How Did The Role Of Women Change During The Years Surrounding World War One?

2231 words - 9 pages

For Britain, the First World War affected many people, both on the home front as well as the western front. For the purpose of this essay, the Home Front of World War One refers to life in Britain itself during the war. The Western front refers to began on August 4th, 1914, after declaring war against Germany. This was almost 100 years ago. At the time, Britain, France and Russia were allies. Britain became involved because she was obligated to defend Belgium from their 1839 Treaty of London. The Treaty of London is basically a treaty between Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and France, agreeing that they would be allies in a possible war. The Belgian King appealed to Britain for aid, and so Britain committed itself to Belgium's defense. World War One lasted until November 11th, 1918. The war was not a surprise to Britain because, the tensions in Europe had been developing over some time. In the beginning of the Twentieth Century, European women were making progress in the labor force as well as standing up for their rights.
Just before the war, the early suffrage campaign began as an effect to destroy the liberal party. Most of these suffragists came from northern England, and were first workers of the spinning and weaving industries in Manchester. The women suffragists decided to organize themselves into clubs and unions in order to gain respect and more rights. Starting in 1897, a few years before World War One, these groups and unions began associating themselves with the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.(NUWSS) By 1909, the NUWSS included seventy separate societies; a number that would become more large. These events that took place prior to the first World War, are very important in British Women's History and their fight for equality.
Despite this great interest in women’s suffrage, parliament almost always voted down or refused to address bills that would have expanded the voting franchise. In 1903, a new suffrage group, the Women’s Social and Political Union, (WSPU) was formed under the leadership of Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s woman’s place in British society changed dramatically. They were eager for change, and were willing to finally stand up and get it. Many women can agree with the Pankhursts; that "the suffrage movement was a revolt against the evil and unequal system where women were seen as unimportant and sex slaves of men."
At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, both the WSPU and NUWSS stopped their activities and joined with the war effort.
On the 10th August the government announced it was releasing all suffragettes from prison. In return, the WSPU agreed to end their militant activities and help the war effort. The Women's Freedom League disagreed and continued with its campaign for the vote. Some leaders of the WSPU such as Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter, Christabel Pankhurst, played an important role as...

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