The Many Changes Women Faced In The 20th Century

1055 words - 5 pages

The 20th Century proved to be a time of development and change in the lives of women across the world. However, despite some of the biggest events in the world’s history, which include, World War II and the Great Depression, some of the changes that women faced were not as revolutionary and fast paced. In fact, sometimes it seemed as if women were sent backwards instead of progressing further. The issues of birth control and reproduction, women in the work force, and suffrage are all issues in which women’s roles in the world drastically changed during the 20th century.
In Europe, the first birth control clinics started popping up in the 19th century. During this time, the US also began to ban information regarding contraception and abortion via the Comstock Laws. However, the American birth control revolution really began in the 20th century, with a lot of help from Margaret Sanger. Although many women were practicing certain forms of contraception, the ability to control their family size and reproduction was mainly left up to the husband. In Sanger’s work “My Fight For Birth Control,” she discusses her role in creating the first birth control clinic in America. She says “Our inspiration was the mothers of the poor; our object, to help them.” (Sanger, 529) While this was a revolution and a large change for women in America, the fact that there were still laws in place, led to a police raid and arrest on their Brooklyn birth control clinic. Sanger describes her hope for the clinic and says, “I refused to close down the clinic, hoping that a court decision would allow us to continue such necessary work. I was to be disappointed.” (Sanger, 531) Although there was quite a bit of change in the early 20th century, as Sanger opened the clinic in 1916, it took more time to get the rest of the country up to speed, made obvious by the shut down of the clinic. Later in the century, the American Birth Control League (1922) and Planned Parenthood (1941) allowed women to get the support regarding reproduction that they needed and desired, however, it took a bit of revolution, repression, and education.
Another issue that women faced in the 20th century was their involvement in the work force. Due to World War II, men were sent to fight, leaving the demanding work force wide open. The only people that could fill these positions were women. In Born for Liberty, Evans says, “Between January and July, employers raised their estimates of the proportion of new jobs for which women would be acceptable from 29 to 55 percent.” (Evans, 221) Although it wasn’t ideal, it was the only solution. However, after awhile, it had to be more than just single women working. Evans discusses Fortune magazine in 1943 writing that “There are practically no unmarried women left to draw upon…. This leaves, as the next potential source of industrial workers, the housewives.” Evans says, “That was even more disturbing than hiring single women.” (Evans, 221) ...

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