acted as drivers, worked in mess halls where many had to peel potatoes, acted cleaners and they worked on anti-aircraft guns. But an order by Winston Churchill forbade ATS ladies from actually firing an A gun as he felt that they would not be able to cope with the knowledge that they might have shot down and killed young German men16. His attitude was odd as ATS ladies were allowed to track a plane, fuse the shells and be there when the firing cord was pulled. By July 1942, the ATS had 217,000 women in it. As the war dragged on, women in the ATS were allowed to do more exciting jobs such as become welders (unheard of in ‘ciwie’ street), carpenters, electricians etc.

Page 6

Women who joined the Royal Air Force were in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). They did the same as the ATS (cooking, clerical work etc) but the opportunities were there for slightly more exciting work. Some got to work on Spitfires17. Others were used in the new radar stations used to track incoming enemy bomber formations. These radar sites were usually the first target for Stuka dive-bombers so a post in one of these radar stations could be very dangerous. However, the women in these units were to be the early warning ears and eyes of the RAF during the Battle of Britain. For all of this, women were not allowed to train to be pilots of war planes. Some were members of the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) which flew RAF planes from a factory to a fighter squadron’s base. There were 120 women in this unit out of 820 pilots in total. The women had fewer crashes than male pilots but they were not welcome as the editor of the magazine “Aero plane” made clear: they (women ATA) “do not have the intelligence to scrub the floor of a hospital properly.” He, C.G. Grey, claimed that they were a “menace” when flying.


16-18   Female in military service http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW11.htm

Women were also used as secret agents18. They were members of SOE (Special Operations Executive) and were usually parachuted into occupied France or landed in special Lysander planes. Their work was exceptionally dangerous as just one slip could lead to capture, torture and death. Their work was to find out all that they could to support the Allies for the planned landings in Normandy in June 1944. The most famous female SOE members were Violette Szabo and Odette Churchill. Both were awarded the George Cross for the work they did – the George Cross is the highest bravery award that a civilian can get. Both were captured and tortured. Violette Szabo was murdered by the Gestapo while Odette Churchill survived the war.

Page 7

Women were also extremely important in entertainment. The two most famous female entertainer of the war were Vera Lynn (now Dame Vera Lynn) and Gracie Fields. Vera Lynn’s singing (“There’ll be blue birds over the White Cliffs of Dover” and “We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when”) brought great happiness to many in Britain. She was known as the “Forces Sweetheart”. Gracie Fields was another favorite with the forces19.

The war in Europe ended in May 1945. At this time there were 460,000 women in the military and over 6.5 million in civilian war work20. Without their contribution, our war effort would have been severely weakened and it is probable that we would not have been able to fight to our greatest might without the input from women. Ironically, in Nazi Germany, Hitler had forbidden German women to work in German weapons factories as he felt that a woman’s place was at home. His most senior industry advisor, Albert Speer, pleaded with Hitler to let him use German female workers but right up to the end, Hitler refused. Hitler was happy for captured foreign women to work as slaves in his war factories but not German. Many of these slave workers, male and female, deliberately sabotaged the work that they did – so in their own way they helped the war effort of the Allies.


19-20 women as military, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW11.htm

The women have probed again in the World War II that they are important and play not only in making uniform and preparing foods but to the equal rights to vote not only ages 30 but they can vote now at the age 21 as the men do and even penetrating the War zone where lots of women inter into military ground where most men do. Imagine that there are 460,000 women in the military and over 6.5 million in civilian war work. Without their contribution, our war effort would have been severely weakened and it is probable that we would not have been able to fight to our greatest might without the input from women. The role in women has been in 1960 change when George VI died on Feb. 6, 1952, and was succeeded by his daughter, Elizabeth II. Churchill stepped down in 1955 in favor of Sir Anthony Eden, who resigned on grounds of ill health in 1957 and was succeeded by Harold Macmillan and Sir Alec Douglas-Home21. In 1964, Harold Wilson led the Labor Party to victory. A lagging economy brought the Conservatives back to power in 1970. Prime Minister Edward Heath won Britain’s admission to the European Community. Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first woman prime minister as the Conservatives won 339 seats on May 3, 1979. Since then the significant role they display resulted in their triumph that until now they are recognized and even lead the country.

Page 8

The role of Women Today in Great Britain

Women play important role in the World War I and World War II but as of today they emerge great role in leading the country. Like Margaret Thatcher, Champion of free minds and markets, she helped topple the welfare state and make the world safer for capitalism and Queen Elizabeth II who ruled Great Britain that practiced the Monarchy form of Government.


21    role in 1960, http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW11.htm

22   Margaret Thatcher by Johnson 1998

Margaret Thatcher (Paul Johnson, 1998), the longest serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century she was the catalyst who set in motion a series of interconnected events that gave a revolutionary twist to the century’s last two decades and helped mankind end the millennium on a note of hope and confidence22. The triumph of capitalism, the almost universal acceptance of the market as indispensable to prosperity, the collapse of Soviet imperialism, the downsizing of the state on nearly every continent and in almost every country in the world — Margaret Thatcher played a part in all those transformations, and it is not easy to see how any would have occurred without her.

Page 9

Another, excerpted in the Royal Government of UK,23 in a monarchy a king or queen is Head of State. The British monarchy is known as a constitutional monarchy. This means that, while The Queen is Head of State, the ability to make and pass legislation resides with an elected Parliament. Although the British Sovereign no longer has a political or executive role, he or she continues to play an important part in the life of the nation.

As Head of State, The Queen undertakes constitutional and representational duties which have developed over one thousand years of history24. In addition to these State duties, The Queen has a less formal role as ‘Head of Nation’. She acts as a focus for national identity, unity and pride; gives a sense of stability and continuity; officially recognizes success and excellence; and supports the ideal of public and voluntary service. In all these roles The Queen is supported by members of her immediate family.

The Queen is Head of State in the United Kingdom. Her official title in the UK is “Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith”.


23-25 Queen Elizabeth by www.royal.gov.uk

As a constitutional monarch, The Queen does not ‘rule’ the country, but fulfils important ceremonial and formal roles with respect to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and the devolved assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland25.

Page 10

The Queen is also Fount of Justice, from whom justice in the United Kingdom derives, and has important relationships with the Armed Forces and the established Churches of England and Scotland. In addition to her role in the United Kingdom, The Queen has a special role to play in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are dependent territories of the English Crown.

Beside the popular figure that display great role in Britain’s today there is another breakthrough of women headlines in the TIMES ONLINE (2006), Steep curve for Britain’s first female foreign secretary26.

A former metallurgy student, who served as a junior Education Minister in James Callaghan’s Labor Government in the mid-1970s, Ms Beckett, 63, with the rest of Mr. Blair’s Cabinet, has swung from the hard Left to a more accommodating centrist position in 30 years of politics28.

Acting leader of the party after John Smith’s death in 1994, Ms Beckett became the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in 1997 before moving to the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs in 200129.

Direct, scandal-free and unapologetic, Ms Beckett handled the foot-and-mouth crisis with a surety that won the respect of Tony Blair and the ire of farmers. Since then, she had a leading role in Britain’s signing of the Kyoto Protocol, bringing Russia to the treaty and clashing with the Bush Administration30.


26-31        Margaret Beckett, www.timesonline.co.uk

Her first appointment is a meeting of the foreign ministers of the permanent five members of the Security Council on Monday to discuss a British-French resolution that would open the way to sanctions against Tehran. It’s going to be difficult, complicated, a real diplomatic challenge and an unbelievably steep learning curve31.

Page 11

Generally, the role of feminist movement in Great Britain showed tremendous result not only in making the World War I and II successful but for the rights of women to vote. In addition, right to receive equal labor payment in the salary between the men and women. Their right to be represented in the males ground that they are also capable in combating the enemy through battle.

            Finally, the role they play is not just simple that until now they lead the country and even representing other nations with their women’s power. Like Margaret Thatcher, the longest serving British Prime Minister of the 20th century in Britain. Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith and Margaret Beckett, Britain’s first female foreign secretary. The role I see in the woman of Great Britain is an extra ordinary that is marked in our history before and ruled today and cannot be forgotten in the future.

Page 12


Feminism. Wikipedia Encyclopedia Online. 14 November 2006, from <http://wikipedia.org/wiki/femenism>.

Johnson, Paul. Margaret Thatcher. 14 November 2006, <http://www.time.com/time/time100/leaders/profile/thatcher.html>.

Monarchy Today. How the Monarchy Works. 14 November 2006, from <http://www.royal.gov.uk/output/Page4675.asp>.

Steep curve for Britain’s first female foreign secretary. TIMES ONLINE. 14, November 2006, from <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,17129-2166874,00.html

World War I. History Learning Site. 14, November 2006, from <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW1.htm>.

World War II. History Learning Site. 14, November 2006, from <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/women_WW2.htm>.