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"Out of the cage"

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Title:
"Out of the cage" war, women and social consciousness in Great Britain 1918-1960
Creator:
Seller, Sharon Hartmann
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
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Language:
English
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114 leaves : ; 28 cm

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Subjects / Keywords:
1900 - 1999 ( fast )
Women -- Social conditions -- Great Britain ( lcsh )
Women -- Economic conditions -- Great Britain ( lcsh )
Sex role in the work environment -- Great Britain ( lcsh )
Sex role in the work environment ( fast )
Social conditions ( fast )
Women -- Economic conditions ( fast )
Women -- Social conditions ( fast )
Social conditions -- Great Britain -- 20th century ( lcsh )
Great Britain ( fast )
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bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 108-114).
General Note:
Department of History
Statement of Responsibility:
by Sharon Hartmann Seller.

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|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
40337087 ( OCLC )
ocm40337087
Classification:
LD1190.L57 1998m .S45 ( lcc )

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Full Text
"Out of the Cage"
War, Women and Social Consciousness
in Great Britain 1918-1960
by
Sharon Hartmann Seller
B.A. Metro State College, 1982
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Masters of Arts
History
1998


This thesis for the Master of Arts
degree by
Sharon Hartmann Seller
has been approved
by
/
Date


Seller, Sharon Hartmann (M.A., History)
"Out of the Cage" War, Women and Social Consciousness in
Great Britain 1918-1960
Thesis directed by Professor James B. Wolf
Abstract
The World Wars in first half of the twentieth
century convoluted customary social and economic roles of
English women. They twice fluctuated from being self-
reliant, economic providers to secondary citizens in a
patriarchal system. Not surprisingly, the experiences of
wartime: independence, a public presence and paid
employment contributed to a shift of sociological
thought: women deserved equity. Simultaneously, a
restored male dominated British society strove'to replace
women in a supportive subculture which idealized marriage
and motherhood. Legislations, traditions and the media
were the social controls that supported the status quo.
The forces of social consciousness prevalent after
First World Warwomen's organizations, trade unions,
in


social acceptance of part time work, politics and
particularly, feminismsubsumed into the socialist
tapestry after the 'Second World War. Unexpectedly, the
welfare state weakened the interwar dynamics and
inhibited the social progress of women. Yet improvements
in technology freed women to practice the unconventional:
they worked. As women's status changed from employment,
so did their social expectations.
British women may have accepted social, legal and
economic subjugation in the years between 1918 and 1960,
but the evidence suggests they recognized the inequities.
Most importantly, these years were the incubation period
for the broader social consciousness which motivated the
women's movement.
IV


DEDICATION
I dedicate this thesis to my father, Erwin G. Hartmann
Jr., and to my son Barrett MacLeod Sellerfor both the
joy of life and faith in my dreams.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT
My thanks to my mentor, Dr. James Wolf, for three years of
guidance, criticism and verbal handholding, and to
Professors Myra Rich and Mike Ducey for their help and
advice on this thesis. They, along with many others in
the history department, have illuminated the path and
made the journey a pleasure.


CONTENTS
Chapter
1. War, Women and Social Consciousness in Great
Britain 1918-1960................................1
2. Forces in Creating Social Consiousness...........5
Social Controls and Cultural Assumptions........9
Notes...........................................17
3. British Women's Wartime Experiences.............18
Notes...........................................31
4. Impact of the First World War on Women's Social
Consciousness...................................32
Significant and Punitive Legislations..........40
The Influencing Factors........................46
Notes...........................................78
5. The Legacies of the Second World War...........82
Conclusion.....................................104
Notes..........................................108
BIBLIOGRAPHY......................................110
VI1


CHAPTER 1
WAR, WOMEN AND SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS
IN GREAT BRITAIN 1918-1960
As a group, the majority of British women in the
first half of the twentieth century were silent social
actors. Apart from the extremist leadership of the few
feminists and radical suffragists, their actions and
reactions to the social, economic or political beliefs of
their times were seemingly complacent. For them,
cultural assumptions based on domestic and family
ideology was a collective behavior validated by societal
consensus. Consensus, in the Victorian liberal
tradition, was a prized hallmark of civility in the
twentieth century. By these standards of paternalism and
traditionalism, women were to be subservient to men and,
in turn, be taken care of by them. However, two
catastrophic world wars unleashed social forces
incompatible with these ideals of behavior. Although the
influence of the wars on civilian women may have
initially appeared negligible, together they contributed
1


to gender confrontation and demands for greater civil and
economic rights.
The measurements of social consciousness are at best
inexact. Unlike significant political legislation which
were benchmarks of change, social consciousness
calibration is ephemeral. The variety of forces in any
such debate ebb and flow. The challenge for the
historian is to determine what finally moved a widely
disparate group, alike only in gender, to become socially
conscious of discrimination. The answer, like the
question itself, is elusive. The broad time frame of
this research, 1918-1960, presents a wide variety of
questions and answers; still a pattern did emerge. For
the generation of British women following each world war,
there were organizations and social groups, as well as a
changing economic and political landscape, that
contributed to their growing social consciousness.
Their emerging awareness can be extracted from the
actions of ordinary women. These actions slowly eclipsed
the inherent orthodoxies of paternalism and cultural
reality.
In spite an ingrained complacency and acceptance of
their secondary status, slowly awareness was transferred
to participation in a quest for social equity. Economic
2


parity and political equality were central to. social
awareness, but also muted by cultural pressures and the
tradition of paternalism. Access to better health care,
improved housing, birth control and education were the
topics more likely to move ordinary women into social
activism. Also, the forced transitions of the wars
affected women most profoundly in the area of employment.
Female employment was the single most significant
changing social demographic of both post war eras. It
was the engine of the emerging female consciousness.
To grasp the essence of the diverse eras from 1918-
1960 the social and cultural assumptions affecting women
must first be examined. The succeeding chapter on
British women's wartime experiences portrays the depth of
the transitions they underwent. These temporary
experiences were profound and provided glimpse of future
goals, for it included paid work and the initial struggle
for pay equity. While this did not immediately stir
women's social consciousness for greater rights, it
supplied the first exposure to what was possible.
Chapters Three and Four contrast the social
experiences and employment opportunities of women in the
post war eras. Despite the starkly different political
and social conditions of the periods, similarities are
3


striking due to the persistent cultural conditioning of
women. The research suggests that sinews of social
consciousness, evolving especially from paid employment,
motivated women to seek new levels of recognition for
social and economic equality.
4


CHAPTER 2
FORCES IN CREATING SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS
Feminism was amorphous throughout the generations,
and the most important of the forces in creating social
consciousness. Although often seemingly extremist, as
defined by the leadership at various stages between 1918-
1960, feminism was singularly a form of everyday
resistance which penetrated into all social strata.
Early on, most significant political gains were the
handiwork of the upper and middle class women seeking
equality, such as the Representation of the Peoples Act,
1918. Parliamentarian Eleanor Rathbone exemplified the
upper class leadership as a social reformer and a
feminist. Dora Russell, the controversial second wife of
intellectual Bertrand Russell and a radical feminist of
the first order, was a vocal proponent and practitioner
of female sexual emancipation and birth control. The
socialist, Beatrice Webb, was another of the upper
middle class that illuminated the path to social equity.
In addition, working class women practiced a form
of feminism as a matter of survival. They often recall
5


their mothers as "the fighters"1 in the family. The
explanation was two-fold here: working class women were
not totally inculcated with the Victorian orthodoxy of
respectability or women as helpless adjuncts to male wage
earners. On whole, working class women struggled for the
basic needs of their families. They were the adroit
managers of meager budgets for food, clothing, and health
concerns. These women were the likely ones to be in
contention with men in the family and with local
authorities over scant resources: they were the guerrilla
fighters of survival. This belies the paternalistic
assumption that women were deferential and helpless. The
working class author, Phyllis Willmott, in her memoirs of
period remembered her mother as the disciplinarian and
household manager who "made do" with ingenuity. Feminist
ideology, defined as women seeking rights either in
political or personal spheres, was obliquely part of
every generation.
Female trade unions created another avenue of social
awareness and were particularly critical to the lower
classes. To the uneducated and the undereducated this
was their primary experience in group consensus to
achieve equality. Here they learned the acceptability of
women challenging established authority. It was the
6


testing ground for needed social skills, and for the
brighter of working class women, a testing ground for
political leadership. For Ellen Wilkinson, interwar
parliamentarian, trade unionism was the catalyst to
public life. Mary McArthur, leader of the Women's Trade
Union League (WTUL) stressed the social elements of the
organization. She probably assumed correctly this was
the only fun these women had in their drab lives.
The Labour Party, with its egalitarian philosophy,
was another springboard for creating social
consciousness. Yet Labour philosophy also stressed class
struggle over gender equality and hindered female
interests of emancipation. Still, despite benevolent
opposition to women's rights, an identity emerged amongst
Labour women of all classes. Furthermore, the women's
party newspaper The Labour Woman, reveals them to be in
lively contention with official party lines. Then, as
today, political party platforms did not represent the
complete interests of the constituency. Once again Ellen
Wilkinson, as Labour M.P., challenged Labour platform
with impunity on feminist issues as equal pay, family
allowances, the marriage bar and insurance schemes.
However, the intellectual and eloquent Beatrice Webb, a
founding member of the Labour party and The London School
7


of Economics, did not promote feminist issues
specifically. As a socialist she believed in equality
for women as a natural byproduct of a socially just
society. Both women were notable role models of women
working toward justice for women. They empowered their
contemporaries.
Women's groups and organizations, generally
promoting the Victorian orthodoxy of self-help and
service, were important contributing voices to this
tapestry of women's awareness. The Women's Co-operative
Guild, involving the better heeled of the working classes
and often led by middle class women and men, was
elemental in building women's self-esteem in a man's
world. Within its "respectable" female social niche, a
philanthropic based Guild promoted women in their
domestic role of food procurement. They grew into
genuine economic, social and political force empowering
women in public life. Settlement houses and Townswomen
Guilds were crucial for involving women on local levels
in philanthropic works while simultaneously creating
recognition of women's contribution outside the sphere of
home and family.
Increasing numbers of women in paid employment were
a social consequence of expanding women's roles in both
8


war efforts. The conscription of male workers created an
opportunity for the masses of women in British society to
prove themselves as wage earners. For those who enjoyed
the paid work and attendant public life outside of home
it entailed, this was empowering. Under the harsh light
of actual work experience, however, an increasingly vocal
minority experienced the effects of paternalism and
sexism. Phyllis Willmott revealed in her memoir, Joys
and Sorrows, the difficulties of her career experiences
after the Second World War in the new field of social
work and her involuntary choice of motherhood over work.
Slowly, over decades, despite every conceivable official
impediment and socially accepted idealization of women as
only housewives and mothers, reality proved a better
yardstick. Women were in the workplace to stay, and
social adjustment on every level of society was the cost.
Social Controls and Cultural Assumptions
Social and cultural assumptions, legacies of
Victorian tenets of respectability, impeded transitions
in women's social consciousness. The feminist Dora
Russell believed that George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells,
and Bertrand Russell were the early twentieth century
9


emancipators of Victorian orthodoxy.2 They attempted to
liberate women from superstition, prejudice, tyranny of
family suppression and servitude. The patriarchal system
they illuminated, in alliance with capitalism, encouraged
men to fight for their wages alone and not for societal
improvements. Unconscious chauvinism subtly inculcated
the societal assumptions that idealized women doing the
unpaid labor of the home. This "cult of domesticity"
dominated society after both wars. Woman was the light
of the inner world of family life: domesticity was her
identity and the home was her office. For upper class
woman, freed from housekeeping duties by servants,
philanthropy was the alternative endeavor. However, for
the vast majority, the idealized vision of domesticity
parlayed into a drab life of repetitive chores, and
paradoxically, for the financially better off,
loneliness.
Family ideology stressed traditionalism in' mores as
well. It remained the vision of the good life and
supported social and sexual roles of powermale
dominance within a class and gender system. It included
the self-reliant family, a male breadwinner and a woman
as homemaker responsible for children but subservient to
her husband in all matters. In return she enjoyed
10


financial support and protection from the harsh world of
manly wage earning.
Clearly, the lower classes were unable to practice
this idealized version of familial control for, by
necessity, every member of the family had to contribute
to the subsistence living. Working class boys grew up as
neophyte breadwinners by giving their mums all or part of
their pay packets. However, the power of the Victorian
middle class to dictate social and cultural standards of
respectability was transcendent into the twentieth
century. Eventually family ideology became the template
of all social classes: it represented respectability, the
sought after norm. Within this philosophy, gender
inequality was a foregone conclusion.
The foremost legacy of family virtue was the value
of marriage. For women of all classes, marriage was the
goalthe apex of female existence was marriage and
motherhood; it was assumed to be a full time occupation.
This, too, was a legacy of middle class Victorian
orthodoxy. Most women sought to improve themselves by a
wise choice of spouse. For the working class that meant
a husband regularly employed, who did not drink or gamble
and could afford mortgage payments on desirable council
housing. Interestingly, most of these women did not seek
11


education, careers, or even social mobility. They sought
to escape poverty and its sinews: sharing beds, scarce
food, summary punishments, chores and exhausted parents.
However, Dora Russell notes in her memoirs that many
young women thought marriage as degrading. Phyllis
Willmott expressed her confusion of emotion towards the
married state as desirable yet by implication the
relinquishment of. any sense of self-worth.
Nonetheless if, "ideology represents the imaginary
relationship of individuals to their real conditions of
existence"3 these assumptions of deference and
helplessness practically enslaved women. At its most
disturbing was the social justification for wife beating.
The failure of women to uphold the tacit agreement of
unpaid work or any unseemly behavior was reason enough
for this acceptable abuse of power. Females were to be
simply an addendum to their husbands' or fathers' wishes.
Even socialists who espoused equality found difficulty
incorporating it into their reality. For example, during
the interwar era a young woman, Alice Onions, won a
scholarship to Birmingham University: she was not able to
attend due to her father's command. Although he was a
socialist, he believed it was out of the ordinary for
12


working class women to seek education and he upheld
traditionalist views: women belong in the home.4
Since social consciousness is borne of shared
experiences and the general opinions raised from them,
group cohesiveness is essential for change to occur.
Eventually personal experiences become the motivation of
social and political change. Social controls, such as
position of the media, courts, and community opinion
determine the pace and direction of collective behaviors
that affect social consciousness as well.5 Women were
divided, not only by class struggle but by apathy,
ignorance, religion, and traditions. Moreover, they were
not an occupational group and thus lacked a power base
from which to organize. That British women never formed
a cohesive political philosophy after enfranchisement
reflects their divisions.
Class differences emerged as possibly the greatest
single factor influencing cultural assumptions". George
Orwell explains, circa 1937:
Very early in life your acquired the idea that
there was something subtly repulsive about a
working class body: you would not get nearer to
it than you could help...The smell of their
sweat, the very texture of their skins, were
mysteriously different from yours.6
13


Virginia Woolf compared her social group to working class
women.
The women are magnificent to look at. Ladies
in evening dress are lovelier far, but they
lack the sculpturesque quality that these
working women have. Their arms are
underdeveloped. Fat has softened the line of
their muscles. And though the range of
expression is narrower in working women, their
expressions have a force and emphasis, of
tragedy and humor, which the face of ladies
lack. But at the same time it is much better
to be a lady...7
The nobility Woolf observed in the working classes
mirrored only the minority opinion of the upper class:
most agreed with Orwell. The catastrophic events of war
aided in blurring these divisions, as did the creation of
the welfare state. Nevertheless, the power of perceived
physical differences accentuated the divisions that
saturated the social fabric.
The media, increasingly powerful as the century
progressed, provided the most tangible of social
controls. Except for party affiliated publications, such
as Labour or Communist newspapers, the majority were
conservative. After a blitz of kudos to women war
workers the media stressed domesticity in advertisements
and in films. The most pervasive image was of motherhood
to rebuild the nation. Careers were scorned out of fears
14


of spinsterhood. Radio and later visual images on
television influenced society as a whole, not simply
target sections. They, especially the BBC,
overwhelmingly expressed the conservative interests of
government.
The British government strove for "normalcy" after
both wars. Normal behaviors embraced all the cultural
assumptions of family ideology. Consequently women were
forced into domestic roles by such political pressures as
the National Insurance Act and Marriage Bars, and by
government sanctification of unequal pay. This was not a
retaliation of any sort. Rather, it emerged because of
fears of economic necessity, because of the power of
traditions and the country's inability to acknowledge the
long term social impact of two successive generations of
British men annihilated.
Reflecting any broad based social transition, the
collective behaviors of British women only slowly
coalesced into political action by the late 1960's. Thus
the fifty odd years this research examines could be
considered an incubation period for sociological thought.
Remarkably, the shift of consciousness was not more
contentious. That probably resonates from female nature
and their secondary position in society as well. Most
15


interestingly, the limitations imposed by society and the
diversity of the group itself were as important to the
development of their social consciousness as were its
leaders and the events which shaped them.
16


END NOTES
1 Judy Giles, Women, Identity and Privated Life in
Britain 1990-1950, (New York: St. Martin, 1995)57.
2 Dora Russell, The Tamarisk Tree, (New York:
Putnam, 1975)65.
3 Vicki Coppock, Deena Haydon and Ingrid Richter,
The Illusions of Post Feminism, (London: Taylor and
Francis, 1995)17.
4 Pamela Graves, Labour Women in British Working
Class Politics, (Cambrdge: University Press, 1940) 50.
5 Neil Smelser, Theory of Collective Behaviors, (New
York: Free Press, 1962) p.364.
6 George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier, (London:
Victor Gallannz,1937)160.
7 Virginia Woolf, Collected Essays Volume Four (New
York: Harcourt, 1967) 140.
17


CHAPTER 3
BRITISH WOMEN'S WARTIME EXPERIENCES
After centuries of presumed safety in an island
fortress, the twentieth century proved England vulnerable
to the ranges of modern warfare. No longer were imperial
quarrels played out on foreign frontiers by small,
professional, and poorly organized forces with little
impact on the daily lives of the British citizenry. The
sacred cow of the English, unfettered private enterprise,
suffered by the government's imperative need to command
the economy. When the government took over the railroads
in 1914, it established the precedent of government
intervention. Due to the scale of the wars created by
advancing technology, all citizens participated in the
war effort through direct production, military
conscription, high taxation or rationing.
The social upheaval of World War I mirrored the
national sacrifice of men, munitions, war machinery and
livestock. These four tumultuous, years created enormous
transitions in the social structure of the nation.
Workers were finding a political voice in the rise of the
Labour Party and demanding greater shares of income.
18


Women became integral to the war effort, as did the
contributions of the aristocracy. In effect, a
diminishing sense of strident class and gender divisions
emerged during the war. Despite this progress, the
British nation longed for ante-bellum normalcy, a
normalcy which was plainly part of the irretrievable
past. With approximately 850,000 men killed and over two
million wounded or maimed, all sections of society were
devastated, future leadership and labour force alike.
The pacifist, Vera Brittain, lost both her only brother
and her fiancee. Beatrice Webb lost her four best and
brightest nephews. Entwined with the excruciating sense
of loss were feelings of apathy and futility at this
senseless slaughter of human resources. In April of 1916
Webb wrote in her diary, "The state of my own and other
people's mind surprises me. We are becoming callous to
the horrors of war. At first it was a continuous waking
nightmare..."1
For women, tragedy became opportunity. Women were,
for the first time, in the position to genuinely
contribute to society through paid work. Two key trends
emerged during the war that were essential to emerging
women's social consciousness. The impediment of the
sexual division of labour was first breached now; over
19


900,000 women worked in the heavy industry of munitions
production alone. They earned only half of what a man
then earned, but the precedent of women doing men's work,
and doing it well, established itself.
The second key twentieth century trend established
during this crisis was the previously unknown phenomenon:
married women in the industrial work force. Due to
powerful sway of Victorian ideology, married women had
always shunned paid employment outside the home, except
clandestinely. Neither had married women generally
participated in public life before the war. Upper class
women had enjoyed a full social life, such as luncheons,
charity events, poetry reading and trips abroad; thus in
a sense they participated into public life. However, for
the majority of lower middle and working class women,
public life was a very narrow journey consisting of
unpaid work at home, a walk to the grocery, or a chat
with neighbors. However, during the war Beatrice Webb
noted in her diary, "The women of all classes have
emerged into public life-industrial, social and
militarist."2 The possible consequences of married women
in control of their destiny and enjoying a new
assertiveness did not alarm men until after the war.
20


During the war the government courted women workers.
Women entered "men' s work" including manufacturing,
transportation, or shipbuilding, and worked as plumbers,
electricians and police officers. The Minister of
Munitions recruitment poster of 1916 portrays a young
woman in work uniform superimposed over a photo of
soldiers using armaments in the field. The caption reads
ON HER THEIR LIVES DEPEND. Not surprisingly, the
government lavished praise on women workers in the press
and newsreels. They were portrayed not only as workers
but as superwomen who, without spouses, withstood
shortages, endured long queues for bread, raised
children, tended gardens for supplementary food, and did
the work that oiled the war machine.
Despite all the rhetoric, the British government's
approval of the herculean efforts of half of its populace
did not manifest itself in any semblance of equitable
pay. Women were the second class workers. Lloyd-George
and the munitions pay struggle was indicative of
government production on the cheap, blatant sexism and
dishonesty. In March of 1915 the Minister of Munitions,
Lloyd-George, entered into an agreement with male trade
unionists; the Treasury Agreement for the Munitions of
War Act. It specified production requirements and rates
21


of pay. However, the agreement was subverted by the War
Office, Admiralty and male trade unionist setting
separate classes of work for women and a different pay
scale. They were: women's work, women's labour on parity
with men's, women wholly on unskilled men's work, women
wholly on men's skilled work.3 These classifications
ensured pay disparity.
Beatrice Webb exposed this scheme in 1918 in the
minority report for the War Cabinet Committee on Women in
Industry. She aptly noted that the Treasury Act had
often been ignored or partially fulfilled, with women's
wages being based on "the principle of having no
principle."4 Although many feminists admired Webb for
this work, her memoirs reveal that she was only mildly
concerned in the investigation and the report. Her
genuine interest was socialism, not pay equity for women,
or other feminist issues.
While some women in the right places did earn equal
pay, such situations were rare. Isabella Clark, who
worked at the Coventry ordnance factory, had asked for
equal pay, but was refused because she did not grind her
own tools. When she had learned to do this she again
applied for equal pay and received not only the money,
but the respect of her fellow male workers. "Everything
22


was very happy, the atmosphere in work and the people you
worked with..."5
Although the war effort was a catalyst for mixing
the classes in common cause, war work mirrored class
divisions. In short, working class women laboured in the
unskilled or heavy industries and menial jobs. The
middle and upper classes engaged in nursing or
administrative endeavors. By virtue of the their
position and education, they were leaders and role
models. Before 1914 these women had occupied themselves
with charity and social obligations. Yet it appears the
vast majority contributed to the war effort, often
through Red Cross activities. Many turned their estates
in England and France into Red Cross hospitals.
The Duchess of Woburn Abbey turned her home into a
hundred bed hospital. She acted as nurse and ran the
administrative side as well, working sixteen hours daily.
Lady Shelbourn donated Blackmoor, and the Duchess of
Rutland created an officers' hospital in her London
townhouse. Such homes offered exquisitely cooked foods,
wines and butler service. Often all females in the
family worked there.
Evidence suggests the daughters of the aristocracy
were certainly more colorful than their hard working
23


mothers. The Duchess of Rutland's daughter, Lady Diana
Manners, enjoyed spats of delirious frivolity, sometimes
drinking and cavorting with her patients in hospital,
between her nursing duties. To her mother's
consternation, she experimented with both chloroform and
morphia. Lady Diana Cooper worked at the Officers'
Hospital on Arlington Street belonging to her mother. In
her memoirs she recalled the drawing room and dining room
became wards with linoleum put on the floors and walls
hung with glazed linens. Her mother's bedroom became the
operating room. She described her experiences as a dance
with death. Her nursing duties, gruesome and unsavory,
contrasted with decadent all night parties. The
gatherings featured live bands and sometimes two bands
played-one black and one white. Often they were served
champagnes, wines, and vodka on flower strewn tables,
along with hot breakfast at dawn. Afterward, Cooper
reported to work at the hospital, blurry eyed and
exhausted. She called it orgies mixed with fear.6
Women of the upper classes worked and also suffered
the shortages, if not as desperately as the entire
nation. Lady Laura Redding's diary entry reveals the
aristocracy was not spared.
24


....every household (being short of labour and
coal) has to live in a crowded way with social
rooms shut up. Here I have no upper housemaid
for two months, no using of servants hall,
dining room, drawing room or spare
bedrooms....no bedroom fire for myself except
on extremely icy nights and we are using coal
dust.7
British women of all classes endured separations,
rationing and death. Beatrice Webb wondered if this was
the end of western civilization. She wrote in December
of 1918,
Every day one meets saddened women, with
haggard faces and lethargic movements, and one
dare not ask after husband or son. The revelry
of the streets and the flying flags seem a
flippant mockery of the desolation caused by
the slaughter of tens of millions of the best
of the white race.8
Although this war was a social watershed for women,
especially in the areas of paid work and public life, the
aftermath of war proved all too predictable. In the
national longing for ante-bellum "normalcy"
traditionalism and paternalism reestablished themselves
as the social template. In the nation fit for returning
heroes, women returned to the home.
In comparison, the experiences of World War II were
far different from the Great War. Even pacifists as
25


Fewer soldiers
Bertrand Russell called it a "good war.
died, but more civilians were killed. Due to their
greater participation in the war effort and to the Blitz,
over 60,000 civilians perished. Possibly the greatest
contrast between the wars was the number of women in the
armed and civil services.
The Second World War created greater degrees of
shared austerity.amongst the classes. Increased state
control contributed to egalitarianism by all citizens
being issued identification cards, gas masks and
rationing of food and clothing. Stricter enforcement of
rationing, along with school lunch programs and full
employment, actually resulted in a better fed working
class. The focus on popular entertainment for the
masses, such as "Music While You Work" contributed to
their sense of solidarity. More importantly, the shared
life and death experiences of bombing created a new
consciousness. Ironically, the safety of the London
tube, that ordinary arena of life, was central to the
blending of classes. According to one contemporary
account:
When the bombing first started, people were
rather nervous, and they didn't know what to
do, but after a few days they soon got
accustomed to this. When they came along to
26


the shelter in the evenings, they fetched their
belongings, insurance cards, the cash, the
jewelry, if they had any, a flask of tea, milk
for the kiddies, boiled sweets, and the Council
started dancing in the parks.9
Out of these broader mutual experiences a new
consensus for shared obligations emerged. The social
policy born out of this wartime experience symbolized the
future. Lord Beveridge, trained at the London School of
Economics, formulated the Beveridge's Report in 1942,
which focused on a comprehensive social security of
employment, National Health, housing and education. The
coalition government partially implemented these policies
during the war itself. A previously unimaginable
consensus on socialism formed the basis of the welfare
state.
By 1944 over 300,000 women were employed in the
civil service. Additionally, 500,000 women were in the
armed forces and over 200,000 in the Women Land Army.10
These were women under the direct control of government,
which acted as both employer and social support. These
numbers, along with the numbers of woman in industry,
estimated at nearly eight million, portray a populace
involved. They document a society in transition and the
reemergence of women's role in that society.
Contemporary accounts generally stress the self-esteem
27


that paid work during the war gave them. The same
accounts lament the universal dilemma of working mothers
childcare. The government did supply limited support
here; by 1944 the state subsidized 1,500 day nurseries.
Although,this accommodated 72,000 children, it was only
about 25% of the total in need of childcare.11 For most
working mothers finding childcare was an ad hoc
situation. It naturally contributed to higher
absenteeism for mothers of young children, a contentious
point for employers and mothers alike and a contributing
factor to the post war denigration of mothers who worked
Phyllis Willmott was one of the almost half million
women in the armed services. In March of 1943, aged
twenty, she joined the WAAF. Impressed by the
recruitment poster of girls in battledress working of
fighter aircraft, Phyllis hoped to become a flight
mechanic. Instead she served as a "Met girl" in Norfolk
observing weather variations. The job required her
outside every ten minutes in all weathers to read
temperatures, barometric pressure, wind direction and
cloud formation. Since young women normally expected to
live at home before marriage, living on base was an
exhilarating experience with a lively social life.
Willmott found communal living with women of all social
28


backgrounds rather enjoyable despite occasional clashes,
noting that, "..it seemed that, if one had to, one could
learn to get with-at any rate tolerated-almost anyone."12
At work, she was issued her first pair of trousers. They
became increasingly popular as the war progressed because
they lasted far longer than stockings and could easily be
pulled on over nightclothes for quick trips to the air-
raid shelters. The war and the government provided this
very different life and freedom for friendship, romance,
heartbreaks and, significantly, self-esteem and greater
social awareness.
A natural consequence of increasing female
employment was the rise in female unionism and greater
pressure for equal pay. The British government, to its
credit, did establish a policy of pay parity. Not
surprisingly, this was diluted by more dubious
regulations and a system of exceptions. For example,
most often women engaged in skilled labour were
supervised by a foreman who would make some slight
adjustment to machinery or product. By virtue of this
assistance women were considered only semi-skilled and
not eligible for full pay. Such gross inequities did not
go unnoticed by union leaders. During this war, however,
there was no public doubt that women could do the work of
29


men and the numbers of married women in the workforce
continued to escalate.
Both wars were seminal episodes for women. During
the crisis the old paradigms were no longer viable: women
of all ages and classes had to be out of the home and
into the workforce for national survival. Many found
they enjoyed the freedom and the power of the paycheck.
That paternalism, and its social acceptance, resurfaced
with a vengeance after both wars was natural, for
changing inherited cultural values requires time to
percolate through to enough numbers for strength of
conviction. None the less, the knowledge and seeds of
discontent germinated by these two intervals of freedom
were the precipitating factors to raising social
consciousness and collective actions.
30


END NOTES
1 Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie, The Diary of Beatrice
Webb Vo1.3 (Cambridge: Harvard Press, 1985) 250.
2 Ibid, p.227
3 Dame Anne Godwin, "Early Years in the Trade
Unions", Women in the Labour Movement, ed. Lucy Middleton
(London: Croom Helm, 1977) 104.
4 Ibid, p. 105.
5 Gail Braybon and Penny Summerfield, Out of the
Cage, (London: Pandora, 1987) 69.
5 Diana Cooper, The Rainbow Comes and Goes, (London:
Rupert, 1958) 143.
7 Pamela Horn, Wives and Daughters of the Country
House Society, (UK:Sutton, 1991) 215.
8 Norman and Jeanne Mac Kenzie, The Diary of Beatrice
Webb Vol.3 (Cambridge: Harvard Press, 1985) 324.
9 Asa Briggs, A Social History of England, (Great
Britain: Werdenfeld and Nichoson, 1983) 269.
10 Ibid, p. 272.
11 Braydon and Summerfield. p. 239.
12 Phyllis Willmott, Coming of age in Wartime,
(London: Peter Owen, 1988)112.
31


CHAPTER 4
THE IMPACT OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
ON WOMEN'S SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS
"The nation is now in a molten state...We cannot
return to the old way, the old abuses, the old
stupidities.." declared the Prime Minister, Lloyd-George,
at the end of the Great War. Obviously, there was an
awareness at highest levels that society would have to
change to survive. More obstinate yet, past voices and
social mandates reiterated the hierarchy of paternalism.
The post war impact of the First World War on gender
inequality and women's awareness of it appeared,
initially, to be nil. Still, the safety of tired
shibboleths was almost understandable in light of the
macro societal changes British society underwent
interwar. The harshest changes were generally felt by
the upper classes, particularly the aristocracy which
changed tremendously.
Within the devastation of family losses and
increasing taxation, estate sales were common. Fully one
quarter of British land changed ownership between the
years of 1918 and 1921.1 In the whole of English
history, only the Norman Conquest and the English
32


Reformation compared in change of land tenure. For
example, Lady Warwick sold of one third of her
inheritance, 5,000 acres in Essex. Additionally, England
was rocked by a rollercoaster economy, the upshot of
wartime loss of trade and unemployment. The national
debt had skyrocketed tenfold from 1914 to 1920. The
economic boom of 1920 followed a slump in 1924, and after
a brief respite, the depression of 1929 lasted until the
recovery of 1937. The social problems produced by this
economic crisis deepened class divisions between rich,
middle and working classes. In turn, the deterioration
of class blending and cohesiveness, which had
characterized the war years, only reinforced assumptions
of patriarchal conservatism. The government's world view
was set in pre-war realities, now exacerbated by the new
imperial responsibilities of mandates in Malaysia, Africa
and the Middle East. Furthermore, fear of genuine change
intensified with the rising agitation for self rule
within the Empire, as in India. Even the emerging policy
of appeasement in the 1930's reflected inaction as
policy. The sentiment of the majority was embodied in
the Oxford Union's anti-war Vote. It was little wonder
that a factionalized minority, women, could not gain a
33


significant political, social or economic position in the
interwar era.
Amid the continuity of traditionalism and
conservatism were forces for change. The Labour Party,
with its socialistic platform, established itself as the
party of the left. Although this did little to further
the aims of gender equality or awareness, it reflected
philosophical transitions. Church attendance dropped
alarmingly, smoking increased (although drinking
declined) and greyhound betting-the working man's
equivalent of aristocratic horse race wagering-was
evident in the 187 new stadiums built by 1932.2
Simultaneously, a minority of women enjoyed a degree
of social emancipation as a result of wartime conditions
and foreign influences. During the war women workers
abandoned the corset. A new fashion look emerged, a long
cylindrical shape, embodied the Flapper style (the school
boy look,) in contrast to the hour-glass figure, a
remnant of Victorian helplessness. Due to the wartime
rationing of sugars and fat, Englishwomen were generally
trimmer than before the war. Another small change with
implications for the future, dancing without gloves,
emerged as gloves became prohibitively expensive. Also,
to save material, short skirts above the ankle and short
34


sleeves became acceptable. Englishwomen also embraced
the latest craze from France, short hair. The image of
the irresponsible, fun girl engaged in shameless abandon
was reinforced by young women frequenting public houses,
drinking gin, (from the American influence permitting
women to enjoy cocktails,) smoking in public, emulation
the latest American dance craze at new dance clubs, and
the wearing of short skirts and high heels. Although
this was an accurate barometer of the things to come as
the social emancipation of the younger generations, it
represented only a minority of women. It did not
manifest itself as any sense of gender equality until the
late 1960's. The media, sentimental and inaccurate and
fearful of women enjoying freedom, created the illusion
of the Flapper more than the reality.
Arguably the most significant political change, post
war, was the appearance of women in the halls of power.
Two women who motivated the social consciousness of their
peers, Ellen Wilkinson and Eleanor Rathbone, were elected
to Parliament in 1924 and 1931. In fact, they were the
only two active suffragists in Parliament interwar.3
Although from vastly different social backgrounds and
philosophies of work, they were kindred spirits not only
in the suffrage struggle of the early twentieth century
35


but in their unceasing agitation to promote gender
equality.
Ellen Wilkinson was the daughter of a trade unionist
from Manchester. Her childhood was- inculcated with
Methodist morality: it was the paradigm for the
integration of education and working class politics. Her
unusually keen intelligence gained her entrance into
Manchester University in 1910 where she graduated with a
Master's degree in History. At University she affiliated
with a variety of left wing groups, including the Fabian
Society, the middle class socialist organization led by
Beatrice Webb and her husband, Sydney.
As an active suffragist and as a valued trade union
organizer, Wilkinson earned national aclaim. During her
apprenticship to power she, "accepted that, important as
winning the vote for women might be, it was merely a
milestone along the way towards the long term objective
of economic justice."4 She became as known for her fiery
temperment as for her brilliant red hair and sharp wit.
Her maiden speech to Parliament was provocative; she
railed against the disenfranchisement of women under
thirty and unemployment benefits that penalized women but
not men. In photographs, even in her last years of
government service as Minister of Education, she exudes a
36


peppery charm indicative of a feisty personality.
Although a dedicated trade unionist and member of the
Labour Party, she was not willing to accept party dogma.
Despite the schism between labour and feminists
being so pronounced during this period, Wilkinson was
known as a friend to feminists. From a sampling of
extracts from The Labour Woman it is clear she realized
that Labour women would always be secondary to party men.
She wrote:
Not that anyone objected to the men
being present or taking part in the
discussion. We want the cooperation
of both sexes, but if the men are to
form nearly half of the conference
they will always do most of the
speaking...5
As her attack on male arrogance suggests, Wilkinson was a
feminist of the first order. Significantly, she was one
Labour leader who transcended dogma in search of genuine
solutions to women's issues and, in so doing, promoted
social consciousness.
In contrast, Eleanor Rathbone was the daughter of a
wealthy middle class family: her father was a
nonconformist Liberal MP from Liverpool from whom she
inherited her combination of idealism and practicality.
As was evident in her writings and life style, she
37


combined a secular activism with an austere, seriously
dignified demeanor. She disdained in worldly possessions
and cared little for proper diet or for clothing; she
only wore black and white. With an intense intellect and
characteristically absent minded (the police knew her
pearls by sight, she often left them in cabs on the way
home from engagements,) she was the social opposite of
Ellen Wilkinson. However she, too, was a university
graduate and received her degree from Sommerville College
at Oxford in 1893.
Rathbone did not have to earn a living, she lived by
her inheritance; yet she spent considerable amounts of
her energy and income seeking equality and justice for
women. She used her resources to maintain various
interest groups, notably the NUSEC, the National Union of
Societies for Equal Citizenship, an amalgamation of
feminist groups that maintained cross party allegiances.
Rathbone, its president and guiding light, was"rightly
considered the leading feminist of her day.
By 1909 Rathbone was elected to the Liverpool City
Council. Here she became interested in social welfare
and gained intimate knowledge of housing and family
budget problems facing working class families. During
the First World War she became involved in support of a
38


governmental scheme that paid soldiers' or sailors' wages
directly to their wives or mothers. This was the largest
government payment made directly to women and was
precedent setting. To Rathbone's chagrin, the government
felt that its administration of the payments entitled it
to compromise basic civil rights. Local police had
authority to enter recipients' homes without warrant if
they felt the payments were misspent.6 For Rathbone,
this social welfare experience inspired one of her life
long goals-that of family allowances. It included
controversial direct state intervention of cash payments
paid directly to the mother as a supplemental income.
Rathbone went to Parliament in 1931 as an
independent from the constituency of a University Seat.7
As a testament to her abilities, she was reelected as a
respected member of Parliament until her death in 1946.
However, by her support of family allowances for over
twenty years, as welfare payment to mothers, she shifted
the feminist movement toward welfare feminism, or "new
feminism." The emphasis on mother's rights was a
contrast to equality feminism or the "old feminism"
prevalent in the suffrage struggle and resurgent in the
1960's. As the schism of feminist ideologies deepened,
Rathbone believed that fellow feminists not committed to
39


the allowances had a distrust of the working class
mother. That was an inherent class suspicion and a part
of the social assumptions that divided women.
Significant and Punitive Legislations
Both Wilkinson and Rathbone, the Labourite and the
Independent, understood the conflicting reality of their
age: political emancipation belied equality.
Paradoxically, women's hard won emancipation, from the
vote to the shifting mores of the roaring twenties, did
little to change their political and economic reality.
Despite the organic governmental reforms of electoral
status, the Representation of the People Act in 1918 and
the Equal Franchise Act of 1928, women had failed to
exert political power. Further Parliamentary Acts of the
1920's, The Sexual Disqualification Removal Act in 1919,
Matrimonial Causes Act in 1923 and the Widow's Pension
Act in 1925 were significant, but embryonic, gains toward
equality before the law. Just as important, these gains
were negated by other punitive parliamentary acts,
punitive toward women in general and the economic
interests of working women in particular. Since politics
40


is the relationship of beliefs and practice of power,
enfranchisement was only symbolic of women's rights.
"Women won the vote as a reward for the services in
helping the destruction of their offspring." was the
bitter opinion of Dora Russell.8 Even Vera Brittain,
although a suffragist, noted in her diary that she was
strangely indifferent to this victory. She learned the
Act passed in the House of Lords that February of 1918
while working at a hospital in France. Her poetic
notation:
Within the incongruous irony seldom
equaled in the history of
revolutions, the spectacular pageant
of the woman's movement, vital and
colorful with adventure, with
initiative, with sacrificial emotion,
crept to its quiet, unadvertised
triumph in the deepest night of
wartime depression.9
Women who had long sought the vote were the
renegades of the ordered Victorian and Edwardian world.
From the passage of the first reform bill of 1832, which
enlarged francisement for men who meet property
qualifications, women had been agitating for equal
opportunity. After failure to be included in Disraeli's
Tory Reform Bill of 1867, women's suffrage societies,
based on Liberal philosophy, peacefully lobbied for
41


social and political status of women. Their efforts were
ignored. Finally, the Women's Social and Political
Union, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, promoted violence
against property as a means of pushing the government
toward acceptance. By 1918, either in fear of renewal of
domestic violence and awareness of the international
upsurge of violent social movements as the Bolshevik
Revolution or as a reward for war sacrifices, Lords
acquiesced. However, about the achievement of this
single most important and tangible symbol of equality,
most women were ambivalent. Was it a reflection of a
society racked by sorrow and bitterness over a pointless
war about to end or simply inertia on the part of the
majority of women? Of the event Beatrice Webb admitted:
I have always assumed political
democracy as a necessary machinery of
government: I have never exerted
myself to get it. It has no glamour
for me. I have been, for instance,
wholly indifferent to my own
political disenfranchisement.10
Moreover, strangely enough for a socialist, Webb feared
an old order threatened "with dissolution" by the passage
of women suffrage, without a new paradigm to replace it.11
The Sexual Disqualification Removal Act of 1919 was
a piece of landmark legislation that allowed women into
42


previously forbidden fields, such as political office and
civil service. However, the Act was a diluted version of
the recommendation of the Standing Joint Committee of
Industrial Women's Organization had presented to
Parliament. The "Women's Emancipation Bill," defeated in
Lords, had recommended organization of all women in
trades into unions, equal pay, suffrage for women over
twenty one and the end of the marriage bar.
Simultaneously, punitive Parliamentary acts
legislated were blatantly sexist and reinforced the
ideology of domesticity. These included: the Restoration
of the Pre-War Practices Act 1919, whereby women had to
vacate jobs formerly held by men. Also the Marriage Bar,
The Anomalies Act of 1931, wherein a woman's contribution
to the National Insurance Fund before marriage was not
considered a valid contribution after marriage, and the
National Insurance Act with the Means Test. This 1922
Act pushed women into hated domestic work by
interpretations of the clause "genuinely seeking work."
In any case where a woman refused any offer of employment
whatsoever, even the lowest paying of menial labour, she
lost rights to insurance benefits. This was compounded
by the Means Test whereby benefits could be denied a
43


woman if there were other monies deemed sufficient coming
into her home.
Wilkinson and Rathbone fought these injustices as
best they could within a Parliament dominated by male
interests. It was significant that they were the only
two women members on the Advisory Committee that
investigated abuses under the Anomalies Act. Earlier, on
March 9, 1925, Wilkinson pressured Parliament concerning
abuses women endured under the National Insurance Act:
I want to ask the Minister of Labour,
is it fair to penalize a skilled mill
operator or skilled tailoress...a
woman who has paid for considerable
time into the Unemployment x fund, to
drive her into domestic service, for
which she has no aptitude whatever
and then for her to find after having
been in domestic service for a time
that she is deprived of participation
in the Insurance Fund because
domestic servants are not included
under the Act.12
She continued, asking the Minister to find other
avenues for employment for women. The government
response by Trevelyan Thomson agreed unemployment was a
great scourge and the government needed to find a
bipartisan solution, but did not respond to the female
issue. Wilkinson also fought Winston Churchill over the
inequity of pay differentials between male and female
44


doctors in the civil service. She asked him if he was
aware "that the government is the only authority that
makes a difference in the rates of Pay..." and inquired
if he will take that "circumstance into consideration?"
He declined to do so.13 Women it seemed, even
Parliamentarians, were considered a nuisance to be
endured.
The right to equal pay for equal output would not be
part of the political culture for fifty years. However,
Eleanor Rathbone deeply felt equal pay would by a natural
adjustment to the capitalistic system if women were
compensated for their domestic contributions to the state
by means of a family allowance geared to the family size.
She did not want to legislate equal pay, an "old
feminist" idea, for she feared, "Equal pay without family
allowances would simply throw women out of work."
"Women's labour," she concluded, "neither boycotted nor
preferred because of its cheapness, might be allowed to
find its natural level."14 There were numerous opinions
and fears about the implementation of equal pay: women
would lose jobs to men, there was only so much wage pie
to be divided, or married women workers would neglect
their domestic duties of unpaid labour and neglect their
45


families. Influenced by this reasoning even female
unionists supported pay inequities well into the 1960's.
The Influencing Factors
Media images fortified biases against working women.
Woman workers who tried to hold onto jobs, which during
the pre-war years had been the male domain, were now
considered by the press to be self-seekers, and by
inference, poor citizens. Public scorn fell on the
"unemployed in fur coats" insinuating that these well-
dressed women were slackers who did not need to work nor
collect insurance benefits.15 The patriots were now the
vampires of society. Visions of domestic bless were
common motifs in print media and films as well,
contributing to the anti-bellum longing for the normalcy
of a male dominated society where a woman's place was in
the home. Furthermore, the media, supported by the
education system and government programs actively pursued
the process of turning girls into housewives. Thus the
majority of women scorned careers, embracing the roles of
wives and mothers and simultaneously denigrated the
flapper ideal out of fears of spinsterhood and
lesbianism. So powerful were these images in the popular
46


culture that in 1930 the majority of women civil servants
voted to maintain the marriage bar.
While the times were clearly reactionary, with
paternalism embraced by the majority of women, there were
other social forces contributing to the consciousness
raising of ordinary woman. These conflicting forces were
numerous, but fragmented, and often seeming to exist in a
vacuum. Yet slowly, out of the general experiences of
the war, a new set of ideas coalesced.
Feminist ideology was the transcendent force
affecting all social strata of women before and after the
war. Since the feminist ideology criticized prevailing
social order, it had disturbing political overtones.
Feminism was, and remains, a protest of female status in
relation to men and spanned all social forms of gender
divisions upheld by tradition and culture. Thus points
of education, double standards of sexual morality,
economic opportunity, property rights, enfranchisement
and most importantly, equal pay, were all contentious
issues in the changing democratic state. Organizations
as Rathbone's NUSEC and the Six Point Group had to secure
political agendas to affect social change. Thus not only
did its adherents have to struggle against the legal and
cultural domination of men, but also the acquiescence and
47


inertia of the majority of women. Yet all the social
forces that promoted female equality had oblique forms of
feminism, although they might be cloaked in
"acceptability" and lacking in any hints of extremism.
Post war feminist groups fragmented into single
issues: for example birth control, family allowances or
pacifism. They divided into "new feminist," led by
Eleanor Rathbone, who used sexual differences and
maternity to gain protective legislation and the "old
feminist," such as Vera Brittain, who sought equality
despite gender differences. This was a profound contrast
to the power and unity of purpose in their suffrage
struggle. Although feminists agree that the movement
declined during this period, divergent theories abound as
to the reason. Johanna Alberti suggests feminists became
victims of their own success when women gained public
office, as this drained away the most talented women and
with them some of the spirit of the movement. Or was the
devolution of feminism to be found in the resurgent
traditions of Victorian orthodoxies, wherein middle class
women did not seek shifts in their domestic roles that
were dictated by gender?16 According to Susan Kent's
theory of gender reconstruction, women were simply
ambivalent about their roles in the political process
48


because the war, and separation by gender, subtly
promoted maternity.17 Undoubtedly the degeneration of the
movement was also a reflection of the aftermath of the
war and the breakdown of the upper classes. Feminists
fragmented from the political, economic and social
upheaval.
British feminism was part of British working class
social history: both movements resulted from the
emergence of democracy during the nineteenth century.
However, when male Labour leaders promoted the
Restoration of the Pre-War Practices Act in 1918, the
philosophical battle lines of gender were drawn. Thus a
primary force for socio/political awareness was limited
as Labour feminists defended class and party against
outside influences. Not surprisingly, the Labour Party
now developed at ideological odds with feminist groups.
Feminism permeated class and creed. Even the most
conservative of institutions, the Anglican Church, felt
its energy. Feminists unlikely advocate, Louise
Crighton, was a "respectable" activist within the male
church establishment. As the wife of the church leader,
Crighton not only bore seven children but served in
numerous capacities with Church women's groups and
missionary work. She exemplified both individuality and
49


values of family life. In addition, Crighton was active
in secular organizations and suffrage work. Through her
non-confrontational Church League for Women's Suffrage
she persuaded the icon of the status quo, the Anglican
Church, to embrace enfranchisement and eventually to
included women into the Church Councils.18
The League's publication, The Church Militant,
subtitled "The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but
mighty through God," was the embodiment of conservatism.
The May 1918 edition had spiteful articles concerning
women munitions workers who "frittered away their money
on trivial things" unlike a better class of women.19 The
January 1918 edition staunchly opposed the Matrimonial
Causes Bill before the House. Nonetheless, it promoted
political participation for women and subtly reinforced
gender rights.
More fitted to the feminist profile was Maude
Royden. Royden, a feminist educated at Settlement Houses
and a lecturer at Oxford in English Literature, accepted
an assistant Preachership to City Temple, a
Congregational Church. For serving outside her Anglican
faith, Royden was soundly criticized by the Bishop of
London. He also tried to prohibit her from preaching.
By 1921, however, she was established and appreciated by
50


the congregation. Later, she preached at both
Congregational and Anglican churches. By working outside
the established church, Royden was instrumental in
asserting women's roles in religion.20 Church feminism,
practically an oxymoron, promoted women's social
consciousness among even the most conservative segments
of British society.
Women's organizations, such as the Co-operative
Guilds, Townswomen Guild or Women's Institute, were
extremely important as catalysts for social interaction.
Within these self-help groups women escaped the isolation
of their unpaid work in a manner deemed socially
acceptable. While women did not gain political
recognition nationally, they did learned political
methods through their activities in clubs and
organizations at the local level. Confined to home and
dependent on male wages, women did not have the requisite
knowledge of negotiation of wage and labour issues.
However, they established networks to cope. Several
social organizations grew to have political agendas by
which women learned how to effect social and economic
regulatory change. For example, the Women's Institute
provided a safe place for rural women to discuss
education, housing and sanitation.
51


The purpose of Settlement Houses was to organize
philanthropy through various social services including
outings or bingo for the elderly, youth clubs and
delivery of hot meals to the housebound. The Settlement
workers created a sense of community with the training of
volunteers in cooperation with local authorities. The
early Settlement residents were not "affluent, irritating
do-gooders,"21 but the women who had the time and money to
do the volunteer work were inevitably of the middle
class. Although the leadership was overwhelmingly
female, Settlement Houses were not strictly a female
organization promoting emancipation for women, nor even
equal rights. They did promote education for women as
needed for the training and maintenance of social
organization. The majority of Settlement Houses interwar
were female, numbering twenty-two, whereas seventeen were
by men and six were co-mingled.22 Women in leadership
positions, such as Mrs. Humprey Ward at the Bloomsbury
Settlement, served as role models to the scores of
volunteers. She contributed to social awareness that
women were capable and necessary to public life.
Similarly, the Women's Co-operative Guild trained women
for public and political life in a "respectable" venue.
52


Emanating from the Victorian value of self-help, Co-
op Guilds were an established aspect of English life.
The Women's Co-operative Guild started in 1883 as a
women's consumer group. One of its four objectives was
to improve the lives of women in Britain. The early
leaders were from a Christian Socialist and Liberal
background. Alice Acland, and later Margaret Davis,
envisioned leading working class women to self-esteem by
promoting them as home managers and co-operators in an
area where they traditionally had power: control of the
family budget. The group was a national federation with
a newspaper, the Co-operative News, and thus had a ready
made target market for communication and consciousness
raising. Co-operative ideology easily segued from
household and co-op affairs to broader social concerns
and into a social feminist basis. Within it, members
could be both traditional homemakers and social
reformers.
By the 1930's the Guilds had over 67,000 members.
Due to the slightly increased prices members had to pay
to participate and the membership fees, Guilds attracted
women who could more easily afford it, specifically upper
working class married women. Albeit the commercial
aspects of the movement were male dominated, working
53


class women were able to create self confidence in a
social support system. A Guild member explains:
One of the things the Guild teaches
is system. To be able to attend
branch meeting and conferences, and
do your household duties, you must
have a system in your home work. You
can't loiter over it. The Guild
really gives a zest to it."23
The Guild women were different from the poor and middle
class women. Although fees were lowered to encourage
women of the lower working class to join the Guild, it
had limited success. Simple survival was their
preoccupation.
The Guild was increasingly important for the self-
esteem it imparted to members via seminars, education and
the opportunity for public speaking. Ironically, women
joined to reinforce traditional roles of unpaid labor but
subsequently learned independence and self-esteem through
participation in local levels of democratic self-
government. The more energetic managed local branches,
districts and, ultimately, the central committee. They
became activists here. Some Guild women sent their
daughters to Co-op classes and encouraged them to
participate in special Guild events. Dorothy Berry
54


recalled her mother had her participate in an
International Day event where she "rode in a lorry
dressed as a Belgian and presided over a mock trail.."24
This was the perfect avenue for the respectable woman to
emerge from the "loving repression"25 of home into public
life.
The social issues the Guild fought for were feminist
in scope. They waged impressive battles over divorce
legislation, suffrage, maternal welfare, contraception
and abortion, all working class and gender issues. The
Guild's methodology in deciding its stand reflected its
conservative nature. Questionnaires on leading issues
were sent to branches and ideas canvassed. The
controversy was then studied, discussed and items agreed
upon. Their system mirrored the democratic ideal of
general input with the majority opinion upheld.
Afterwards they tried to pressure public opinion to
agree. It was a long, laborious process.
Responses to the divorce inquiry proved the Guilds a
barometer for future issues. Their respondents were over
22,000 strong from 429 branches. Twenty five branches
opposed divorce and 414 were in favor of it, while 361
wanted divorce to be less expensive. Guild women took an
independent stand on the issue, despite the opposition of
55


their Catholic members and the loss of 1600 pounds in
grants.26 They later passed a resolution that mutual
consent after two years separation be recognized as
grounds for divorce. In fact, mutual consent was not
legalized until 1969.
A patriarchal society and an all male judicial
system found male dominance and sexuality acceptable, but
held females to different, more stringent, standard. Not
only did the courts assume women to be economically
dependent, (even her wages were considered part of her
husband's property) but family ideology stressed that her
duties completed out of love were not considered a
separate legal claim. The courts also appeared to assume
that women should view sex as a duty, not a pleasure.
Thus women who engaged in liaisons outside of marriage
were abnormal and their adultery was a far more serious
offense to society. A woman, found to be morally
deficient, could lose the rightful property and insurance
benefits awarded through her husband: only one woman in
fifty received alimony.27
Pressed to end these double standards by feminists
and organizations as the Guild, Parliament passed the
Matrimonial Causes Act of 1923. It granted women equal
access to divorce proceedings. Later, the Matrimonial
56


Causes Act of 1937 added cruelty, insanity and desertion
as just cause for divorce. The Civil Judicial Statistics
of 1937 reflect the pent up demand for women seeking
justice: for the first time more wives, 2985, filed for
divorce than husbands, numbered at 2765.28
Well-founded fears of the British population being
undermined by infant mortality and malnutrition prompted
the Guild to pressure the government for maternity health
care via the Public Health Services. When the gains they
sought in maternal care ended in the 1920's, they
campaigned to at least retain previous achievements.
They also supported family allowances paid to the mother.
Usually they were optimistic about social change from
Guild pressures, possibly because they were a mirror and
motivator of working class opinions and of women's social
consciousness.
Women in trade unions also mirrored the reality of
British society; they were second class citizens. Female
unionists endured and perpetrated internal divisions: not
only between themselves and male unionists (who feared
equal pay would undermine their wages) but between women
unionists across the spectrum. In competition were the
white and blue collar workers, the married and the
spinsters, and those in healthy and declining industries.
57


Moreover, unions in general espoused an ante-bellum
mentality-thus grossly unequal pay differentials and
sexism prevailed. This was particularly evident after
women's unions amalgamated with the men's and their
membership fell during the mid-twenties. Consequently,
the number of women in leadership roles declined. That
being said, union work on local levels was the single
most efficient way to politicize working class women and,
as such, was a powerful force for building social
consciousness.
Mary MacArthur and Gertrude Tuckwell were the
premier personalities leading women in trade unions
before and after the war. Tuckwell led the Women's Trade
Union League (WTUL.) She concentrated on the munitions
legislation during the war and fought the "Dilution"
process by which munitions manufacturers broke down
highly skilled positions in order to pay lower rates to
females. MacArthur was instrumental in the national
federation of women's societies, such as the National
Federation of Women Workers and the National Union of
Women Workers of Great Britain and Ireland. These
organizations were open to women working in unorganized
trades. In November of 1918, 26,000 women workers from
the Woolwich Arsenal were given seven days dismissal
58


notice. In anger, a spontaneous march on the House of
Commons followed. Lloyd-George promptly received
MacArthur on behalf of the NFWW, and they negotiated a
severance package of unemployment benefits and a bonus.
MacArthur regarded unions as "schools of social and
economic education" for they broadened the women's
interests, and taught critical reasoning and
administrative skills.29 Essentially union activities
were schools for self-confidence. MacArthur believed
that social activities were absolutely necessary because
the lives of working class women so dreary.
Socialization contributed to self-esteem and a sense of
belonging. In the Trade Union paper, Woman Worker, the
column "How We Play," acknowledged the best way to
politicize women workers: by "..these social gatherings
which combine music and dancing with a certain amount of
very useful propaganda."30 Also her NFWW gave women
unionists access to participation in the Trade Unions
Congress and exposure to the political processes of male
unionists. Although this did this enhance their public
image, and provided a platform to promote improved
maternal, childcare and health services for women, it
also crystallized their second class status in the trade
unions' paternalistic hierarchy.
59


Their low status was partially due to the cultural
conditioning of women. Within the cult of domesticity
and family ideology the general goal of the majority of
women workers was marriage and unpaid labour. They were
by definition transient workers and thus difficult to
organize: they were, essentially, volunteers to their own
sexual repression. Whereas male unionists had
experienced the impact of union agitation on societal
change, traditionally passive women experienced their
promotion through welfare legislation. Most women could
not accept the conflicting identity of women and labour.
Being contentious to authority, involved in strikes,
spending evenings at political meetings, engaging in any
type of radical behavior or even using the feminist
language of rebellion was anathema. So they generally
accepted harsh conditions such as those Doris White found
at the Canada Manufacturing Company. Here the girls did
needlework and painted with frozen hands. The air was
thick with fumes of spirit dye "...and the girls breathed
it in and got coloured nostrils, but they dare not
complain for fear of losing their jobs."31
Within co-mingled unions women could scarcely defy
the male leadership. In the 1920's Mary Bell Richards,
risking rejection, started a social club for women
60


unionists promoting "sex consciousness" for she realized
that male unionist would never support equal pay and
opportunity for females. She wanted a social venue to
promote awareness and expose cultural limitations; for
she correctly believed that women would have to
accomplish economic, political and social gains
themselves.32
To engage in union work was risky. The incident of
Nellie Whitely, aged 13, at the Bradford Woolen Mills,
was a case in point. She was the only girl in the
windings department who belonged to a union. When
management sped up the machinery she was chosen to inform
them that the women workers wanted a pay increase as
compensation. After the bosses refused to comply Nellie
said, "We decided we would walk out, you see, so we all
downed tools." Since the women "were frightened of
(losing) their jobs..." they returned the next day, but
the bosses fired Nellie for being a troublemaker. Only
later did the union pursue and win a small raise for the
workers.33 This reflex reaction of "downed tools" was
typical of poorly organized women unionists. Not only
were the women usually young and inexperienced like
Nellie Bradford, but with women's wages so low, monies
for organization were practically non-existent.
61


Women unionists were financially weak and
politically divided. For example, the National Union of
Women Teachers in 1924 did agitate against the government
for failure to incorporate equal pay a while a
comparative union, Women in Civil Service, would not
support pay equity. In a field where males and females
entered into service by the same exam, did identical work
and were promoted be the identical standards, it would by
reasonable to expect that equal pay would be requisite.
However, the Women in Civil Service dismissed the idea
out of distrust for their feminist leaders whose radical
activities and language departed from prevailing
standards of female behavior.
However reactionary the rank and file or sexist the
union hierarchy, women of mettle proved themselves here.
Susan Lawrence and Margaret Bondfield, contemporaries of
Ellen Wilkinson in Parliament, also rose to prominence
through their union work. The first woman President of
the TUC, elected in 1943 and later honored as Dame of the
British Empire, was Annie Loughlin. She cut her teeth on
union activities and was a shop steward in her teens.
Not only did she raise her brothers and sisters after her
parents died, she was a full time organizer in the
textile industry by age 21 and a national organizer at
62


age twenty six.34 Loughlin was active in the revival of
women unionists after the slump, when membership fell
from 1,341, 696 in 1920 to 813, 094 in 1924.35 A working
class girl from Leeds becoming a Dame of the British
Empire personified the power of trade unionism as a
school for social awareness and opportunity for women of
all classes.
The major political parties of the era, Tory,
Liberal and Labour, were male dominated and keepers of
the status quo. The patriarchal system in alliance with
capitalism supported an inbred chauvinism. With deadly
accuracy Ellen Wilkinson reminded the House during
debate: "The only difference between the old Tory and the
young Tory is that the young Tory gives sympathy, but
both are equally concerned that nothing should be done."36
Residual paternalistic ideology that controlled the
interwar political culture mirrored society. Women as
political actors were powerless, but growing in awareness
of potential possibilities.
The women's political newspapers reflected their
particular political dogma and class divisions spiced
with hints of feminism. The Liberal papers reflected
family ideology and anti-socialism, but were adamant on
equal pay. The Liberal Woman's News also noted recipes,
63


laundry tips, sales of couture gowns, new or slightly
used, and uniforms for servants. It appeared to be more
fluff than politics. The Conservative Woman, May 1927,
reflected more of the social meetings of the day, but
encouraged citizenship duties along with satirical
articles about Labour and Socialist mandates and anti-
union rhetoric. The Labour and Socialist papers were the
political advocates of women's rights and social
legislation. Articles from The Labour Woman issued in
September 1930 reveal lively debates on the merits of
extending unemployment insurance to domestic workers and
family allowances. A later issue, November 1930, argues
vehemently against the marriage bar despite official
party platform. It was obvious Labour women did have
feminist issues at heart, but did not have the influence
to make them part of Labour's platform.
The Labour Party of the interwar era did not live up
to its convictions of gender equality or the hopes of
feminists. Labour women such as Ellen Wilkinson did not
have access to party funds to finance her race for a seat
in Parliament. Eleanor Rathbone's group, the NUSEC,
financed Wilkinson's campaign. The men and women of the
Labour Party shared an "ethical socialism" and working
class backgrounds but they also shared an acceptance of
64


conventional gender roles. Both "assumed that separate
and different was still equal."37 Women were most useful
to the party for fund raising and planning social events.
Officially Labour women had to support the marriage bar,
and oppose the family allowances (based on the
supposition that it was emasculating working men.) They
generally remained non-confrontational. This was
partially the result of residual loathing of the
combative WSPU during the suffrage struggle. Labour
women did support social welfare legislation that did not
undermine the delicate balance of male prerogatives.
They pushed socialistic issues and reforming ideologies
such as school feedings, educational, health, maternal
and infant mortality concerns into the political arena.
A more intellectual but short lived section of the
Labour Party, the International Labour Party, did
encourage women's civil rights and was a source of future
Labour ideology. They argued that the state should fund
improvements to the infrastructure of health and welfare
services to help the largest occupational group in the
nation: the housewife. Their platform built upon a
traditional framework that supported women in social
legislation, such as day nurseries, to help housewives
with their domestic burdens. They tried to argue that
65


women could achieve influence from the home.38 The ILP
chapter also promoted the ideas of compatibility of
sexually fulfilling marriage, and with that equality also
sought to improve divorce laws, separation and custody
laws for women.
Dora Russell described Labour women at an annual
Conference in the 1920's:
The women were of all ages, and of
all types: some were young girls of
working class origin, strong and
exquisitely beautiful...others were
young middle class enthusiasts and a
few were trade union organizers,
tired and careworn by their perpetual
battle on behalf of sweated women
workers, but the vast majority were
solid housewives and mothers in
middle years, round and matronly, or
pinched, hungry and careworn-not
beautiful if you are looking for
superficial delights, but lovely to
the eyes of those who read
courage. "39
These women were excluded from the male power 'structure,
but Labour women had a sense of being equals. Beatrice
Webb recalled the egalitarian nature of the National
Labour Club in 1929. She wrote of dining procedures
without favoritism and in "strict order" of their
arrival: Cabinet Members, Members of Parliament, or Trade
66


Union secretary.40 To Webb, the leadership (particularly
Ramsey MacDonald and his wife) undermined the foundations
of the party. The MacDonalds became part of the smart
court set and thereby embraced the old order and class
structure they had sought to reform. When Webbs husband
became a life peer, she refused the title of Lady
Passfield, preferring to be known as Mrs. Sydney Webb.
Much to the annoyance of the King and Queen, she also
refused to attend court functions. Webb feared the
"mental enfeeblement" of the party and criticized it for
refusing to face facts and growing self-righteous.41
Birth control was a volatile issue the Labour Party
refused to sanction even as the maternal death rate rose
among the working classes. The litmus test of gender
politics, birth control was the last bastion of male
control in marriage. Advocates such as Marie Stopes
wrote her scandalous Married Love which promoted birth
control for married women and thereby tried to dissociate
it from promiscuity. Her advice on the use of mechanical
devices such as sheaths, douches or diaphragms were
directed towards educated women like herself. She
claimed she paid a terrible price within her own marriage
due to her sexual ignorance. The more radical Labourite,
Dora Russell, formed the Workers Birth Control Group in
67


1924 to promote clinics to dispense advice to working
class women, the same advice middle class women were
afforded by their private physicians. Russell wrote of
Labour women who supported birth control regardless of
the partys official platform. During a party meeting
where female speakers reiterated party mantra, she noted
the audience having difficulty restraining themselves
especially since two of the speakers were spinsters.
"'You try it and see' muttered the women around me when a
spinster doctor explained that the ninth confinement was
so much easier than the first."42 The genuine needs of
women subjugated by issues of male control was part of
Beatrice Webb's observations on the party's inability to
face facts.
Rathbone and Wilkinson uncharacteristically did not
agree on birth control. Rathbone was one of three MP's
to broach the subject in the House, and as she did with
other feminist causes, she financially supported, the
organization that was the predecessor to Planned
Parenthood. Wilkinson denied that birth control was a
political issue affecting working class women.
Contributing factors in her reluctance to admit its
importance may have been tensions within the Labour Party
as men fought'hard to prevent women from becoming an
68


independent power. Yet Wilkinson had often crossed party
lines before. More likely her reluctance stemmed from
her deference to her large Catholic constituency.
Statistically Roman Catholics numbered 2,206,000, second
only to the 2,288,000 Church of England members in 1931.43
Untypically, Wilkinson went as far as to defend the ban
on birth control information at a 1928 Labour women's
conference. She stated this was not "an issue on which
there were class differences"44 and thus was not needed on
Labour's platform. However, in contrast, she also
stated, "Marriage should be scheduled as a dangerous
trade, since there are more deaths from childbirth than
from diseases."45
Social investigations by Rowntree reveal there were
material improvements in general for the working classes,
but those were not reflected in the statistics of their
children. "Public school boys aged fourteen ...were on
the average 3.7 inches taller than boys of the'same age
in council schools."46 It was evident that working class
women needed equality of opportunity in health and
housing. They were without political voice or social
cohesion, caught in a vicious circle of poor housing,
poor diet and poor health. Margery Springs Rice, their
contemporary, examined living conditions of 1,250 women
69


in the interwar period and provided charts and analysis
in her book Working Class Wives. She described
conditions ranging from abysmal rural and city slums to
the far more comfortable, but socially isolated, council
housing available for the better employed.
Within the deflationary interwar period food and
housing became more affordable for the masses. Semi-
detached homes with gardens were the ideal, updated by
hot water and electricity for devices as the vacuum. The
council housing, initially intended as a reward for the
returning servicemen, later attracted steady workers at
the higher end of the working class. A new mental
illness afflicted women here, suburban neurosis. It was
thought to be caused by rising standards of cleanliness
and being house proud, but isolated, in the suburban
estates without the easy companionship prevalent in the
slums. However, the majority lived with large families
in crowded, small spaces. In the worse areas there was
neither electricity, running water, scullery or bath in
buildings dating from the industrial revolution. All the
cooking, cleaning, and clothes washing were in the two
rooms one had to live, eat and sleep in as well. By all
contemporary accounts the housework under such conditions
was grueling.
70


Spring Rice's analysis suggested that poor diet,
coupled with excessive child bearing, created a host of
diseases linked to malnutrition. She described the
weekly menus of fifteen wives. Although the menus
differed according to the employment status of the
husband, the diets were overwhelmingly deficient in
fruits and vegetables. Commonly the woman "...often goes
without proper food for herself when she has had doctor's
bills to pay for illness or anything extra."47
Subsistence living crossed the fragile line into
starvation when crisis threatened. For the one third who
lived in abject poverty the General Strike of 1926 was
exceptionally brutal on the women and children.
Another woman told me it was
impossible for her and her husband to
anything to eat everyday if the
children had a bit of bread for
dinner: and her appearance prove the
truth of her words...Here we found a
woman with six children, and
expecting a seventh, who had not food
at all in the house for two days.48
The majority of women interviewed by Spring Rice suffered
from anemia, exacerbated by pregnancy. Maternal death
rates were linked to poor, damp housing and malnutrition.
Even varicose veins proved to be a common ailment which
was generally untreatable, as most women could not afford
71


elastic stockings or arch supports. Access to steady
wages was the difference between sickness and health.
Rice's quotation of the Welsh lament, "the calf destroys
the flanks of the Mother" was especially poignant in
light of the sacrifices the majority of working class
women made for husband, home and children. The exposure
of the social conditions of lower class women contributed
to a rising awareness of women's sacrifice for home,
family and nation, and in turn, increased pressure for
welfare legislation.
The percentage of women employed during the war rose
from 21% of the female population to 56%. Even though
the numbers decreased dramatically post war, an
empowering social phenomenon had been experienced: the
satisfaction of women as full time wage earners. Its
legacy was a new social value in the interwar era, that
of married women in part time work. Part time work
fulfilled the paternalistic requirement of women; they
were able to complete unpaid work at home and contribute
secondary income. Part time work allowed for the extras
that the new consumerism idealized. It also exacerbated
a disturbing trend, as only part time workers women were
underpaid, unorganized by unions and not eligible for
72


pensions or benefits. Their growing numbers worked to
the advantage of competitive capitalism.
During this time, with the British battling economic
crisis upon crisis, it was hardly surprising that the
government would seek to guide women out of the labour
market and back into domestic service. Not only did the
work lack any insurance coverage whatsoever, it was the
lowest paying of jobs despite a shortage of good servants
available. The government made legitimate attempts to
raise the status of domestic work with training schemes
for unemployed women. Between 1921 and 1924 they spent
190,000 pounds on a Homecraft and Homemakers scheme.49
For this they were soundly criticized by women unionists
for lowering the status of women. The numbers in
domestic service did rise somewhat, from 33% of women
workers in 1921 to 35% in 1931.50
Not only were skilled workers forced into domestic
service, young girls from the mining towns were forced to
accept it due to dire poverty at home. Winefred Foley, a
14 year old from Forest on Dean reported that,
Life was wonderful except for one
constant nagging irritation. Hunger.
We knew the wages Dad brought home
from the pit were not enough to keep
73


us out of debt, let alone fill our
bellies properly.51
Foley grew up knowing she would have to go into service,
these were traditional work patterns. Not only was she
facing a life of isolation, more so if she was the single
servant of a family, but one of drudgery and long hours.
Domestics sufficed with an average of a half day off per
week and they were constantly exposed to sexual abuse by
males of the household. A single servant had to purchase
two sets of uniforms to enable her to play the role of
two domestics: a uniform to act the parlourmaid and
another to act the nanny. Evidence suggests the middle
class mistress lived in fear of her servants giving
notice. Servants were a status symbol. This, however,
did not alleviate their miserable working conditions.
There were emerging opportunities for women in the
new industries, mainly in the manufacturing of consumer
goods. These industries had not been previously male
dominated and only required semi-skilled workers.
However, abuses of factory workers were commonplace:
generally the women were young, malleable, and not
unionized. Often by the time the workers were eighteen
they were sacked for the younger girls. Moreover, newer
technology, such as the conveyer belt, put added stresses
74


and strains on workers with rapid and repetitive duties.
Women in some professions, in particular law and
medicine, did experience progress. Nursing was grueling
work, combining heavy manual labour with sixty hour work
weeks. However, the number of women doctors, a
profession that had flourished due to wartime demands,
decreased owing to reactionary philosophy post war. By
1922 London Hospital influenced the profession with their
new policy: they could no longer train women as doctors
because the "...staff have found difficulties in teaching
to a mixed audience certain unpleasant subjects of
medicine. "52
Retailing was an option as well. The "...cult of
the soul had been replaced by the cult of the body, of
beauty, of fashion..." due in part to the retailing
revolution of the department store. The appearance of
these jobs had a definitive impact on women's changing
roles in society.53 Also, male trade unionists were not
strong enough to displace women out of shop positions.
Strict discipline was customary in retail; a worker could
be fined for failing to call a customer Madam. Office
work was a growing occupational area as well, but it too
meant low pay and inequality. Although neither retail
nor manufacturing paid wellwomen earned about half the
75


salary of men and conditions were generally harsh on the
shop floor or retail establishmentsit was on the whole
preferable to domestic work.
Thus the Shop Act of 1934 was of particular
importance to Ellen Wilkinson, for it achieved a 48 hour
work week for women workers. In a rather sneering
passage in the Hansard she enlightened the House:
What kind of shops do men go into?
They are led into a perfectly
appointed establishment with a thick
carpet, with perfectly shaped mats.
They are attended to by a young shop
assistant dressed in whatever the
fashion the Prince of Wales has
lately popularized and think, as they
leave that soothing atmosphere in
order to come down to the industrial
arena of the House of Commons, who
would not be a shop assistant... I
would remind them this is not the
type of shop assistant for whom we
are legislating.54
The government census of women in occupations in
1931 reported the numbers to be 6,256,100,55, but 90% of
them did not engage in full time work. Not only does
this highlight the dependency of married women, but it
speaks to the transient nature of women's work and
limited career expectations. Edith Hall of London, circa
1930, related having seventeen dead-end jobs by the time
76


she was seventeen. She claimed she was scorned by the
taunt "Girls taking men's jobs."56 Nevertheless, in spite
of a paternalistic government, punitive legislation,
media influence of family ideology and marriage as the
social apex, women as wage earners remained entrenched
and their numbers continued to grow.
Although much changed in the interwar period for
women, particularly in the area of employment, the gains
made appear limited. The failure to reap greater rewards
from wartime exposures and political enfranchisement was
almost baffling. Clearly, the lack female leadership
within political and employment spheres had a negative
affect. Equally certain, leadership cannot lead without
followers, and as yet there were not enough women in
interested in political office or full time employment to
influence power.
Nevertheless, the ground work that enriched the next
generation developed here. Women, like Eleanor Rathbone,
Mary MacArthur, and Beatrice Webb, were the neophyte
political and social actors who emerged as role models.
By their example, the social consciousness of ordinary
women was slightly heightened. Unfortunately, the
legacies of the Second World War temporarily obscured
even this.
77


END NOTES
1 Pamela Horn, Wives and Daughters of the Country-
House Society, (UK: Sutton, 1991)216.
2 G.E.Mingay, The Transformation of Britain,
(Routledge: London, 1986)223.
3 Johanna Alberti, 'Inside Out" Women/s Studies
International Forum, Vol. 13 (1990) 121.
4 Vernon, Betty, Ellen Wilkinson, (LondonrBiddle
Ltd., 1982)42.
5 The Labour Woman, (Oct. 1, 1926) 526.
6 Smith, Harold L. ed., British Feminism in the
Twentieth Century, (Maine: University of Massachusetts,
1990)108.
7A University Seat did not represent a geographical
area. Instead, it represented British citizens who had
earned the right of plural votes by fulfilling property
qualifications and having a University degree. It also
enforced subtle forms of gender exclusivity in that only
a small minority of women had both property and
University degrees.
8 Dora Russell, Reader. (London: Pandora, 1983)183.
9 Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth. (London:
Camelot Press, 1993)405.
10 Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie, The Diary of Beatrice
Webb Vol.4 1924-1943, (Cambridge: Harvard, 1985)316.
11 Ibid, p.316
12 Hansard, Vol. 181, (March 9, 1925) col. 1021.
13 Hansard, Vol. 181, (March 5, 1925) col. 641.
14 Brian Harrison, Prudent Revolutionaries.(Oxford:
Clarendon Press, 1987)112.
78


15 Dierdre Beddoe, Back to Home and Duty, (Great
Britain: Pandora, 1989)52.
16 Johanna Alberti, "Inside Out" Women's Studies
Internatonal Forum, Vol 13 (1990)121.
17 Susan Kingsley Kent, Making Peace, (New Jersey:
Princeton University Press,1993) 9.
18 Brian Heeney, The Womens Movement in the Church of
England, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987)108.
19 The Church Militant, May 1918, p 53.
20 Ibid, p.89.
21 Katherin Bently Beaumen, Women in the Settlement
Movement (London: Radcliff, 1996)xxii.
21
22 22 Ibid. p. 116.
23 Gaffin, p.121
24 Pamela Graves, Labour Women in British Working
Class Politics 1918-1939. (Cambridge: Univerity,
1994)51.Gaffin, p.121.
25 Alberti, p.118.
26 Gaffin, p.137.
27 Pamela Graves, p.110.
28 Carol Smart, The Ties That Bind, (London:
Routledge, 1984)32.
29 Robin Miller Jacoby, The British and American
Trade Union Leagues, (UK: Sutton, 1991)24.
30 Ibid, p. 72 .
31 Gail Braydon and Penny Summerfield, Out of .the
Cage. (London: Pandora, 2987)142.
79


32 Dame Anne Godwin, Women in the Labour Movement,
ed. Lucy Middleton, (London: Croom, 1977)110.
33 Pamela Graves, p.62.
34 Norbert Soldan, Women in the British Trade
Union,(Dublin: Gill, 1978)147.
35 Statistical Abstracts for the United Kingdom, No
70: 1911-1925, p. 85.
36 Hansard, Vol. 235, (March 21, 1930) col. 2337.
37 Robert Graves and Alan Hodges, The Long Week-end
(New York: Norton, 1940)78.
38 Harold Smith,ed., British Feminism in the
Twentieth Century, (Amherst: Massachusetts Press,
1990)130.
39 Dora Russell, p.96.
40 Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie, p.178.
41 Ibid, p.254.
42 Dora Russell, p.98.
43 Keith Robbins, The Eclipse of a Great Power,
(London: Longman, 1994)419.
44 Ibid. 420.
45 Harold Smith, "British Feminist," p. 26.
46 Mingay,p. 210.
47 Rice, Margery Springs, Working Class Wives,
(London: Virago, 1939) 160.
48 The Labour Woman, (October 1, 1926) 154.
49 Soldon, Norbert, Women in the British Trade
Unions, (Dublin:Gill, 1978) 114.
50 Dierdre Beddoe, p.61.
80


51 Ibid, p.61.
52 Ibid. p. 79.
53 Theresa Me Bride, "A Woman's World,:Department
Stores and the Evolutionof Women's Employment, 1870-1920"
French Historical Studies (Fall, 1978) 664-683.
54 Hansard, Vol. 235 (March 21, 1930) col. 2337.
55 Statistical Abstract for the United Kingdom, No.
82: 1913 and 1924-1937, p. 127.
56 Braydon and Summerfield, p. 141.
81


CHAPTER 5
THE LEGACIES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR
The post war social impact of Second World War was
equal to the upheaval of the war itself. There was a new
consensus on equitable distribution and "fair shares."
The unity created by sacrifices from all levels of
British society evolved into public policy for social
security. Interwar England, under a largely conservative
government, now appeared as somewhat indifferent. That
Tories allowed poverty, ignored educational needs and
protected a spent Imperial system provoked the majority
to banish their wartime leaders in hopes of a new
beginning with collectivism. However, Labour's platform
promised more of the same.
In July of 1945 the Labour Party won nearly half the
popular vote with the pledge of a cradle to grave welfare
state. Yet lingering austerity was necessary as
Britain's economic crisis persisted. The fuel shortage
in 1947, the currency crisis in 1949, increased rationing
of food and clothing perpetuated pessimism. Food staples
not limited during the war, such as bread and potatoes,
were now rationed. Solemnity defined the immediate post
war era. Austerity, embodied in Sir Stafford Cripps at
82


the Exchequer, was a necessity for a nation bankrupt by
wartime debts. The initial impact of the collectivism
illuminated what Churchill had warned: socialism made men
equal only by making them equally miserable.
Yet even the conservative leadership could not turn
back the clock: the cataclysm of war ended the pretense
of fairness in unbridled capitalism and necessitated a
retreat from Empire. The Suez incident in 1956 was the
bellwether: censorship by the UN and the United States
forged both bitterness and recognition that the dominant
philosophy of modern England was outdated. The
relinquishment of Empire was hardest on the ego of the
ruling class: the majority of the nation scarcely noted
it. They had not been the ones who reaped the direct
financial rewards of exploitation although, by default,
they enjoyed the fruits of inexpensive imports.
Similar to the nineteenth century reforming rivalry
of the Tory and Liberal parties, the Conservative return
to power in 1951 retained most of the welfare state
intact. It was their vested interest to maintain the
social peace. Sinews of long term social trends, such as
factory regulations, health inspectors and education
reforms flowered into the great domestic war machine.
Its success created optimism about mass social planning
83


and greater concern for the poor. Housing, health,
employment, and industrial regulations were the post war
imperatives for both political parties. As the new
orthodoxies supported welfare reforms, active government
planning of the economy and society was no longer part of
the debate. It was the consensus.
Post war Britain emphasized social rights. The
implementation of nationalization of industry, the
passage of the National Insurance Act by 1946 and
National Health Act in 1948, certainly made for a more
equitable Britain in terms of social services. The
Beveridge Report of 1942 provided the template, calling
for social security from central taxation, economic
policies to ensure full employment, universal and free
medical and dental services (NHS.) Its family
allowances, along with subsidized education and housing,
clearly improved the lives and health of the nation.
Unlike the Victorian poor laws which had humiliated the
humble with stringent rules, the welfare state sought to
treat all equally and an enduring egalitarianism ensued.
Yet within the evolving welfare state the central
ideology remained traditional. The policies portrayed
the existing balance of power wherein males' needs were
84


dominant. Progress may have diminished class, but not
gender, inequality.
The Beveridge Plan stressed welfare benefits
attached to full time work. Since women, again after
this war, abandoned full time work to return home to
traditional roles, or engaged in acceptable part time
work, they were again in a secondary position. Male
employment predicated the welfare state. Although women
shared in their husbands pension benefits, they were
disqualified if divorced. The Plan assumed that married
women stayed at home as caretakers of the British race.
However, it also stressed that women were companions to
their husbands as equals within separate spheres.
Companionate marriage reflected a rise in the status of
women, though like enfranchisement, the reality belied
the gain. With its subtle reinforcements women were
still dependent economically.
An oral history of 51 working class women by
Elizabeth Roberts reveals how profoundly their lives
improved with the post war settlement. Undoubtedly they,
far beyond the middle or upper classes, gained a new
world by state largess. The single most important aspect
of the welfare state for the respondents was access to
National Health'Services. Previously women and children,
85


since they did not engage in full time work, were
uninsured and their health suffered accordingly. The
decline in infant mortality rates in England and Wales
indicated dramatic improvements in women's health. The
five year averages were:
1940-44 51.6
1945-49 39.2
1950-54 27.8
1955-59 23.31 1
With mortality rates so high at the end of the war the
1946 Royal Commission of Population had good reason to
fear for the British nation and encourage woman back into
their traditional roles. Although the Commission argued
that feminism, birth control and women in paid work were
to blame for the alarmingly low birth rate, evidence
indicates that the health of mothers was just as
important a factor.
Improvement in housing was the second most important
consequence for the respondents. In the interwar era the
vast majority of the middle class had rented homes as did
the working class. Difficult landlords and dated, even
dangerous, interiors were standard for the lower classes.
Worse yet, nearly 750,000 homes damaged or destroyed
during the war created a grim housing shortage.2 Phyllis
86


Willmott and her husband spent several years as homeless
wanderers in London, living uncomfortably with parents
and friends. By the late 1950's home ownership of
government subsidized council housing became common.
Moving from established neighborhoods increased social
mobility but broke down more entrenched cultural patterns
as well.
Along with improved housing came domestic
appliances. In the interwar era Willmott recalled her
mother as irritable and worn out on wash day: it was an
all day ordeal. Her description of washing nappies in
her cold water flat in the late 1940's, boiling water,
scrubbing and hanging them outside proved it grueling
work. With electricity in newer homes, irons, vacuums,
refrigerators, and later wash machines became standard by
the mid 1960's. For example, in 1942 only 3.6% of homes
had washing machines, by 1958 that had increased to
almost 30%.3 Concurrently, standards of cleanliness
rose and larger homes meant more possessions. Still, by
these statistics, women who were once housebound by
domestic chores enjoyed emancipation by technology. This
emancipation, not fought for but bought on the market,
suggested both the future shackles of consumerism and
freedom from housework.
87


Whatever the improvements in health, housing, wages
and free secondary education for their children imparted,
Roberts's respondents expressed ambiguity about the loss
of their informal social network and female power within
the family unit. The welfare state had diluted customary
roles. The rise of professionals undermined the
traditional supporting subculture of family and
community. Roberts revealed that people began to pay for
services from professionals that earlier would have been
freely provided by friends and neighbors. The custom of
laying out the dead had long been a community affair
directed by older women. Since the welfare state
subsidized death benefits, the cost and services of
undertakers were now preferred.4 Phylliss Willmott's
career as a single woman in state social work exemplified
another trend of the welfare state. She was an almoner,
a social worker for hospitals, and part of the emerging
cadre of experts. As a legacy of improving education,
advice of experts or professionals superseded that of
community or family members.
There were other forces influencing cultural shifts
not prevalent after the First World War. Popular culture
produced by the intellectual elites and the masses alike
emanated from books, the arts, entertainment and the
88


media. Mass audiences were attracted to the cinema by
low prices and influenced by American rock and roll. The
government sponsorship of the arts during wartime not
only promoted class blending, but produced a legacy of
participation. The state patronage increased middle
class influence, mirrored in the BBC promotion of music,
drama and culture. It was very popular. The astonishing
acceptance of the Beatles and designer Mary Quant
internationalized British pop culture. Still class
differences were obvious in all media: for example,
middle class women read Good Housekeeping which exposed
them to the latest trends in health and contraception far
sooner than working class women had such information in
their weeklies. The media resembled that of the
interwar era, however, by printing stories that fueled
fears of a nation at risk by women not returning to their
domestic roles.
The populace and government alike encouraged women
to return to traditional roles. Experts of the welfare
state, professionals as the popular medical expert Dr.
John Bowlby, convinced society that a woman's place was
in the home to secure the emotional stability of young
children.5 The renewed variation on the theme of family
ideology spurred images of femininity. The hour glass
89


figure in ladies fashion returned, the small waist and
voluminous petticoats evocative of helplessness. Gender
roles were similar to those of the interwar era.
Elizabeth Roberts' research confirmed that, in general,
her respondents believed they had lost some of the power
their mothers enjoyed when their self-esteem derived from
skillful homemaking on scarce resources. Several
possibilities emerged: had men sought more autonomy over
the family finances previously controlled by women
because they felt partially emasculated by the state's
increasing role as provider? Possibly an exaggerated
femininity in a more affluent age encouraged women to be
less forceful.6 Simultaneously, in 1947, the government
acknowledged a labour shortage. The marriage bar had
been lifted from teaching (1944) and the civil service
(1946.) By 1950 the government propagated the ideology
of dual roles for women, at home and at work. However,
the sexual segregation and low pay that characterized
women's work interwar remained the status quo as did the
gender division of labour.
Welfare state philosophies resonated throughout the
forces that influenced social consciousness. Women were
equals, but economically dependent. They were also
contributors to the family: secondary in wages and first
90


in unpaid labor. Women were protected by the state and
as a result, more helpless, less forceful, more
malleable. For all the enormous good the welfare state
bestowed on the women much of the fire for equality
dimmed. Some of the forces of social consciousness
prevalent interwar were subsumed into socialism; others
were only temporarily muted.
Feminism was still the transcendent force, but
diminished on several levels. Both Eleanor Rathbone and
Ellen Wilkinson, leading feminists in Parliament, died in
the 1940's. Also there were tensions among women's
groups trying to maintain wartime gains, particularly
over equal pay. The Six Point Group remained active into
the 1980's, which was rare; most lost their initiative in
the easier social atmosphere. Feminist activism lost
much of its grassroots power but remained an intellectual
force until the late 1960's. Ardent feminists found a
larger audience later, summarized in Dr. Germaine Greer's
The Female Eunuch, which bitterly denounced prejudice
against women. In the 1950's, however, the movement
veered away from equality and promoted the roles of
mothers and family, reflecting state philosophies. State
welfare to mothers, such as family allowances, reinforced
women as the caretakers of children and gender driven
91


domesticity. In no small way this undermined equality.
Ironically, feminism temporarily caused its own demise.
Eleanor Rathbone believed that married women in
economic dependence was the "last stronghold," of
subjugation and that was why it was "proving so hard to
force."7 Parliamentary records reflect her resolve that
the allowance payments be made only to mothers: "If the
bill goes through in its present form I cannot vote for
the Third Reading although I have worked for this thing
for over 25 years."8 She died only weeks before the
first payments arrived in 1946. Unfortunately, the
payments were very small, smaller than Rathbone had
envisioned to assist needy women.
Equal pay agitation did not disappear even if it was
muted. The 1944 Education Bill, which passed in the
House, had equal pay as a fundamental provision but
Churchill's decision to make the Bill the subject of a
vote of confidence eliminated the clause. Subsequently,
the Majority Report on the Royal Commission on Equal Pay
in 1945 put forth a variety of convoluted excuses to
avoid supporting equal pay. The Commission feared for
female unemployment, as men would be preferable for equal
wages, but also feared working women having a negative
impact on the birth rate. Could both fears of too few
92


employed and too many employed be detrimental to the
state? They could have canceled each other out. The
Report also stated that equal pay would reduce the level
men's wages, and most interestingly, it argued that women
were less efficient than men.9' In light of scarce
childcare support during war, and high absenteeism of
mothers, it may have appeared true. The fatigue of two
jobs caused mothers to lose 65% more time due to sickness
than single women.10
Women gained "Rate for the job" during the war. Pay
equity was not as contentious as in the First World War
but some employers again circumvented the issue.
Reinstituted regulations and ruses, such as a single word
of direction spoken by a male co-worker, insured women
could not earn men's rates nor credit of efficiency.11
The Labour government made political points with support
of equal pay, but later opposed it as inflationary during
the austerity.
Elizabeth Roberts reported none of her respondents
complained about their low wages.12 They worked only for
the extras, consumer goods and holidays. Ironically,
consumerism propelled women into the workforce at the
same time that it marginalized their importance. None of
the women had the feminists anger at the inequality. The
93


Full Text

PAGE 1

"Out of the Cage" War, Women and Social Consciousness in Great Britain 1918-1960 by Sharon Hartmann Seller B.A. Metro State College, 1982 A thesis submitted to the University of Colorado at Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Arts History 1998

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This thesis for the Master of Arts degree by Sharon Hartmann Seller has been approved / -:-z-1 Acr,' I 7 g Date

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Seller, Sharon Hartmann (M.A., History) "Out of the Cage" War, Women and Social Consciousness in Great Britain 1918-1960 Thesis directed by Professor James B. Wolf Abstract The World Wars in first half of the twentieth century convoluted customary social and economic roles of English women. They twice fluctuated from being self-reliant, economic providers to secondary citizens in a patriarchal system. Not surprisingly, the experiences of wartime: independence, a public presence and paid employment contributed to a shift of sociological thought: women deserved equity. Simultaneously, a restored male dominated British society strove-to replace women in a supportive subculture which idealized marriage and motherhood. Legislations, traditions and the media were the social controls that supported the status quo. The forces of social consciousness prevalent after First World War--women's organizations, trade unions, iii

PAGE 4

social acceptance of part time work, politics and particularly, feminism--subsumed into the socialist tapestry after the second World War. Unexpectedly, the welfare state weakened the interwar dynamics and inhibited the social progress of women. Yet improvements in technology freed women to practice the unconventional: they worked. As women's status changed from employment, so did their social expectations. British women may have accepted social, legal and economic subjugation in the years between 1918 and 1960, but the evidence suggests they recognized the inequities. Most importantly, these years were the incubation period for the broader social consciousness which motivated the women's movement. This abstract accurately candidates thesis. I iv the content of the

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DEDICATION I dedicate this thesis to my father, Erwin G. Hartmann Jr., and to my son Barrett MacLeod Seller--for both the joy of life and faith in my dreams.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENT My thanks to my mentor, Dr. James Wolf, for three years of guidance, criticism and verbal handholding, and to Professors Myra Rich and Mike Ducey for their help and advice on this thesis. They, along with many others in the history department, have illuminated the path and made the journey a pleasure.

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CONTENTS Chapter 1. War, Women and Social Consciousness in Great Britain 1918-1960 .............................. 1 2. Forces in Creating Social Consiousness ........ S Social Controls and Cultural Assumptions ........ 9 Notes .......................................... l7 3. British Women's Wartime Experiences .......... 18 Notes .......................................... 31 4. Impact of the First World War on Women's Social Consciousness .................................. 32 Significant and Punitive Legislations .......... 40 The Influencing Factors ...................... 46 Notes .......................................... 78 5. The Legacies of the Second World War .......... 82 Conclusion .................................... 1 04 Notes ......................................... 1 08 B I BL I OGRA.PHY . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 11 0 vii

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CHAPTER 1 WAR, WOMEN AND SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS IN GREAT BRITAIN 1918-1960 As a group, the majority of British women in the first half of the twentieth century were silent social actors. Apart from the extremist leadership of the few feminists and radical suffragists, their actions and reactions to the social, economic or political beliefs of their times were seemingly complacent. For them, cultural assumptions based on domestic and family ideology was a collective behavior validated by societal consensus. Consensus, in the Victorian liberal tradition, was a prized hallmark of civility in the twentieth century. By these standards of paternalism and traditionalism, women were to be subservient to men and, in turn, be taken care of by them. However, two catastrophic world wars unleashed social forces incompatible with these ideals of behavior. Although the influence of the wars on civilian women may have initially appeared negligible, together they contributed 1

PAGE 9

to gender confrontation and demands for greater civil and economic rights. The measurements of social consciousness are at best inexact. Unlike significant political legislation which were benchmarks of change, social consciousness calibration is ephemeral. The variety of forces in any such debate ebb and flow. The challenge for the historian is to determine what finally moved a widely disparate group, alike only in gender, to become socially conscious of discrimination. The answer, like the question itself, is elusive. The broad time frame of this research, 1918-1960, presents a wide variety of questions and answers; still a pattern did emerge. For the generation of British women following each world war, there were organizations and social groups, as well as a changing economic and political landscape, that contributed to their growing social consciousness. Their emerging awareness can be extracted from the actions of ordinary women. These actions slowly eclipsed the inherent orthodoxies of paternalism and cultural reality. In spite an ingrained complacency and acceptance of their secondary status, slowly awareness was transferred to participation in a quest for social equity. Economic 2

PAGE 10

parity and political equality were central to social awareness, but also muted by cultural pressures and the tradition of paternalism. Access to better health care, improved housing, birth control and education were the topics more likely to move ordinary women into social activism. Also, the forced transitions of the wars affected women most profoundly in the area of employment. Female employment was the single most significant changing social demographic of both post war eras. It was the engine of the emerging female consciousness. To grasp the essence of the diverse eras from 19181960 the social and cultural assumptions affecting women must first be examined. The succeeding chapter on British women's wartime experiences portrays the depth of the transitions they underwent. These temporary experiences were profound and provided glimpse of future goals, for it included paid work and the initial struggle for pay equity. While this did not immediately stir women's social consciousness for greater rights, it supplied the first exposure to what was possible. Chapters Three and Four contrast the social experiences and employment opportunities of women in the post war eras. Despite the starkly different political and social conditions of the periods, similarities are 3

PAGE 11

striking due to the persistent cultural conditioning of women. The research suggests that sinews of social consciousness, evolving especially from paid employment, motivated women to seek new levels of recognition for social and economic equality. 4

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CHAPTER 2 FORCES IN CREATING SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS Feminism was amorphous throughout the generations, and the most important of the forces in creating social consciousness. Although often seemingly extremist, as defined by the leadership at various stages between 19181960, feminism was singularly a form of everyday resistance which penetrated into all social strata. Early on, most significant political gains were the handiwork of the upper and middle class women seeking equality, such as the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1918. Parliamentarian Eleanor Rathbone exemplified the upper class leadership as a social reformer and a feminist. Dora Russell, the controversial second wife of intellectual Bertrand Russell and a radical feminist of the first order, was a vocal proponent and practitioner of female sexual emancipation and birth control. The socialist, Beatrice Webb, was another of the upper middle class that illuminated the path to social equity. In addition, working class women practiced a form of feminism as a matter of survival. They often recall 5

PAGE 13

their mothers as "the fighters"1 in the family. The explanation was two-fold here: working class women were not totally inculcated with the Victorian orthodoxy of respectability or women as helpless adjuncts to male wage earners. On whole, working class women struggled for the basic needs of their families. They were the adroit managers of meager budgets for food, clothing, and health concerns. These women were the likely ones to be in contention with men in the family and with local authorities over scant resources: they were the guerrilla fighters of survival. This belies the paternalistic assumption that women were deferential and helpless. The working class author, Phyllis Willmott, in her memoirs of period remembered her mother as the disciplinarian and household manager who "made do" with ingenuity. Feminist ideology, defined as women seeking rights either in political or personal spheres, was obliquely part of every generation. Female trade unions created another avenue of social awareness and were particularly critical to the lower classes. To the uneducated and the undereducated this was their primary experience in group consensus to achieve equality. Here they learned the acceptability of women challenging established authority. It was the 6

PAGE 14

testing ground for needed social skills, and for the brighter of working class women, a testing ground for political leadership. For Ellen Wilkinson, interwar parliamentarian, trade unionism was the catalyst to public life. Mary McArthur, leader of the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL) stressed the social elements of the organization. She probably assumed correctly this was the only fun these women had in their drab lives. The Labour Party, with its egalitarian philosophy, was another springboard for creating social consciousness. Yet Labour philosophy also stressed class struggle over gender equality and hindered female interests of emancipation. Still, despite benevolent opposition to women's rights, an identity emerged amongst Labour women of all classes. Furthermore, the women's party newspaper The Labour Woman, reveals them to be in lively contention with official party lines. Then, as today, political party platforms did not represent the complete interests of the constituency. Once again Ellen Wilkinson, as Labour M.P., challenged Labour platform with impunity on feminist issues as equal pay, family allowances, the marriage bar and insurance schemes. However, the intellectual and eloquent Beatrice Webb, a founding member of the Labour party and The London School 7

PAGE 15

of Economics, did not promote feminist issues specifically. As a socialist she believed in equality for women as a natural byproduct of a socially just society. Both women were notable role models of women working toward justice for women. They empowered their contemporaries. Women's groups and organizations, generally promoting the Victorian orthodoxy of self-help and service, were important contributing voices to this tapestry of women's awareness. The Women's Co-operative Guild, involving the better heeled of the working classes and often led by middle class women and men, was elemental in building women's self-esteem in a man's world. Within its "respectable" female social niche, a philanthropic based Guild promoted women in their domestic role of food procurement. They grew into genuine economic, social and political force empowering women in public life. Settlement houses and Townswomen Guilds were crucial for involving women on local levels in philanthropic works while simultaneously creating recognition of women's contribution outside the sphere of home and family. Increasing numbers of women in paid employment were a social consequence of expanding women's roles in both 8

PAGE 16

war efforts. The conscription of male workers created an opportunity for the masses of women in British society to prove themselves as wage earners. For those who enjoyed the paid work and attendant public life outside of home it entailed, this was empowering. Under the harsh light of actual work experience, however, an increasingly vocal minority experienced the effects of paternalism and sexism. Phyllis Willmott revealed in her memoir, and Sorrows, the difficulties of her career experiences after the Second World War in the new field of social work and her involuntary choice of motherhood over work. Slowly, over decades, despite every conceivable official impediment and socially accepted idealization of women as only housewives and mothers, reality proved a better yardstick. Women were in the workplace to stay, and social adjustment on every level of society was the cost. Social Controls and Cultural Assumptions Social and cultural assumptions, legacies of Victorian tenets of respectability, impeded transitions in women's social consciousness. The feminist Dora Russell believed that George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells, and Bertrand Russell were the early twentieth century 9

PAGE 17

emancipators of Victorian orthodoxy.2 They attempted to liberate women from superstition, prejudice, tyranny of family suppression and servitude. The patriarchal system they illuminated, in alliance with capitalism, encouraged men to fight for their wages alone and not for societal improvements. Unconscious chauvinism subtly inculcated the societal assumptions that idealized women doing the unpaid labor of the home. This "cult of domesticity" dominated society after both wars. Woman was the light of the inner world of family life: domesticity was her identity and the home was her office. For upper class woman, freed from housekeeping duties by servants, philanthropy was the alternative endeavor. However, for the vast majority, the idealized vision of domesticity parlayed into a drab life of repetitive chores, and paradoxically, for the financially better off, loneliness. Family ideology stressed traditionalism in mores as well. It remained the vision of the good life and supported social and sexual roles of power--male dominance within a class and gender system. It included the self-reliant family, a male breadwinner and a woman as homemaker responsible for children but subservient to her husband in all matters. In return she enjoyed 10

PAGE 18

financial support and protection from the harsh world of manly wage earning. Clearly, the lower classes were unable to practice this idealized version of familial control for, by necessity, every member of the family had to contribute to the subsistence living. Working class boys grew up as neophyte breadwinners by giving their mums all or part of their pay packets. However, the power of the Victorian middle class to dictate social and cultural standards of respectability was transcendent into the twentieth century. Eventually family ideology became the template of all social classes: it represented respectability, the sought after norm. Within this philosophy, gender inequality was a foregone conclusion. The foremost legacy of family virtue was the value of marriage. For women of all classes, marriage was the goal--the apex of female existence was marriage and motherhood; it was assumed to be a full time occupation. This, too, was a legacy of middle class Victorian orthodoxy. Most women sought to improve themselves by a wise choice of spouse. For the working class that meant a husband regularly employed, who did not drink or gamble and could afford mortgage payments on desirable council housing. Interestingly, most of these women did not seek 11

PAGE 19

education, careers, or even social mobility. They sought to escape poverty and its sinews: sharing beds, scarce food, summary punishments, chores and exhausted parents. However, Dora Russell notes in her memoirs that many young women thought marriage as degrading. Phyllis Willmott expressed her confusion of emotion towards the married state as desirable yet by implication the relinquishment of any sense of self-worth. Nonetheless if, "ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence"3 these assumptions of deference and helplessness practically enslaved women. At its most disturbing was the social justification for wife beating. The failure of women to uphold the tacit agreement of unpaid work or any unseemly behavior was reason enough for this acceptable abuse of power. Females were to be simply an addendum to their husbands' or fathers' wishes. Even socialists who espoused equality found difficulty incorporating it into their reality. For example, during the interwar era a young woman, Alice Onions, won a scholarship to Birmingham University: she was not able to attend due to her father's command. Although he was a socialist, he believed it was out of the ordinary for 12

PAGE 20

working class women to seek education and he upheld traditionalist views: women belong in the home.4 Since social consciousness is borne of shared experiences and the general opinions raised from them, group cohesiveness is essential for change to occur. Eventually personal experiences become the motivation of social and political change. Social controls, such as position of the media, courts, and community opinion determine the pace and direction of collective behaviors that affect social consciousness as well.5 Women were divided, not only by class struggle but by apathy, ignorance, religion, and traditions. Moreover, they were not an occupational group and thus lacked a power base from which to organize. That British women never formed a cohesive political philosophy after enfranchisement reflects their divisions. Class differences emerged as possibly the greatest single factor influencing cultural assumptions. George Orwell explains, circa 1937: Very early in life your acquired the idea that there was something subtly repulsive about a working class body: you would not get nearer to it than you could help ... The smell of their sweat, the very texture of their skins, were mysteriously different from yours.6 13

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Virginia Woolf compared her social group to working class women. The women are magnificent to look at. Ladies in evening dress are lovelier far, but they lack the sculpturesque quality that these working women have. Their arms are underdeveloped. Fat has softened the line of their muscles. And though the range of expression is narrower in working women, their expressions have a force and emphasis, of tragedy and humor, which the face of ladies lack. But at the same time it is much better to be a lady ... 7 The nobility Woolf observed in the working classes mirrored only the minority opinion of the upper class: most agreed with Orwell. The catastrophic events of war aided in blurring these divisions, as did the creation of the welfare state. Nevertheless, the power of perceived physical differences accentuated the divisions that saturated the social fabric. The media, increasingly powerful as the century progressed, provided the most tangible of social controls. Except for party affiliated publications, such as Labour or Communist newspapers, the majority were conservative. After a blitz of kudos to women war workers the media stressed domesticity in advertisements and in films. The most pervasive image was of motherhood to rebuild the nation. Careers were scorned out of fears 14

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of spinsterhood. Radio and later visual images on television influenced society as a whole, not simply target sections. They, especially the BBC, overwhelmingly expressed the conservative interests of government. The British government strove for after both wars. Normal behaviors embraced all the cultural assumptions of family ideology. Consequently women were forced into domestic roles by such political pressures as the National Insurance Act and Marriage Bars, and by government sanctification of unequal pay. This was not a retaliation of any sort. Rather, it emerged because of fears of economic necessity, because of the power of traditions and the country's inability to acknowledge the long term social impact of two successive generations of British men annihilated. Reflecting any broad based social transition, the collective behaviors of British women only slowly coalesced into political action by the late 1960's. Thus the fifty odd years this research examines could be considered an incubation period for sociological thought. Remarkably, the shift of consciousness was not more contentious. That probably resonates from female nature and their secondary position in society as well. Most 15

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interestingly, the limitations imposed by society and the diversity of the group itself were as important to the development of their social consciousness as were its leaders and the events which shaped them. 16

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END NOTES lJudy Giles, Women, Identity and Privated Life in Britain 1990-1950, (New York: St. Martin, 1995)57. 2 Dora Russell, The Tamarisk Tree, (New York: Putnam, 1975)65. 3 Vicki Coppock, Deena Haydon and Ingrid Richter, The Illusions of Post Feminism, (London: Taylor and Francis, 1995)17. 4 Pamela Graves, Labour Women in British Working Class Politics, (Cambrdge: University Press, 1940) 50. 5 Neil Smelser, Theory of Collective Behaviors, (New York: Free Press, 1962) p.364. 6 George Orwell, The Road to Wiqan Pier, (London: Victor Gallannz,1937)160. 7 Virginia Woolf, Collected Essays Volume Four (New York: Harcourt, 1967) 140. 17

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CHAPTER 3 BRITISH WOMEN'S WARTIME EXPERIENCES After centuries of presumed safety in an island fortress, the twentieth century proved England vulnerable to the ranges of modern warfare. No longer were imperial quarrels played out on foreign frontiers by small, professional, and poorly organized forces with little impact on the daily lives of the British citizenry. The sacred cow of the English, unfettered private enterprise, suffered by the government's imperative need to command the economy. When the government took over the railroads in 1914, it established the precedent of government intervention. Due to the scale of the wars created by advancing technology, all citizens participated in the war effort through direct production, military conscription, high taxation or rationing. The social upheaval of World War I mirrored the national sacrifice of men, munitions, war machinery and livestock. These four tumultuous.years created enormous transitions in the social structure of the nation. Workers were finding a political voice in the rise of the Labour Party and demanding greater shares of income. 18

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Women became integral to the war effort, as did the contributions of the aristocracy. In effect, a diminishing sense of strident class and gender divisions emerged during the war. Despite this progress, the British nation longed for ante-bellum normalcy, a normalcy which was plainly part of the irretrievable past. With approximately 850,000 men killed and over two million wounded or maimed, all sections of society were devastated, future leadership and labour force alike. The pacifist, Vera Brittain, lost both her only brother and her fiancee. Beatrice Webb lost her four best and brightest nephews. Entwined with the excruciating sense of loss were feelings of apathy and futility at this senseless slaughter of human resources. In April of 1916 Webb wrote in her diary, "The state of my own and other people's mind surprises me. We are becoming callous to the horrors of war. At first it was a continuous waking nightmare ... "1 For women, tragedy became opportunity. Women were, for the first time, in the position to genuinely contribute to society through paid work. Two key trends emerged during the war that were essential to emerging women's social consciousness. The impediment of the sexual division of labour was first breached now; over 19

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900,000 women worked in the heavy industry of munitions production alone. They earned only half of what a man then earned, but the precedent of women doing men's work, and doing it well, established itself. The second key twentieth century trend established during this crisis was the previously unknown phenomenon: married women in the industrial work force. Due to powerful sway of Victorian ideology, married women had always shunned paid employment outside the home, except clandestinely. Neither had married women generally participated in public life before the war. Upper class women had enjoyed a full social life, such as luncheons, charity events, poetry reading and trips abroad; thus in a sense they participated into public life. However, for the majority of lower middle and working class women, public life was a very narrow journey consisting of unpaid work at home, a walk to the grocery, or a chat with neighbors. However, during the war Beatrice Webb noted in her diary, women of all classes have emerged into public life-industrial, social and militarist."2 The possible consequences of married women in control of their destiny and enjoying a new assertiveness did not alarm men until after the war. 20

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During the war the government courted women workers. Women entered work" including manufacturing, transportation, or shipbuilding, and worked as plumbers, electricians and police officers. The Minister of Munitions recruitment poster of 1916 portrays a young woman in work uniform superimposed over a photo of soldiers using armaments in the field. The caption reads ON HER THEIR LIVES DEPEND. Not surprisingly, the government lavished praise on women workers in the press and newsreels. They were portrayed not only as workers but as superwomen who, without spouses, withstood shortages, endured long queues for bread, raised children, tended gardens for supplementary food, and did the work that oiled the war machine. Despite all the rhetoric, the British government's approval of the herculean efforts of half of its populace did not manifest itself in any semblance of equitable pay. Women were the second class workers. Lloyd-George and the munitions pay struggle was indicative of government production on the cheap, blatant sexism and dishonesty. In March of 1915 the Minister of Munitions, Lloyd-George, entered into an agreement with male trade unionists; the Treasury Agreement for the Munitions of War Act. It specified production requirements and rates 21

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of pay. However, the agreement was subverted by the War Office, Admiralty and male trade unionist setting separate classes of work for women and a different pay scale. They were: women's work, women's labour on parity with men's, women wholly on men's work, women wholly on men's skilled work.3 These classifications ensured pay disparity. Beatrice Webb exposed this scheme in 1918 in the minority report for the War Cabinet Committee on Women in Industry. She aptly noted that the Treasury Act had often been ignored or partially fulfilled, with women's wages being based on "the principle of having no principle."4 Although many feminists admired Webb for this work, her memoirs reveal that she was only mildly concerned in the investigation and the report. Her genuine interest was socialism, not pay equity for women, or other feminist issues. While some women in the right places did earn equal pay, such situations were rare. Isabella Clark, who worked at the Coventry ordnance factory, had asked for equal pay, but was refused because she did not grind her own tools. When she had learned to do this she again applied for equal pay and received not only the money, but the respect of her fellow male workers. "Everything 22

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was very happy, the atmosphere in work and the people you worked with ... "s Although the war effort was a catalyst for mixing the classes in common cause, war work mirrored class divisions. In short, working class women laboured in the unskilled or heavy industries and menial jobs. The middle and upper classes engaged in nursing or administrative endeavors. By virtue of the their position and education, they were leaders and role models. Before 1914 these women had occupied themselves with charity and social obligations. Yet it appears the vast majority contributed to the war effort, often through Red Cross activities. Many turned their estates in England and France into Red Cross hospitals. The Duchess of Woburn Abbey turned her home into a hundred bed hospital. She acted as nurse and ran the administrative side as well, working sixteen hours daily. Lady Shelbourn donated Blackmoor, and the Duchess of Rutland created an officers' hospital in her London townhouse. Such homes offered exquisitely cooked foods, wines and butler service. Often all females in the family worked there. Evidence suggests the daughter,s of the aristocracy were certainly more colorful than their hard working 23

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mothers. The Duchess of Rutland's daughter, Lady Diana Manners, enjoyed spats of delirious frivolity, sometimes drinking and cavorting with her patients in hospital, between her nursing duties. To her mother's consternation, she experimented with both chloroform and morphia. Lady Diana Cooper worked at the Officers' Hospital on Arlington Street belonging to her mother. In her memoirs she recalled the drawing room and dining room became wards with linoleum put on the floors and walls hung with glazed linens. Her mother's bedroom became the operating room. She described her experiences as a dance with death. Her nursing duties, gruesome and unsavory, contrasted with decadent all night parties. The gatherings featured live bands and sometimes two bands played-one black and one white. Often they were served champagnes, wines, and vodka on flower strewn tables, along with hot breakfast at dawn. Afterward, Cooper reported to work at the hospital, blurry eyed and exhausted. She called it orgies mixed with fear.6 Women of the upper classes worked and also suffered the shortages, if not as desperately as the entire nation. Lady Laura Redding's diary entry reveals the aristocracy was not spared. 24

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.... every household (being short of labour and coal) has to live in a crowded way with social rooms shut up. Here I have no upper housemaid for two months, no using of servants hall, dining room, drawing room or spare bedrooms .... no bedroom fire for myself except on extremely icy nights and we are using coal dust. 7 British women of all classes endured separations, rationing and death. Beatrice Webb wondered if this was the end of western civilization. She wrote in December of 1918, Every day one meets saddened women, with haggard faces and lethargic movements, and one dare not ask after husband or son. The revelry of the streets and the flying flags seem a flippant mockery of the desolation caused by the slaughter of tens of millions of the best of the white race.s Although this war was a social watershed for women, especially in the areas of paid work and public life, the aftermath of war proved all too predictable. In the national longing for ante-bellum "normalcy" traditionalism and paternalism reestablished themselves as the social template. In the nation fit for returning heroes, women returned to the home. In comparison, the experiences of World War II were far different from the Great War. Even pacifists as 25

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Bertrand Russell called it a "good war." Fewer soldiers died, but more civilians were killed. Due to their greater participation in the war effort and to the Blitz, over 60,000 civilians perished. Possibly the greatest contrast between the wars was the number of women in the armed and civil services. The Second World War created greater degrees of shared austerity amongst the classes. Increased state control contributed to egalitarianism by all citizens being issued identification cards, gas masks and rationing of food and clothing. Stricter enforcement of rationing, along with school lunch programs and full employment, actually resulted in a better fed working class. The focus on popular entertainment for the masses, such as "Music While You Work" contributed to their sense of solidarity. More importantly, the shared life and death experiences of bombing created a new consciousness. Ironically, the safety of the London tube, that ordinary arena of life, was central to the blending of classes. According to one contemporary account: When the bombing first started, people were rather nervous, and they didn't know what to do, but after a few days they soon got accustomed_to this. When they came along to 26

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the shelter in the evenings, they fetched their belongings, insurance cards, the cash, the jewelry, if they had any, a flask of tea, milk for the kiddies, boiled sweets, and the Council started dancing in the parks.9 Out of these broader mutual experiences a new consensus for shared obligations emerged. The social policy born out of this wartime experience symbolized the future. Lord Beveridge, trained at the London School of Economics, formulated the Beveridge's Report in 1942, which focused on a comprehensive social security of employment, National Health, housing and education. The coalition government partially implemented these policies during the war itself. A previously unimaginable consensus on socialism formed the basis of the welfare state. By 1944 over 300,000 women were employed in the civil service. Additionally, 500,000 women were in the armed forces and over 200,000 in the Women Land Army.1 0 These were women under the direct control of g9vernment, which acted as both employer and social support. These numbers, along with the numbers of woman in industry, estimated at nearly eight million, portray a populace involved. They document a society in transition and the reemergence of women's role in that society. Contemporary accounts generally stress the self-esteem 27

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that paid work during the war gave them. The same accounts lament the universal dilemma of working mothers: childcare. The government did supply limited support here; by 1944 the state subsidized 1,500 day nurseries. Although,this accommodated 72,000 children, it was only about 25% of the total in need of childcare.11 For most working mothers finding childcare was an ad hoc situation. It naturally contributed to higher absenteeism for mothers of young children, a contentious point for employers and mothers alike and a contributing factor to the post war denigration of mothers who worked. Phyllis Willmott was one of the almost half million women in the armed services. In March of 1943, aged twenty, she joined the WAAF. Impressed by the recruitment poster of girls in battledress working of fighter aircraft, Phyllis hoped to become a flight mechanic. Instead she served as a "Met girl" in Norfolk observing weather variations. The job required her outside every ten minutes in all weathers to read temperatures, barometric pressure, wind direction and cloud formation. Since young women normally expected to live at home before marriage, living on base was an exhilarating experience with a lively social life. Willmott found communal living with women of all social 28

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backgrounds rather enjoyable despite occasional clashes, noting that, .. it seemed that, if one had to, one could learn to get with-at any rate tolerated-almost anyone."12 At work, she was issued her first pair of trousers. They became increasingly popular as the war progressed because they lasted far longer than stockings and could easily be pulled on over nightclothes for quick trips to the airraid shelters. The war and the government provided this very different life and freedom for friendship, romance, heartbreaks and, significantly, self-esteem and greater social awareness. A natural consequence of increasing female employment was the rise in female unionism and greater pressure for equal pay. The British government, to its credit, did establish a policy of pay parity. Not surprisingly, this was diluted by more dubious regulations and a system of exceptions. For example, most often women engaged in skilled labour were supervised by a foreman who would make some slight adjustment to machinery or product. By virtue of this assistance women were considered only semi-skilled and not eligible for full pay. Such gross inequities did not go unnoticed by union leaders. During this war, however, there was no public doubt that women could do the work of 29

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men and the numbers of married women in the workforce continued to escalate. Both wars were seminal episodes for women. During the crisis the old paradigms were no longer viable: women of all ages and classes had to be out of the home and into the workforce for national survival. Many found they enjoyed the freedom and the power of the paycheck. That paternalism, and its social acceptance, resurfaced with a vengeance after both wars was natural, for changing inherited cultural values requires time to percolate through to enough numbers for strength of conviction. None the less, the knowledge and seeds of discontent germinated by these two intervals of freedom were the precipitating factors to raising social consciousness and collective actions. 30

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END NOTES 1 Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie, The Diary of Beatrice Webb Vol.3 (Cambridge: Harvard Press, 1985) 250. 2 Ibid, p.227 3 Dame Anne Godwin, "Early Years in the Trade Unions", Women in the Labour Movement, ed. Lucy Middleton (London: Croom Helm, 1977) 104. 4 Ibid, p. 105. 5 Gail Braybon and Penny Summerfield, Out of the (London: Pandora, 1987) 69. 6 Diana Cooper, The Rainbow Comes and Goes, (London: Rupert, 1958) 143. 7 Pamela Horn, Wives and Daughters of the Country House Society, (UK:Sutton, 1991) 215. 8Norman and Jeanne Mac Kenzie, The Diary of Beatrice Webb Vol.3 (Cambridge: Harvard Press, 1985) 324. 9 Asa Briggs, A Social History of England, (Great Britain: Werdenfeld and Nichoson, 1983) 269. 1o Ibid, p. 272. 11 Braydon and Summerfield. p. 239. 12 Phyllis Willmott, Coming of age in Wartime, (London: Peter Owen, 1988)112. 31

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CHAPTER 4 THE IMPACT OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR ON WOMEN'S SOCIAL CONSCIOUSNESS nation is now in a molten state ... We cannot return to the old way, the old abuses, the old stupidities .. declared the Prime Minister, Lloyd-George, at the end of the Great War. Obviously, there was an awareness at highest levels that society would have to change to survive. More obstinate yet, past voices and social mandates reiterated the hierarchy of paternalism. The post war impact of the First World War on gender inequality and women's awareness of it appeared, initially, to be nil. Still, the safety of tired shibboleths was almost understandable in light of the macro societal changes British society underwent interwar. The harshest changes were generally felt by the upper classes, particularly the aristocracy which changed tremendously. Within the devastation of family losses and increasing taxation, estate sales were common. Fully one quarter of British land changed ownership between the years of 1918 and 1921.1 In the whole of English history, only the Norman Conquest and the English 32

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Reformation compared in change of land tenure. For example, Lady Warwick sold of one third of her inheritance, 5,000 acres in Essex. Additionally, England was rocked by a rollercoaster economy, the upshot of wartime loss of trade and unemployment. The national debt had skyrocketed tenfold from 1914 to 1920. The economic boom of 1920 followed a slump in 1924, and after a brief respite, the depression of 1929 lasted until the recovery of 1937. The social problems produced by this economic crisis deepened class divisions between rich, middle and working classes. In turn, the deterioration of class blending and cohesiveness, which had characterized the war years, only reinforced assumptions of patriarchal conservatism. The government's world view was set in pre-war realities, now exacerbated by the new imperial responsibilities of mandates in Malaysia, Africa and the Middle East. Furthermore, fear of genuine change intensified with the rising agitation for self rule within the Empire, as in India. Even the emerging policy of appeasement in the 1930's reflected inaction as policy. The sentiment of the majority was embodied in the Oxford Union's anti-war Vote. It was little wonder that a factionalized minority, women, could not gain a 33

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significant political, social or economic position in the interwar era. Amid the continuity of traditionalism and conservatism were forces for change. The Labour Party, with its socialistic platform, established itself as the party of the left. Although this did little to further the aims of gender equality or awareness, it reflected philosophical transitions. Church attendance dropped alarmingly, smoking increased (although drinking declined) and greyhound betting-the working man's equivalent of aristocratic horse race wagering-was evident in the 187 new stadiums built by 1932.2 Simultaneously, a minority of women enjoyed a degree of social emancipation as a result of wartime conditions and foreign influences. During the war women workers abandoned the corset. A new fashion look emerged, a long cylindrical shape, embodied the Flapper style (the school boy look,) in contrast to the hour-glass figure, a remnant of Victorian helplessness. Due to the wartime rationing of sugars and fat, Englishwomen were generally trimmer than before the war. Another small change with implications for the future, dancing without gloves, emerged as gloves became prohibitively expensive. Also, to save material, short skirts above the ankle and short 34

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sleeves became acceptable. Englishwomen also embraced the latest craze from France, short hair. The image of the irresponsible, fun girl engaged in shameless abandon was reinforced by young women frequenting public houses, drinking gin, (from the American influence permitting women to enjoy cocktails,) smoking in public, emulation the latest American dance craze at new dance clubs, and the wearing of short skirts and high heels. Although this was an accurate barometer of the things to come as the social emancipation of the younger generations, it represented only a minority of women. It did not manifest itself as any sense of gender equality until the late 1960's. The media, sentimental and inaccurate and fearful of women enjoying freedom, created the illusion of the Flapper more than the reality. Arguably the most significant political change, post war, was the appearance of women in the halls of power. Two women who motivated the social consciousness of their peers, Ellen Wilkinson and Eleanor Rathbone, were elected to Parliament in 1924 and 1931. In fact, they were the only two active suffragists in Parliament interwar.3 Although from vastly different social backgrounds and philosophies of work, they were kindred spirits not only in the suffrage struggle of the early twentieth century 35

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but in their unceasing agitation to promote gender equality. Ellen Wilkinson was the daughter of a trade unionist from Manchester. Her childhood was inculcated with Methodist morality: it was the paradigm for the integration of education and working class politics. Her unusually keen intelligence gained her entrance into Manchester University in 1910 where she graduated with a Master's degree in History. At University she affiliated with a variety of left wing groups, including the Fabian Society, the middle class socialist organization led by Beatrice Webb and her husband, Sydney. As an active suffragist and as a valued trade union organizer, Wilkinson earned national aclaim. During her apprenticship to power she, that, important as winning the vote for women might be, it was merely a milestone along the way towards the long term objective of economic justice."4 She became as known for her fiery temperment as for her brilliant red hair and sharp wit. Her maiden speech to Parliament was provocative; she railed against the disenfranchisement of women under thirty and unemployment benefits that penalized women but not men. In photographs, even in her last years of government service as Minister of Education, she exudes a 36

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peppery charm indicative of a feisty personality. Although a dedicated trade unionist and member of the Labour Party, she was not willing to accept party dogma. Despite the schism between labour and feminists being so pronounced during this period, Wilkinson was known as a friend to feminists. From a sampling of extracts from The Labour Woman it is clear she realized that Labour women would always be secondary to party men. She wrote: Not that anyone objected to the men being present or taking part in the discussion. We want the cooperation of both sexes, but if the men are to form nearly half of the conference they will always do most of the speaking ... 5 As her attack on male arrogance suggests, Wilkinson was a feminist of the first order. Significantly, she was one Labour leader who transcended dogma in search of genuine solutions to women's issues and, in so doing, promoted social consciousness. In contrast, Eleanor Rathbone was the daughter of a wealthy middle class family: her father was a nonconformist Liberal MP from Liverpool from whom she inherited her combination of idealism and practicality. As was evident in her writings and life style, she 37

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combined a secular activism with an austere, seriously dignified demeanor. She disdained in worldly possessions and cared little for proper diet or for clothing; she only wore black and white. With an intense intellect and characteristically absent minded (the police knew her pearls by sight, she often left them in cabs on the way home from engagements,) she was the social opposite of Ellen Wilkinson. However she, too, was a university graduate and received her degree from Sommerville College at Oxford in 1893. Rathbone did no t have to earn a living, she lived by her inheritance; yet she spent considerable amounts of her energy and income seeking equality and justice for women. She used her resources to maintain various interest groups, notably the NUSEC, the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship, an amalgamation of feminist groups that maintained cross party allegiances. Rathbone, its president and guiding light, was -rightly considered the leading feminist of her day. By 1909 Rathbone was elected to the Liverpool City Council. Here she became interested in social welfare and gained intimate knowledge of housing and family budget problems facing working class families. During the First World War she became involved in support of a 38

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governmental scheme that paid soldiers' or sailors' wages directly to their wives or mothers. This was the largest government payment made directly to women and was precedent setting. To Rathbone's chagrin, the government felt that its administration of the payments entitled it to compromise basic civil rights. Local police had authority to enter recipients' homes without warrant if they felt the payments were misspent.6 For Rathbone, this social welfare experience inspired one of her life long goals-that of family allowances. It included controversial direct state intervention of cash payments paid directly to the mother as a supplemental income. Rathbone went to Parliament in 1931 as an independent from the constituency of a University Seat.7 As a testament to her abilities, she was reelected as a respected member of Parliament until her death in 1946. However, by her support of family allowances for over twenty years, as welfare payment to mothers, she shifted the feminist movement toward welfare feminism, or "new feminism." The emphasis on mother's rights was a contrast to equality feminism or the "old feminism" prevalent in the suffrage struggle and resurgent in the 1960's. As the schism of feminist ideologies deepened, Rathbone believed that fellow feminists not committed to 39

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the allowances had a distrust of the working class mother. That was an inherent class suspicion and a part of the social assumptions that divided women. Significant and Punitive Legislations Both Wilkinson and Rathbone, the Labourite and the Independent, understood the conflicting reality of their age: political emancipation belied equality. Paradoxically, women's hard won emancipation, from the vote to the shifting mores of the roaring twenties, did little to change their political and economic reality. Despite the organic governmental reforms of electoral status, the Representation of the People Act in 1918 and the Equal Franchise Act of 1928, women had failed to exert political power. Further Parliamentary Acts of the 1920's, The Sexual Disqualification Removal Act in 1919, Matrimonial Causes Act in 1923 and the Widow's Pension Act in 1925 were significant, but embryonic, gains toward equality the law. Just as important, these gains were negated by other punitive parliamentary acts, punitive toward women in general and the economic interests of working women in particular. Since politics 40

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is the relationship of beliefs and practice of power, enfranchisement was only symbolic of women's rights. "Women won the vote as a reward for the services in helping the destruction of their offspring." was the bitter opinion of Dora Russell.8 Even Vera Brittain, although a suffragist, noted in her diary that she was strangely indifferent to this victory. She learned the Act passed in the House of Lords that February of 1918 while working at a hospital in France. Her poetic notation: Within the incongruous irony seldom equaled in the history of revolutions, the spectacular pageant of the woman's movement, vital and colorful with adventure, with initiative, with sacrificial emotion, crept to its quiet, unadvertised triumph in the deepest night of wartime depression.9 Women who had long sought the vote were the renegades of the ordered Victorian and Edwardian world. From the passage of the first reform bill of 1832, which enlarged francisement for men who meet property qualifications, women had been agitating for equal opportunity. After failure to be included in Disraeli's Tory Reform Bill of 1867, women's suffrage societies, based on Liberal philosophy, peacefully lobbied for 41

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social and political status of women. Their efforts were ignored. Finally, the Women's Social and Political Union, led by Emmeline Pankhurst, promoted violence against property as a means of pushing the government toward acceptance. By 1918, either in fear of renewal of domestic violence and awareness of the international upsurge of violent social movements as the Bolshevik Revolution or as a reward for war sacrifices, Lords acquiesced. However, about the achievement of this single most important and tangible symbol of equality, most women were ambivalent. Was it a reflection of a society racked by sorrow and bitterness over a pointless war about to end or simply inertia on the part of the majority of women? Of the event Beatrice Webb admitted: I have always assumed political democracy as a necessary machinery of government: I have never exerted myself to get it. It has no glamour for me. I have been, for instance, wholly indifferent to my own political disenfranchisement.1o Moreover, strangely enough for a socialist, Webb feared an old order threatened dissolution" by the passage of women suffrage, without a new paradigm to replace it.11 The Sexual Disqualification Removal Act of 1919 was a piece of landmark legislation that allowed women into 42

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previously forbidden fields, such as political office and civil service. However, the Act was a diluted version of the recommendation of the Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women's Organization had presented to Parliament. The "Women's Emancipation Bill," defeated in Lords, had recommended organization of all women in trades into unions, equal pay, suffrage for women over twenty one and the end of the marriage bar. Simultaneously, punitive Parliamentary acts legislated were blatantly sexist and reinforced the ideology of domesticity. These included: the Restoration of the Pre-War Practices Act 1919, whereby women had to vacate jobs formerly held by men. Also the Marriage Bar, The Anomalies Act of 1931, wherein a woman's contribution to the National Insurance Fund before marriage was not considered a valid contribution after marriage, and the National Insurance Act with the Means Test. This 1922 Act pushed women into hated domestic work by interpretations of the clause "genuinely seeking In any case where a woman refused any offer of employment whatsoever, even the lowest paying of menial labour, she lost rights to insurance benefits. This was compounded by the Means Test whereby benefits could be denied a 43

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woman if there were other monies deemed sufficient coming into her home. Wilkinson and Rathbone fought these injustices as best they could within a Parliament dominated by male interests. It was significant that they were the only two women members on the Advisory Committee that investigated abuses under the Anomalies Act. Earlier, on March 9, 1925, Wilkinson pressured Parliament concerning abuses women endured under the National Insurance Act: I want to ask the Minister of Labour, is it fair to penalize a skilled mill operator or skilled tailoress ... a woman who has paid for considerable time into the Unemployment fund, to drive her into domestic service, for which she has no aptitude whatever and then for her to find after having been in domestic service for a time that she is deprived of participation in the Insurance Fund because domestic servants are not included under the Act .12 She continued, asking the Minister to find other avenues for employment for women. The government response by Trevelyan Thomson agreed unemployment was a great scourge and the government needed to find a bipartisan solution, but did not respond to the female issue. Wilkinson also fought Winston Churchill over the inequity of pay differentials between male and female 44

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doctors in the civil service. She asked him if he was aware the government is the only authority that makes a difference in the rates of Pay ... and inquired if he will take that "circumstance into consideration?" He declined to do so.13 Women it seemed, even Parliamentarians, were considered a nuisance to be endured. The right to equal pay for equal output would not be part of the political culture for fifty years. However, Eleanor Rathbone deeply felt equal pay would by a natural adjustment to the capitalistic system if women were compensated for their domestic contributions to the state by means of a family allowance geared to the family size. She did not want to legislate equal pay, an feminist" idea, for she feared, pay without family allowances would simply throw women out of work." labour," she concluded, "neither boycotted nor preferred because of its cheapness, might be allowed to find its natural level. "14 There were numerous opinions and fears about the implementation of equal pay: women would lose jobs to men, there was only so much wage pie to be divided, or married women workers would neglect their domestic duties of unpaid labour and neglect their 45

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families. Influenced by this reasoning even female unionists supported pay inequities well into the 1960's. The Influencing Factors Media images fortified biases against working women. Woman workers who tried to hold onto jobs, which during the pre-war years had been the male domain, were now considered by the press to be self-seekers, and by inference, poor citizens. Public scorn fell on the "unemployed in fur coats" insinuating that these welldressed women were slackers who did not need to work nor collect insurance benefits.15 The patriots were now the vampires of society. Visions of domestic bless were common motifs in print media and films as well, contributing to the anti-bellum longing for the normalcy of a male dominated society where a woman's place was in the home. Furthermore, the media, supported by the education system and government programs actively pursued the process of turning girls into housewives. Thus the majority of women scorned careers, embracing the roles of wives and mothers and simultaneously denigrated the flapper ideal out of fears of spinsterhood and lesbianism. So powerful were these images in the popular 46

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culture that in 1930 the majority of women civil servants voted to maintain the mariiage bar. While the times were clearly reactionary, with paternalism embraced by the majority of women, there were other social forces contributing to the consciousness raising of ordinary woman. These conflicting forces were numerous, but fragmented, and often seeming to exist in a vacuum. Yet slowly, out of the general experiences of the war, a new set of ideas coalesced. Feminist ideology was the transcendent force affecting all social strata of women before and after the war. Since the feminist ideology criticized prevailing social order, it had disturbing political overtones. Feminism was, and remains, a protest of female status in relation to men and spanned all social forms of gender divisions upheld by tradition and culture. Thus points of education, double standards of sexual morality, economic opportunity, property rights, enfranchisement and most importantly, equal pay, were all contentious issues in the changing democratic state. Organizations as Rathbone's NUSEC and the Six Point Group had to secure political agendas to affect social change. Thus not only did its adherents have to struggle against the legal and cultural domination of men, but also the acquiescence and 47

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inertia of the majority of women. Yet all the social forces that promoted female equality had oblique forms of feminism, although they might be cloaked in "acceptability" and lacking in any hints of extremism. Post war feminist groups fragmented into single issues: for example birth control, family allowances or pacifism. They divided into "new feminist," led by Eleanor Rathbone, who used sexual differences and maternity to gain protective legislation and the "old feminist," such as Vera Br:i,.ttain, who sought equality despite gender differences. This was a profound contrast to the power and unity of purpose in their suffrage struggle. Although feminists agree that the movement declined during this period, divergent theories abound as to the reason. Johanna Alberti suggests feminists became victims of their own success when women gained public office, as this drained away the most talented women and with them some of the spirit of the movement. Or was the devolution of feminism to be found in the resurgent traditions of Victorian orthodoxies, wherein middle class women did not seek shifts in their domestic roles that were dictated by gender?l6 According to Susan Kent's theory of gender reconstruction, women were simply ambivalent about their roles in the political process 48

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because the war, and separation by gender, subtly promoted maternity.17 Undoubtedly the degeneration of the movement was also a reflection of the aftermath of the war and the breakdown of the upper classes. Feminists fragmented from the political, economic and social upheaval. British feminism was part of British working class social history: both movements resulted from the emergence of democracy during the nineteenth century. However, when male Labour leaders promoted the Restoration of the Pre-War Practices Act in 1918, the philosophical battle lines of gender were drawn. Thus a primary force for socio/political awareness was limited as Labour feminists defended class and party against outside influences. Not surprisingly, the Labour Party now developed at ideological odds with feminist groups. Feminism permeated class and creed. Even the most conservative of institutions, the Anglican Church, felt its energy. Feminists unlikely advocate, Louise Crighton, was a "respectable" activist within the male church establishment. As the wife of the church leader, Crighton not only bore seven children but served in numerous capacities with Church women's groups and missionary work. She exemplified both individuality and 49

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values of family life. In addition, Crighton was active in secular organizations and suffrage work. Through her non-confrontational Church League for Women's Suffrage she persuaded the icon of the status quo, the Anglican Church, to embrace enfranchisement and eventually to included women into the Church Councils.18 The League's publication, The Church subtitled weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God," was the embodiment of conservatism. The May 1918 edition had spiteful articles concerning women munitions workers who away their money on trivial things" unlike a better class of women.19 The January 1918 edition staunchly opposed the Matrimonial Causes Bill before the House. Nonetheless, it promoted political participation for women and subtly reinforced gender rights. More fitted to the feminist profile was Maude Royden. Royden, a feminist educated at Settlement Houses and a lecturer at Oxford in English Literature, accepted an assistant Preachership to City Temple, a Congregational Church. For serving outside her Anglican faith, Royden was soundly criticized by the Bishop of London. He also tried to prohibit her from preaching. By 1921, however, she was established and appreciated by 50

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the congregation. Later, she preached at both Congregational and Anglican churches. By working outside the established church, Royden was instrumental in asserting women's roles in religion.2o Church feminism, practically an oxymoron, promoted women's social consciousness among even the most conservative segments of British society. Women's organizations, such as the Co-operative Guilds, Townswomen Guild or Women's. Institute, were extremely important as catalysts for social interaction. Within these self-help groups women escaped the isolation of their unpaid work in a manner deemed socially acceptable. While women did not gain political recognition nationally, they did learned political methods through their activities in clubs and organizations at the local level. Confined to home and dependent on male wages, women did not have the requisite knowledge of negotiation of wage and labour issues. However, they established networks to cope. Several social organizations grew to have political agendas by which women learned how to effect social and economic regulatory change. For example, the Women's Institute provided a safe place for rural women to discuss education, housing and sanitation. 51

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The purpose of Settlement Houses was to organize philanthropy through various social services including outings or bingo for the elderly, youth clubs and delivery of hot meals to the housebound. The Settlement workers created a sense of community with the training of volunteers in cooperation with local authorities. The early Settlement residents were not irritating do-gooders, "2 1 but the women who had the time and money to do the volunteer work were inevitably of the middle class. Although the leadership was overwhelmingly female, Settlement Houses were not strictly a female organization promoting emancipation for women, nor even equal rights. They did promote education for women as needed for the trainingand maintenance of social organization. The majority of Settlement Houses interwar were female, numbering twenty-two, whereas seventeen were by men and six were co-mingled.22 Women in leadership positions, such as Mrs. Humprey Ward at the Bl6omsbury Settlement, served as role models to the scores of volunteers. She contributed to social awareness that women were capable and necessary to public life. Similarly, the Women's Co-operative Guild trained women for public and political life in a venue. 52

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Emanating from the Victorian value of self-help, Coop Guilds were an established aspect of English life. The Women's Co-operative Guild started in 1883 as a women's consumer group. One of its four objectives was to improve the lives of women in Britain. The early leaders were from a Christian Socialist and Liberal background. Alice Acland, and later Margaret Davis, envisioned leading working class women to self-esteem by promoting them as home managers and co-operators in an area where they traditionally had power: control of the family budget. The group was a national federation with a newspaper, the Co-operative News, and thus had a ready made target market for communication and consciousness raising. Co-operative ideology easily segued from household and co-op affairs to broader social concerns and into a social feminist basis. Within it, members could be both traditional homemakers and social reformers. By the 1930's the Guilds had over 67,000 members. Due to the slightly increased prices members had to pay to participate and the membership fees, Guilds attracted women who could more easily afford it, specifically upper working class married women. Albeit the commercial aspects of the movement were male dominated, working 53

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class women were able to create self confidence in a social support system. A Guild member explains: One of the things the Guild teaches is system. To be able to attend branch meeting and conferences, and do your household duties, you must have a system in your home work. You can't loiter over it. The Guild really gives a zest to it."23 The Guild women were different from the poor and middle class women. Although fees were lowered to encourage women of the lower working class to join the Guild, it had limited success. survival was their preoccupation. The Guild was increasingly important for the self-esteem it imparted to members via seminars, education and the opportunity for public speaking. Ironically, women joined to reinforce traditional roles of unpaid labor but subsequently learned independence and self-esteem through participation in local levels of democratic self-government. The more energetic managed local branches, districts and, ultimately, the central committee. They became activists here. Some Guild women sent their daughters to Co-op classes and them to participate in special Guild events. Dorothy Berry 54

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recalled her mother had her participate in an International Day event where she "rode in a lorry dressed as a Belgian and presided over a mock trail .. "24 This was the perfect avenue for the respectable woman to emerge from the "loving repression"25 of home into public life. The social issues the Guild fought for were feminist in scope. They waged impressive battles over divorce legislation, suffrage, maternal welfare, contraception and abortion, all working class and gender issues. The Guild's methodology in deciding its stand reflected its conservative nature. Questionnaires on leading issues were sent to branches and ideas canvassed.. The controversy was then studied, discussed and items agreed upon. Their system mirrored the democratic ideal of general input with the majority opinion upheld. Afterwards they tried to pressure public opinion to agree. It was a long, laborious process. Responses to the divorce inquiry proved the Guilds a barometer for future issues. Their respondents were over 22,000 strong from 429 branches. Twenty five branches opposed divorce and 414 were in favor of it, while 361 wanted divorce to be less expensive. Guild women took an independent stand on the issue, despite the opposition of 55

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their Catholic members and the loss of 1600 pounds in grants.26 They later passed a resolution that mutual consent after two years separation be recognized as grounds for divorce. In fact, mutual consent was not legalized until 1969. A patriarchal society and an all male judicial system found male dominance and sexuality acceptable, but held females to different, more stringent, standard. Not only did the courts assume women to be economically dependent, (even her wages were considered part of her husband's property) but family ideology stressed that her duties completed out of love were not considered a separate legal claim. The courts also appeared to assume that women should view sex as a duty, not a pleasure. Thus women who engaged in liaisons outside of marriage were abnormal and their adultery was a far more serious offense to society. A woman, found to be morally deficient, could lose the rightful property and insurance benefits awarded through her husband: only one woman in fifty received alimony. 27 Pressed to end these double standards by feminists and organizations as the Guild, Parliament passed the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1923. It granted women equal access to divorce proceedings. Later, the Matrimonial 56

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Causes Act of 1937 added cruelty, insanity and desertion as just cause for divorce. The Civil Judicial Statistics of 1937 reflect the pent up demand for women seeking justice: for the first time more wives, 2985, filed for divorce than husbands, numbered at 2765.28 Well-founded fears of the British population being undermined by infant mortality and malnutrition prompted the Guild to pressure the government for maternity health care via the Public Health Services. When the gains they sought in maternal care ended in the 1920's, they campaigned to at least retain previous achievements. They also supported family allowances paid to the mother. Usually they were optimistic about social change from Guild pressures, possibly because they were a mirror and motivator of working class opinions and of women's social consciousness. Women in trade unions also mirrored the reality of British society; they were second class citizens. Female unionists endured and perpetrated internal divisions: not only between themselves and male unionists (who feared equal pay would undermine their wages) but between women unionists across the spectrum. In competition were the white and blue collar workers, the married and the spinsters, and those in healthy and declining industries. 57

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Moreover, unions in general espoused an ante-bellum mentality-thus grossly unequal pay differentials and sexism prevailed. This was particularly evident after women's unions amalgamated with the men's and their membership fell during the mid-twenties. Consequently, the number of women in leadership roles declined. That being said, union work on local levels was the single most efficient way to politicize working class women and, as such, was a powerful force for building social consciousness. Mary MacArthur and Gertrude Tuckwell were the premier personalities leading women in trade unions before and after the war. Tuckwell led the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL.) She concentrated on the munitions legislation during the war and fought the "Dilution" process by which munitions manufacturers broke down highly skilled positions in order to pay lower rates to females. MacArthur was instrumental in the national federation of women's societies, such as the National Federation of Women Workers and the National Union of Women Workers of Great Britain and Ireland. These organizations were open to women working in unorganized trades. In November of 1918, 26,000 women workers from the Woolwich Arsenal were given seven days dismissal 58

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notice. In anger, a spontaneous march on the House of Commons followed. Lloyd-George promptly received MacArthur on behalf of the NFWW, and they negotiated a severance package of unemployment benefits and a bonus. MacArthur regarded unions as "schools of social and economic education" for they broadened the women's interests, and taught critical reasoning and administrative skills.29 Essentially union activities were schools for self-confidence. MacArthur believed that social activities were absolutely necessary because the lives of working class women so dreary. Socialization contributed to self-esteem and a sense of belonging. In the Trade Union paper, Woman Worker, the column "How We Play," acknowledged the best way to politicize women workers: by .. these social gatherings which combine music and dancing with a certain amount of very useful propaganda. "3 0 Also her NFWW gave women unionists access to participation in the Trade Unions Congress and exposure to the political processes of male unionists. Although this did this enhance their public image, and provided a platform to promote improved maternal, childcare and health services for women, it also crystallized their second class status in the trade unions' paternalistic hierarchy. 59

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Their low status was partially due to the cultural conditioning of women. Within the cult of domesticity and family ideology the general goal of the majority of women workers was marriage and unpaid labour. They were by definition transient workers and thus difficult to organize: they were, essentially, volunteers to their own sexual repression. Whereas male unionists had experienced the impact of union agitation on societal change, traditionally passive women experienced their promotion through welfare legislation. Most women could not accept the conflicting identity of women and labour. Being contentious to authority, involved in strikes, spending evenings at political meetings, engaging in any type of radical behavior or even using the feminist language of rebellion was anathema. So they generally accepted harsh conditions such as those Doris White found at the Canada Manufacturing Company. Here the girls did needlework and painted with frozen hands. The air was thick with fumes of spirit dye ... and the girls breathed it in and got coloured nostrils, but they dare not complain for fear of losing their jobs. "3 1 Within co-mingled unions women could scarcely defy the male leadership. In the 1920's Mary Bell Richards, risking rejection, started a social club for women 60

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unionists promoting "sex consciousness" for she realized that male unionist would never support equal pay and opportunity for females. She wanted a social venue to promote awareness and expose cultural limitations; for she correctly believed that women would have to accomplish economic, political and social gains themselves. 32 To engage in union work was risky. The incident of Nellie Whitely, aged 13, at the Bradford Woolen Mills, was a case in point. She was the only girl in the windings department who belonged to a union. When management sped up the machinery she was chosen to inform them that the women workers wanted a pay increase as compensation. After the bosses refused to comply Nellie said, "We decided we would walk out, you see, so we all downed tools." Since the women "were frightened of (losing) their jobs ... they returned the next day, but the bosses fired Nellie for being a troublemaker. Only later did the union pursue and win a small raise for the workers. 33 This reflex reaction of "downed tools" was typical of poorly organized women unionists. Not only were the women usually young and inexperienced like Nellie Bradford, but with women's wages so low, monies for organization were practically non-existent. 61

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Women unionists were financially weak and politically divided. For example, the National Union of Women Teachers in 1924 did agitate against the government for failure to incorporate equal pay a while a comparative union, Women in Civil Service, would not support pay equity. In a field where males and females entered into service by the same exam, did identical work and were promoted be the identical standards, it would by reasonable to expect that equal pay would be requisite. However, the Women in Civil Service dismissed the idea out of distrust for their feminist leaders whose radical activities and language departed from prevailing standards of female behavior. However reactionary the rank and file or sexist the union hierarchy, women of mettle proved themselves here. Susan Lawrence and Margaret Bondfield, contemporaries of Ellen Wilkinson in Parliament, also rose to prominence through their union work. The first woman President of the TUC, elected in 1943 and later honored as Dame of the British Empire, was Annie Loughlin. She cut her teeth on union activities and was a shop steward in her teens. Not only did she raise her brothers and sisters after her parents died, she was a full time organizer in the textile industry by age 21 and a national organizer at 62

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age twenty six.34 Loughlin was active in the revival of women unionists after the slump, when membership fell from 1,341,696 in 1920 to 813,094 in 1924.35 A working class girl from Leeds becoming a Dame of the British Empire personified the power of trade unionism as a school for social awareness and opportunity for women of all classes. The major political parties of the era, Tory, Liberal and Labour, were male dominated and keepers of .the status quo. The patriarchal system in alliance with capitalism supported an inbred chauvinism. With deadly accuracy Ellen Wilkinson reminded the House during debate: "The only difference between the old Tory and the young Tory is that the young Tory gives sympathy, but both are equally concerned that nothing should be done. "36 Residual paternalistic ideology that controlled the interwar political culture mirrored society. Women as political actors were powerless, but growing in awareness of potential possibilities. The women's political newspapers reflected their particular political dogma and class divisions spiced with hints of feminism. The Liberal papers reflected family ideology and anti-socialism, but were adamant on equal pay. The Liberal Woman's News also noted recipes, 63

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laundry tips, sales of couture gowns, new or slightly used, and uniforms for servants. It appeared to be more fluff than politics. The Conservative Woman, May 1927, reflected more of the social meetings of the day, but encouraged citizenship duties along with satirical articles about Labour and Socialist mandates and antiunion rhetoric. The Labour and Socialist papers were the political advocates of women's rights and social legislation. Articles from The Labour Woman issued in September 1930 reveal lively debates on the merits of extending unemployment insurance to domestic workers and family allowances. A later issue, November 1930, argues vehemently against the marriage bar despite official party platform. It was obvious Labour women did have feminist issues at heart, but did not have the influence to make them part of Labour's platform. The Labour Party of the interwar era did not live up to its convictions of gender equality or the hopes of feminists. Labour women such as Ellen Wilkinson did not have access to party funds to finance her race for a seat in Parliament. Eleanor Rathbone's group, the NUSEC, financed Wilkinson's campaign. The men and women of the Labour Party shared an "ethical socialism" and working class backgrounds but they also shared an acceptance of 64

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conventional gender roles. Both that separate and different was still equal. "37 Women were most useful to the party for fund raising and planning social events. Officially Labour women had to support the marriage bar, and oppose the family allowances (based on the supposition that it was emasculating working men.) They generally remained non-confrontational. This was partially the result of residual loathing of the combative WSPU during the suffrage struggle. Labour women did support social welfare legislation that did not undermine the delicate balance of male prerogatives. They pushed socialistic issues and reforming ideologies such as school feedings, educational, health, maternal and infant mortality concerns into the political arena. A more intellectual but short lived section of the Labour Party, the International Labour Party, did encourage women's civil rights and was a source of future Labour ideology. They argued that the state should fund improvements to the infrastructure of health and welfare services to help the largest occupational group in the nation: the housewife. Their platform built upon a traditional framework that supported women in social legislation, such as day nurseries, to help housewives with their domestic burdens. They tried to argue that 65

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women could achieve influence from the home.38 The ILP chapter also promoted the ideas of compatibility of sexually fulfilling marriage, and with that equality also sought to improve divorce laws, separation and custody laws for women. Dora Russell described Labour women at an annual Conference in the 1920's: The women were o f all ages, and of all types: some were young girls of working class origin, strong and exquisitely beautiful ... others were young middle class enthusiasts and a few were trade union organizers, tired and careworn by their perpetual battle on behalf of sweated women workers, but the vast majority were solid housewives and mothers in middle years, round and matronly, or pinched, hungry and careworn-not beautiful if you are looking for superficial delights, but lovely to the eyes of those who read courage .. "39 These women were excluded from the male power structure, but Labour women had a sense of being equals. Beatrice Webb recalled the egalitarian nature of the National Labour Club in 1929. She wrote of dining procedures without favoritism and in "strict order" of their arrival: Cabinet Members, Members of Parliament, or Trade 66

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Union secretary.40 To Webb, the leadership (particularly Ramsey MacDonald and his wife) undermined the foundations of the party. The MacDonalds became part of the smart court set and thereby embraced the old order and class structure they had sought to reform. When Webb's husband became a life peer, she refused the title of Lady Passfield, preferring to be known as Mrs. Sydney Webb. Much to the annoyance of the King and Queen, she also refused to attend court functions. Webb feared the "mental enfeeblement" of the party and criticized it for refusing to face facts and growing self-righteous.4 1 Birth control was a volatile issue the Labour Party refused to sanction even as the maternal death rate rose among the working classes. The litmus test of gender politics, birth control was the last bastion of male control in marriage. Advocates such as Marie Stapes wrote her scandalous Married Love which promoted birth control for married women and thereby tried to dissociate it from promiscuity. Her advice on the use of mechanical devices such as sheaths, douches or diaphragms were directed towards educated women like herself. She claimed she paid a terrible price within her own marriage due to her sexual ignorance. The more radical Labourite, Dora Russell, formed the Workers Birth Control Group in 67

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1924 to promote clinics to dispense advice to working class women, the same advice middle class women were afforded by their private physicians. Russell wrote of Labour women who supported birth control regardless of the party's official platform. During a party meeting where female speakers reiterated party mantra, she noted the audience having difficulty restraining themselves especially since two of the speakers were spinsters. try it and see' muttered the women around me when a spinster doctor explained that the ninth confinement was so much easier than the first. "42 The genuine needs of women subjugated by issues of male control was part of Beatrice Webb's observations on the party's inability to face facts. Rathbone and Wilkinson uncharacteristically did not agree on birth control. Rathbone was one of three MP's to broach the subject in the House, and as she did with other feminist causes, she financially supported. the organization that was the predecessor to Planned Parenthood. Wilkinson denied that birth control was a political issue affecting working class women. Contributing factors in her reluctance to admit its importance may have been tensions within the Labour Party as men foughthard to prevent women from becoming an 68

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independent power. Yet Wilkinson had often crossed party lines before. More likely her reluctance stemmed from her deference to her large Catholic constituency. Statistically Roman Catholics numbered 2,206,000, second only to the 2,288,000 Church of England members in 1931.43 Untypically, Wilkinson went as far as to defend the ban on birth control information at a 1928 Labour women's conference. She stated this was not "an issue on which there were class differences"4 4 and thus was not needed on Labour's platform. However, in contrast, she also stated, "Marriage should be scheduled as a dangerous trade, since there are more deaths from childbirth than from diseases. "45 Social investigations by Rowntree reveal there were material improvements in general for the working classes, but those were not reflected in the statistics of their children. "Public school boys aged fourteen ... were on the average 3.7 inches taller than boys of thesame age in council schools."46 It was evident that working class women needed equality of opportunity in health and housing. They were without political voice or social cohesion, caught in a vicious circle of poor housing, poor diet and poor health. Margery Springs Rice, their contemporary, examined living conditions of 1,250 women 69

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in the interwar period and provided charts and analysis in her book Working Class Wives. She described conditions ranging from abysmal rural and city slums to the far more comfortable, but socially isolated, council housing available for the better employed. Within the deflationary interwar period food and housing became more affordable for the masses. Semi detached homes with gardens were the ideal, updated by hot water and electricity for devices as the vacuum. The council housing, initially intended as a reward for the returning servicemen, later attracted steady workers at the higher end of the working class. A new mental illness afflicted women here, suburban neurosis. It was thought to be caused by rising standards of cleanliness and being house but isolated, in the suburban estates without the easy companionship prevalent in the slums. However, the majority lived with large families in crowded, small spaces. In the worse areas there was neither electricity, running water, scullery or bath in buildings dating from the industrial revolution. All the cooking, cleaning, and clothes washing were in the two rooms one had to live, eat and sleep in as well. By all contemporary accounts the housework under such conditions was grueling. 70

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Spring Rice's analysis suggested that poor diet, coupled with excessive child bearing, created a host of diseases linked to malnutrition. She described the weekly menus of fifteen wives. Although the menus differed according to the employment status of the husband, the diets were overwhelmingly deficient in fruits and vegetables. Commonly the woman ... often goes without proper food for herself when she has had doctor's bills to pay for illness or anything extra."47 Subsistence living crossed the fragile line into starvation when crisis threatened. For the one third who lived in abject poverty the General Strike of 1926 was exceptionally brutal on the women and children. Another woman told me it was impossible for her and her husband to anything to eat everyday if the children had a bit of bread for dinner: and her appearance prove the truth of her words ... Here we found a woman with six children, and expecting a seventh, who had not food at all in the house for two days.4a The majority of women interviewed by Spring Rice suffered from anemia, exacerbated by pregnancy. Maternal death rates were linked to poor, damp housing and malnutrition. Even varicose veins proved to be a common ailment which was generally untieatable, as most women could not afford 71

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elastic stockings or arch supports. Access to steady wages was the difference between sickness and health. Rice's quotation of the Welsh lament, calf destroys the flanks of the Mother" was especially poignant in light of the sacrifices the majority of working class women made for husband, home and children. The exposure of the social conditions of lower class women contributed to a rising awareness of women's sacrifice for home, family and nation, and in turn, increased pressure for welfare legislation. The percentage of women employed during the war rose from 21% of the female population to 56%. Even though the numbers decreased dramatically post war, an empowering social phenomenon had been experienced: the satisfaction of women as full time wage earners. Its legacy was a new social value in the interwar era, that of married women in part time work. Part time work fulfilled the paternalistic requirement of women; they were able to complete unpaid work at home and contribute secondary income. Part time work allowed for the extras that the new consumerism idealized. It also exacerbated a disturbing trend, as only part time workers women were underpaid, unorganized by unions and not eligible for 72

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pensions or benefits. Their growing numbers worked to the advantage of competitive capitalism. During this time, with the British battling economic crisis upon crisis, it was hardly surprising that the government would seek to guide women out of the labour market and back into domestic service. Not only did the work lack any insurance coverage it was the lowest paying of jobs despite a shortage of good servants available. The government made legitimate attempts to raise the status of domestic work with training schemes for unemployed women. Between 1921 and 1924 they spent 190,000 pounds on a Homecraft and Homemakers scheme.49 For this they were soundly criticized by women unionists for lowering the status of women. The numbers in domestic service did rise somewhat, from 33% of women workers in 1921 to 35% in 1931.so Not only were skilled workers forced into domestic service, young girls from the mining towns were forced to accept it due to dire poverty at home. Winefred Foley, a 14 year old from Forest on Dean reported that, Life was wonderful except for one constant nagging irritation. Hunger. We knew the wages Dad brought home from the pit were not enough to keep 73

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us out of debt, let alone fill our bellies properly. 51 Foley grew up knowing she would have to go into service, these were traditional work patterns. Not only was she facing a life of isolation, more so if she was the single servant of a family, but one of drudgery and long hours. Domestics sufficed with an average of a half day off per week and they were constantly exposed to sexual abuse by males of the household. A single servant had to purchase two sets of uniforms to enable her to play the role of two domestics: a uniform to act the parlourmaid and another to act the nanny. Evidence suggests the middle class mistress lived in fear of her servants giving notice. Servants were a status symbol. This, however, did not alleviate their miserable working conditions. There were emerging opportunities for women in the new industries, mainly in the manufacturing of consumer goods. These industries had not been previously male dominated and only required semi-skilled workers. However, abuses of factory workers were commonplace: generally the women were young, malleable, and not unionized. Often by the time the workers were eighteen they were sacked for the younger girls. Moreover, newer technology, such as the conveyer belt, put added stresses 74

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and strains on workers with rapid and repetitive duties. Women in some professions, in particular law and medicine, did experience progress. Nursing was grueling work, combining heavy manual labour with sixty hour work weeks. However, the number of women doctors, a profession that had flourished due to wartime demands, decreased owing to reactionary philosophy post war. By 1922 London Hospital influenced the profession with their new policy: they could no longer train women as doctors because the ... staff have found difficulties in teaching to a mixed audience certain unpleasant subjects of medicine. "5 2 Retailing was an option as well. The ... cult of the soul had been replaced by the cult of the body, of beauty, of fashion ... due in part to the .retailing revolution of the department store. The appearance of these jobs had a definitive impact on women's changing roles in society.53 Also, male trade unionists were not strong enough to displace women out of shop positions. Strict discipline was customary in retail; a worker could be fined for failing to call a customer Madam. Office work was a growing occupational area as well, but it too meant low pay and inequality. Although neither retail nor manufacturing paid well--women earned about half the 75

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salary of men and conditions were generally harsh on the shop floor or retail establishments--it was on the whole preferable to domestic work. Thus the Shop Act of 1934 was of particular importance to Ellen Wilkinson, for it achieved a 48 hour work week for women workers. In a rather sneering passage in the Hansard she enlightened the House: What kind of shops do men go into? They are led into a perfectly appointed establishment with a thick carpet, with perfectly shaped mats. They are attended to by a young shop assistant dressed in whatever the fashion the Prince of Wales has lately popularized and think, as they leave that soothing atmosphere in order to come down to the industrial arena of the House of Commons, who would not be a shop assistant ... I would remind them this is not the type of shop assistant for whom we are legislating. 54 The government census of women in occupations in 1931 reported the numbers to be 6,256,100,55, but 90% of them did not engage in full time work. Not only does this highlight the dependency of married women, but it speaks to the transient nature of women's work and limited career expectations. Edith Hall of London, circa 1930, related having seventeen dead-end jobs by the time 76

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she was seventeen. She claimed she was scorned by the taunt "Girls taking men's jobs."56 Nevertheless, in spite of a paternalistic government, punitive legislation, media influence of family ideology and marriage as the social apex, women as wage earners remained entrenched and their numbers continued to grow. Although much changed in the interwar period for women, particularly in the area of employment, the gains made appear limited. The failure to reap greater rewards from wartime exposures and political enfranchisement was almost baffling. Clearly, the lack female leadership within political and employment spheres had a negative affect. Equally certain, leadership cannot lead without followers, and as yet there were not enough women in interested in political office or full time employment to influence power. Nevertheless, the ground work that enriched the next generation developed here. Women, like Eleanor Rathbone, Mary MacArthur, and Beatrice Webb, were the neophyte political and social actors who emerged as role models. By their example, the social consciousness of ordinary women was slightly heightened. Unfortunately, the legacies of the Second World War temporarily obscured even this. 77

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END NOTES 1 Pamela Horn, Wives and Daughters of the Country House Society, (UK: Sutton, 1991)216. 2 G.E.Mingay, The Transformation of Britain, (Routledge: London, 1986)223. 3 Johanna Alberti, 'Inside Out" Women's Studies International Forum, Vol. 13 (1990) 121. 4 Vernon, Betty, Ellen Wilkinson, Ltd., 1982)42. 5 The Labour Woman, (Oct. 1, 1926) 526. 6 Smith, Harold L. ed., British Feminism in the Twentieth Century, (Maine: University of Massachusetts, 1990)108. 7A University Seat did not represent a geographical area. Instead, it represented British citizens who had earned the right of plural votes by fulfilling property qualifications and having a University degree. It also enforced subtle forms of gender exclusivity in that only a small minority of women had both property and University degrees. s Dora Russell, Reader, (London: Pandora, 1983) 183. 9 Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth, (London: Camelot Press, 1993)405. 10 Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie, The Diary of Beatrice .Ne.b.h Vol.4 1924-1943, (Cambridge: Harvard, 1985)316. 11 Ibid, p.316 12 Hansard, Vol. 181, (March 9, 1925) col. 1021. 13 Hansard, Vol. 181, (March 5, 1925) col. 641. 1 4 Brian Harrison, Prudent Revolutionaries, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987)112. 78

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15 Dierdre Beddoe, Back to Home and Duty, (Great Britain: Pandora, 1989)52. 16 Johanna Alberti, "Inside Out" Women's Studies Internatonal Forum, Vol 13 (1990)121. 17 Susan Kingsley Kent, Making Peace, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press,1993) 9. 18 Brian Heeney, The Womens Movement in the Church of England, (Oxford: Clarendon, 1987) 108. 19 The Church F.tilitant, May 1918, p 53. 2o Ibid, p. 8 9. 21Katherin Bently Beaumen, Women in the Settlement Movement (London: Radcliff, 1996)xxii. 21 22 2 2 Ibid. p.116. 23 Gaffin, p.121 24 Pamela Graves, Labour Women in British Working Class Politics 1918-1939. (Cambridge: Univerity, 1994)51.Gaffin, p.121. 25 Alberti, p. 118 2 6 Gaffin, p.137. 2 7 Pamela Graves, p.110. 2 8 Carol Smart, The Ties That Bind, (London: Routledge, 1984)32. 2 9 Robin Miller Jacoby, The British and American Trade Union Leagues, (UK: Sutton, 1991) 24. 30 Ibid, p. 72. 3 1 Gail Braydon and Penny Summerfield, Out of the (London: Pandora, 2987)142. 79

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32 Dame Anne Godwin, Women in the Labour Movement, ed. Lucy Middleton, (London: Croom, 1977)110. 33 Pamela Graves, p.62. 34 Norbert Soldan, Women in the British Trade Union, (Dublin: Gill, 1978)147. 35 Statistical Abstracts for the United Kingdom, No. 70: 1911-1925, p. 85. 36 Hansard, Vol. 235, (March 21, 1930) col. 2337. 37 Robert Graves and Alan Hodges, The Long Week-end, (New York: Norton, 1940)78. 3 8 Harold Smith,ed., British Feminism in the Twentieth Century, (Amherst: Massachusetts Press, 1990)130. 3 9 Dora Russell, p.96. 40 Norman and Jeanne MacKenzie, p.178. 41 Ibid, p. 254. 42 Dora Russell, p. 98. 43 Keith Robbins, The Eclipse of a Great Power, (London: Longman, 1994)419. 44 Ibid. 420. 45 Harold Smith, "British Feminist," p. 26. 46 Mingay,p. 210. 47 Rice, Margery Springs, Working Class Wives, (London: Virago, 1939) 160. 48 The Labour Woman, (October 1, 1926) 154. 49 Soldan, Norbert, Women in the British Trade Unions, (Dublin:Gill, 1978) 114. 50 Dierdre Beddoe, p.61. 80

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51 Ibid, p. 61. 52 Ibid. p. 79. 53 Theresa Me Bride, "A Woman's World. : Department Stores and the Evolutionof Women's Employment, 1870-1920" French Historical Studies (Fall, 1978) 664-683. 54 Hansard, Vol. 235 (March 21, 1930) col. 2337. 55 Statistical Abstract for the United Kingdom, No. 82: 1913 and 1924-1937, p. 127. 56 Braydon and Summerfield, p. 141. 81

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CHAPTER 5 THE LEGACIES OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR The post war social impact of Second World War was equal to the upheaval of the war itself. There was a new consensus on equitable distribution and "fair shares." The unity created by sacrifices from all levels of British society evolved into public policy for social security. Interwar England, under a largely conservative government, now appeared as somewhat indifferent. That Tories allowed poverty, ignored educational needs and protected a spent Imperial system provoked the majority to banish their wartime leaders in hopes of a new beginning with collectivism. However, Labour's platform promised more of the same. In July of 1945 the Labour Party won nearly half the popular vote with the pledge of a cradle to grave welfare state. Yet lingering austerity was necessary as Britain's economic crisis persisted. The fuel shortage in 1947, the currency crisis in 1949, increased rationing of food and clothing perpetuated pessimism. Food staples not limited during the war, such as bread and potatoes, were now rationed. Solemnity defined the immediate post war era. Auste+ity, embodied in Sir Stafford Cripps at 82

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the Exchequer, was a necessity for a nation bankrupt by wartime debts. The initial impact of the collectivism illuminated what Churchill had warned: socialism made men equal only by making them equally miserable. Yet even the conservative leadership could not turn back the clock: the cataclysm of war ended the pretense of fairness in unbridled capitalism and necessitated a retreat from Empire. The Suez incident in 1956 was the bellwether: censorship by the UN and the United States forged both bitterness and recognition that the dominant philosophy of modern England was outdated. The relinquishment of Empire was hardest on the ego of the ruling class: the majority of the nation scarcely noted it. They had not been the ones who reaped the direct financial rewards of exploitation although, by default, they enjoyed the fruits of inexpensive imports. Similar to the nineteenth century reforming rivalry of the Tory and Liberal parties, the Conservative return to power in 1951 retained most of the welfare state intact. It was their vested interest to maintain the social peace. Sinews of long term social trends, such as factory regulations, health inspectors and education reforms flowered into the great domestic war machine. Its success created optimism about mass social planning 83

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and greater concern for the poor. Housing, health, employment, and industrial regulations were the post war imperatives for both political parties. As the new orthodoxies supported welfare reforms, active government planning of the economy and society was no longer part of the debate. It was the consensus. Post war Britain emphasized social rights. The implementation of nationalization of industry, the passage of the National Insurance Act by 1946 and National Health Act in 1948, certainly made for a more equitable Britain in terms of social services. The Beveridge Report of 1942 provided the template, calling for social security from central taxation, economic policies to ensure full employment, universal and free medical and dental services (NHS.) Its family allowances, along with subsidized education and housing, clearly improved the lives and health of the nation. Unlike the Victorian poor laws which had humiliated the humble with stringent rules, the welfare state sought to treat all equally and an enduring egalitarianism ensued. Yet within the evolving welfare state the central ideology remained traditional. The policies portrayed the existing balance of power wherein males' needs were 84

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dominant. Progress may have diminished class, but not gender, inequality. The Beveridge Plan stressed welfare benefits attached to full time work. Since women, again after this war, abandoned full time work to return home to traditional roles, or engaged in acceptable part time work, they were again in a secondary position. Male employment predicated the welfare state. Although women shared in their husbands' pension benefits, they were disqualified if divorced. The Plan assumed that married women stayed at home as caretakers of the British race. However, it also stressed that women were companions to their husbands as equals within separate spheres. Companionate marriage reflected a rise in the status of women, though like enfranchisement, the reality belied the gain. With its subtle reinforcements women were still dependent economically. An oral history of 51 working class women by Elizabeth Roberts reveals how profoundly their lives improved with the post war settlement. Undoubtedly they, far beyond the middle or upper classes, gained a new world by state largess. The single most important aspect of the welfare state for the respondents was access to National Healthservices. Previously women and children, 85

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since they did not engage in full time work, were uninsured and their health suffered accordingly. The decline in infant mortality rates in England and Wales indicated dramatic improvements in women's health. The five year averages were: 1940-44 1945-49 1950-54 1955-59 51.6 39.2 27.8 23.31 1 With mortality rates so high at the end of the war the 1946 Royal Commission of Population had good reason to fear for the British nation and encourage woman back into their traditional roles. Although the Commission argued that feminism, birth control and women in paid work were to blame for the alarmingly low birth rate, evidence indicates that the health of mothers was just as important a factor. Improvement in housing was the second most important consequence for the respondents. In the interwar era the vast majority of the middle class had rented homes as did the working class. Difficult landlords and dated, even dangerous, interiors were standard for the lower classes. Worse yet, nearly 750,000 homes damaged or destroyed during the war created a grim housing shortage.2 Phyllis 86

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Willmott and her husband spent several years as homeless wanderers in London, living uncomfortably with parents and friends. By the late 1950's home ownership of government subsidized council housing became common. Moving from established neighborhoods increased social mobility but broke down more entrenched cultural patterns as well. Along with improved housing came domestic appliances. In the interwar era Willmott recalled her mother as irritable and worn out on wash day: it was an all day ordeal. Her description of washing nappies in her cold water flat in the late 1940's, boiling water, scrubbing and hanging them outside proved it grueling work. With electricity in newer homes, irons, vacuums, refrigerators, and later wash machines became standard by the mid 1960's. For example, in 1942 only 3.6% of homes had washing machines, by 1958 that had increased to almost 30%.3 Concurrently, standards of cleanliness rose and larger homes meant more possessions. Still, by these statistics, women who were once housebound by domestic chores enjoyed emancipation by technology. This emancipation, not fought for but bought on the market, suggested both the future shackles of consumerism and freedom from housework. 87

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Whatever the improvements in health, housing, wages and free secondary education for their children imparted, Roberts's respondents expressed ambiguity about the loss of their informal social network and female power within the family unit. The welfare state had diluted customary roles. The rise of professionals undermined the traditional supporting subculture of family and community. Roberts revealed that people began to pay for services from professionals that earlier would have been freely provided by friends and neighbors. The custom of laying out the dead had long been a community affair directed by older women. Since the welfare state subsidized death benefits, the cost and services of undertakers were now preferred.4 Phylliss Willmott's career as a single woman in state social work exemplified another trend of the welfare state. She was an almoner, a social worker for hospitals, and part of the emerging cadre of experts. As a legacy of improving education, advice of experts or professionals superseded that of community or family members. There were other forces influencing cultural shifts not prevalent after the First World War. Popular culture produced by the intellectual elites and the masses alike emanated from books, the arts, entertainment and the 88

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media. Mass audiences were attracted to the cinema by low prices and influenced by American rock and roll. The government sponsorship of the arts during wartime not only promoted class blending, but produced a legacy of participation. The state patronage increased middle class influence, mirrored in the BBC promotion of music, drama and culture. It was very popular. The astonishing acceptance of the Beatles and designer Mary Quant internationalized British pop culture. Still class differences were obvious in all media: for example, middle class women read Good Housekeeping which exposed them to the latest trends in health and contraception far sooner than working class women had such information in their weeklies. The media resembled that of the interwar era, however, by printing stories that fueled fears of a nation at risk by women not returning to their domestic roles. The populace and government alike encouraged women to return to traditional roles. Experts of the welfare state, professionals as the popular medical expert Dr. John Bowlby, convinced society that a woman's place was in the home to secure the emotional stability of young children.s The renewed variation on the theme of family ideology spurred images of femininity. The hour glass 89

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figure in ladies fashion returned, the small waist and voluminous petticoats evocative of helplessness. Gender roles were similar to those of the interwar era. Elizabeth Roberts' research confirmed that, in general, her respondents believed they had lost some of the power their mothers enjoyed when their self-esteem derived from skillful homemaking on scarce resources. Several possibilities emerged: had men sought more autonomy over the family finances previously controlled by women because they felt partially emasculated by the state's increasing role as provider? Possibly an exaggerated I femininity in a more affluent age encouraged women to be less forceful.6 simultaneously, in 1947, the government acknowledged a labour shortage. The marriage bar had been lifted from teaching (1944) and the civil service (1946.) By 1950 the government propagated the ideology of dual roles for women, at home and at work. However, the sexual segregation and low pay that characterized women's work interwar remained the status quo as did the gender division of labour. Welfare state philosophies resonated throughout the forces that influenced social consciousness. Women were equals, but economically dependent. They were also contributors to the family: secondary in wages and first 90

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in unpaid labor. Women were protected by the state and as a result, more helpless, less forceful, more malleable. For all the enormous good the welfare state bestowed on the women much of the fire for equality dimmed. Some of the forces of social consciousness prevalent interwar were subsumed into socialism; others were only temporarily muted. Feminism was still the transcendent force, but diminished on several levels. Both Eleanor Rathbone and Ellen Wilkinson, leading feminists in Parliament, died in the 1940's. Also there were tensions among women's groups trying to maintain wartime gains, particularly over equal pay. The Six Point Group remained active into the 1980's, which was rare; most lost their initiative in the easier social atmosphere. Feminist activism lost much of its grassroots power but remained an intellectual force until the late 1960's. Ardent feminists found a larger audience later, summarized in Dr. Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch, which bitterly denounced prejudice against women. In the 1950's, however, the movement veered away from equality and promoted the roles of mothers and family, reflecting state philosophies. State welfare to mothers, such as family allowances, reinforced women as the caretakers of children and gender driven 91

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domesticity. In no small way this undermined equality. Ironically, feminism temporarily caused its own demise. Eleanor Rathbone believed that married women in economic dependence was the "last stronghold," of subjugation and that was why it was "proving so hard to force."7 Parliamentary records reflect her resolve that the allowance payments be made only to mothers: "If the bill goes through in its present form I cannot vote for the Third Reading although I have worked for this thing for over 25 years."8 She died only weeks before the first payments arrived in 1946. Unfortunately, the payments were very small, smaller than Rathbone had envisioned to assist needy women. Equal pay agitation did not disappear even if it was muted. The 1944 Education Bill, which passed in the House, had equal pay as a fundamental provision but Churchill's decision to make the Bill the subject of a vote of confidence eliminated the clause. Subsequently, the Majority Report on the Royal Commission on Equal Pay in 1945 put forth a variety of convoluted excuses to avoid supporting equal pay. The Commission feared for female unemployment, as men would be preferable for equal wages, but also feared working women having a negative impact on the birth rate. Could both fears of too few 92

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employed and too many employed be detrimental to the state? They could have canceled each other out. The Report also stated that equal pay would reduce the level men's wages, and most interestingly, it argued that women were less efficient than men.9 In light of scarce childcare support during war, and high absenteeism of mothers, it may have appeared true. The fatigue of two jobs caused mothers to lose 65% more time due to sickness than single women.1o Women gained "Rate for the job" during the war. Pay equity was not as contentious as in the First World War but some employers again circumvented the issue. Reinstituted regulations and ruses, such as a single word of direction spoken by a male co-worker, insured women could not earn men's rates nor credit of efficiency.11 The Labour government made political points with support of equal pay, but later opposed it as inflationary during the austerity. Elizabeth Roberts reported none of her respondents complained about their low wages.12 They worked only for the extras, consumer goods and holidays. Ironically, consumerism propelled women into the workforce at the same time that it marginalized their importance. None of the women had the feminists anger at the inequality. The 93

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gender division of labour was the natural state; men made more money and women did more unpaid labour. So entrenched were the gender roles created out of maternity and custom that they did not feel compromised. The respondents represented the majority of women in the welfare state. Complacency born of generally improved conditions and contemporary assumptions of femininity were roadblocks to feminists search for pay equity. Divorce became more equitable in the welfare state due to the interwar pressures of feminists and Guild women. The rise in divorce rates, from 1.6% of marriages in 1937 to 7.1% by 1950, intensified with the Legal Aid and Advice Act of 1949. It provided what the interwar Guild women had long sought, a means to make divorce more economically feasible for men and women alike. In a broader context, it reflected the changing position of women and traditional marriage by the state. Still, as was so often the reality, legal status did not ensure equal treatment before the courts. Subtle reinforcement of sexual control of married women was a legacy of patriarchal custom. In 1950 a woman's lover was often required to appear in court as a co-respondent. The husband could sue him for damages, thereby recapturing part of monies lost in the divorce 94

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settlement. Conversely, a wronged wife could not sue for damages. Additionally, an adulterous wife was rarely awarded maintenance, even if the adultery was committed years after desertion.1 3 This amounted to tacit state sanctification of clandestine surveillance of women's behaviors. Widely disparate gender standards lasted until the permissive legislations of the late 1960's removed the blame of "moral lack" on one party .14 If feminism faded in the great socialistic transformation, its tenets were by now part of the mores of the younger generation. Phyllis Willmott's memoirs reflect a budding feminism, not provocative or angry, but in recognition of gender inequality. She joined the inevitable lot of women, motherhood, with ambivalence. Witnessing her Grandmother burdened with eleven children made Willmott take advantage of Marie Stapes birth control information. Family planning was part of post war state ideology. Although she lent credence to the saying, "What do you call people who use the rhythm method(parents,)" she had only two children. Her conflicting desires for both "self-fulfillment and full time motherhood" reflected those of her contemporaries .15 Although she herself rejected the ideology of traditional motherhood, the lack of childcare and the social stigma 95

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of the working mothers in the 1950's locked her into it. As a socialist she was more progressive than most, but found it impossible to defy the times. She noted that the full employment and "buoyant years of the 1960's" improved her life dramatically.l6 Many of the women's organizations that were the impetus of social consciousness in the interwar era melded into the socialist tapestry. Settlement Houses were recognized as nationally important during the war. They were the unpaid social workers of the state and their innovations imitated. During the war they organized evacuation of children during the Blitz, as well as nurseries for working mothers.17 The welfare state built upon this organization and eliminated it in the process. The Co-operative Guild also lost its impetus for social reform and recentered on consumerism. The Guild lost respect for its unremitting loyalty to pacifism as well. Pacifism was a predominately feminist concern, but not exclusively. Abhorrence of war combined with the belief that working class men died in the First World War for capitalistic profits. For the majority of interwar citizens and activists pacifism segued into armament support when faced with fascism: Dora Russell, Eleanor 96

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Rathbone and Ellen Wilkinson included. However Vera Brittain, who sent her teenage son to live in America during the war, published a book on what became an unpopular theme, Humiliation with Honor. It became increasingly unpatriotic not to support this war and resulted in lack of support for the Guilds. Numerous Guilds' suggestions incorporated into the welfare state, for example, maternity benefits and equitable divorce laws, clearly emphasized their contribution to women's social consciousness and highlighted their absence in the post war era. Politics in the welfare state were strangely muted. Between 1950 and 1970 memberships fell dramatically in both major parties. That women never rose to more than 4% of Parliamentary membership reflected the irrelevance of women in society.18 Ellen Wilkinson was the first of only three women members to become cabinet ministers in these twenty years. Women did not seek office-or participate in significant numbers for a myriad of reasons: anemic self-confidence, an unsupportive social culture, lack of role models and prospects of low pay. Margaret Thatcher's successful career in the 1970's was a turning point for women within British politics. 97

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Increased female employment contributed to the rise in female trade unionism. Trade unionists faced many of the same problems they had interwar. The majority of the female workforce, single and young women, had a cavalier attitude toward work. Career aspirations centered on a clever marriage: thus as temporary workers they were poorly organized, apt to be manipulated by management, uninterested in organization or unity. Temporary workers also meant fewer women with the drive and talent to enter into leadership; it created a genuine vacuum. One exception was Mrs. C. Marie Patterson. Elected to the TUC General Council in 1963, she was the only member to have a university degree. As a role model, she combined both marriage and a demanding career; in 1974 she served as President of the TUC. Patterson did promote women's rights legislation, such as maternity benefits and childcare, to enable wider female participation in workplace. However, women with the education and ambition of Patterson were too few. Unionists tried new methods of recruiting, especially domestic workers, to improve their membership. Nonetheless, their Advisory Committee also stressed that married women should not have to work full time and "mothers of small children should not work."1 9 Social 98

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pressures based on experts' advice restrained unionist from promoting full time work for their membership. Was the union leadership oblivious to the changing demographics of their workforce? It seemed they were fully aware of that women were discriminated against in the workplace, yet still opposed mothers as full time workers. Although the TUC endorsed the principle of equal pay in 1950, they and the Women's Advisory Committee dropped the demand due to a government pay freeze. In 1960 the USDAW surveyed 111 trades in which only 21 of them paid women "rate fot the job. rrzo Equal pay was promoted by women within the union hierarchy, but there were too few women in executive positions to effect change. In spite of their leadership, female unionists supported the government sanctification of family ideology well into the 1960's. In 1968 a government pay inquiry resulted in about one third of 52 unions against equal pay.21 They seemed to prefer a system of exceptions that benefited women to legislated pay equity. In January of 1969 the union negotiating committee approved equal pay instead of exemptions from night work. The membership rejected it by reason they did not want to lose concessions already won.22 That year, Prime Minister Harold Wilson admonished 99

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the Trade Unions Congress with the old shibboleth-equal pay would mean less money for men. Both the Labour Party and female unionists supported the status quo. Unionists who considered themselves second among equals before the law impeded equality by the very group who had the most to gain; women workers. At the very least the issue was front and center in social awareness. Between 1951 and 1971 the British Labour force increased by 2.5 million workers of which 2.2 million were women.23 This was the start of the tidal wave of social change that rocked the nation during the 1970's. Concurrently, despite the tenacity of family ideology, the single most significant social demographic of the post war years was the growing numbers of married women in employment. The emerging power of consumerism proved a stronger force than ideology. They may have been poorly paid, part time, sexually segregated, unorganized and engaged in menial labours, but married women were out of the home and into public life. According to Elizabeth Roberts's respondents, they worked not only to secure the extras but for the company of other women. Slowly work itself was seen as an emancipation: previously marriage had been the escape from hard labour at low pay in the mills and domestic 100

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work. This was clearly a legacy of the war when 43% of married women engaged in full time work within the 80% of married women involved in the war effort.24 The transitions emerging with the welfare state were enormous but still subtle. Now working class women did not have to scrape and struggle for housing and health care as they had interwar. As the welfare state moderated the grossest differences between the classes, working class women wanted more: more consumer goods, more of the good life. Additionally, as their lives evolved from community based to individuality and family centered in the suburbs, some sought work for an extended sense of community. They needed equity in employment, but were restrained by the current assumptions about the proper behavior of women, particularly women in work. A much stronger women's movement would have to appear before they forged that last stronghold: pay equity. Oral testimony of respondents in Elizabeth Roberts's survey reveal they were not specifically aware of the gender discrimination, albeit they endured it daily. Although they had lost much of their domestic superiority because of the welfare services, they were not able to recoup that power as workers. Nor did they seek equal pay, positions of authority in unions or in government. 101

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The state, the media, neighbors and prevailing ideology portrayed women as wives and mothers who had a duty to supply secondary incomes. Progress has to be measured in terms of this ambiguity. Women tacitly accepted secondary positions in the male world of wage earning, just as they practiced the majority of unpaid, gender driven labours in the home. In 1951 86% of British women employed worked in female dominated occupations.2 5 They most often laboured in traditional fields as teaching, nursing, food service or as shop assistants along side men in their traditional roles as senior manager. Overwhelmingly, women were the part time workers of the welfare state. In 1961 1,851,000 out of 1,999,000 part time workers were women.26 The low status of part time work meant women were often overqualified and did not earn pensions. They earned that through their unpaid labours in service to their husbands or endured poverty post retirement. Sexual segregation of labour and acceptable part time work underlies the tacit agreement of sociological thought: women were really wives and mothers. It was feared that working mothers influenced deterioration of the family, domestic obligations and socialization of children. 102

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Married women in work violated prevailing social template. As workers, older married women enjoyed greatest employment opportunity. Without small children they had better attendance and were more productive. This was partially due to the lack of government support of childcare in the welfare state. By 1975 50% of EEC children enjoyed state supported childcare in comparison to 7.7% of British children.27 Clearly, mothers of young children were still not encouraged to work. The census numbers portray married women of all ages rising proportionally against females employed. By 1950 approximately 2,850,000 out of 6,945,000 females employed were married.28 By 1967 that number increased to 4,834,000 out of 8,558,000.29 Women previously economically dependent on male breadwinners, and the state, were becoming self supporting. In 1971 52% of women ages 20-64 were employed, and 49% of married women ages 15-59 were likewise.30 The demographic represents a more stable and established workforce which had vested interests in social equity, pensions and, particularly, equal pay. The sheer numbers represent an evolving consciousness, not organized or radical and scarcely vocal, but growing in importance. 103

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Conclusion Few influential women leaders have emerged in the post war era, perhaps a representation of the muted position of women. The dynamic personalities of the interwar era, Rathbone, Wilkinson and Webb, were educated during the suffrage struggle and with the reforming fire of liberalism. The welfare state temporarily blurred the issues and defused the leadership. From oral accounts it was evident women were in a transitional phase after the Second World War: they neither identified themselves as primary wage earners nor solely as housewives. Instead they enjoyed social privileges not matched by equality in the workplace. Austerity required women to help rebuild the infrastructure and continue in paid work. Simultaneously, the Second World War settlement almost denuded women of power by state largess. The activist .and nurturing forces of social consciousness prevalent in the interwar era subsumed into the new socialist philosophy. This did not include equality for women, but it was certainly a better life than the majority had known. Settlement Houses, Co operative Guilds, political affiliation, trade unions, and above all, the appeal of feminism, coaxed women into 104

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public life. The legacies of the First World War, particularly acceptance of part time work for women, affected women's social consciousness and were the bridges to social change. Collectivism robbed them of character and direction, yet the ideas of equity persisted. It slowly percolated through groups that would eventually find a new voice. Legislation reflects much of an age, as do statistical studies, but they do not reveal the pulse of a society. How a social consciousness evolved in women has to be gleaned from their actions and their words. Although women's social consciousness is difficult to pinpoint, there are observable indications the women's movement-a direct result of consciousness raising-was an emerging, powerful force. The huge surge that occurred in the late 1960's and 1970's irrefutably verifies that consciousness raising and social awareness had been simmering for decades. The very vocal, sometimes harsh, women's rights movement in Britain did not occur in an epiphany of awareness. Clearly, it was a collective action that ignited when a large proportion of women recognized social injustice. Although there were numerous contributing factors, the most important significant social demographic of the post war era-women in 105

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employment-suggests that work was the flash point. It was more important than the other characteristics of female emancipation: technological freedoms, freedom from incessant childbirth and more equitable laws. More important than work in and of itself were the issues that emanated from it; demands for social justice in equal opportunity, pensions and equal pay. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 reflected a government more aware of women in paid work and, therefore, more willing to enter into labour market legislation. In addition, they were compelled by the international pressures of the Treaty of Rome and the European Community. The Act did not seek equal pay for equal value, only equal pay for similar work: a broad scope that allowed for differing determinations of job classification and of wages. Since the terms of the Act were not effective until 1975, the five year window allowed for considerable foot dragging before implementation. However, legislation of pay equity was only symbolic, the implementation is still evolving. The reality of women's secondary position in the job market, accentuated by more women as sole wage earners because of divorce or single parenthood, eclipsed social ambivalence. The catalyst, the ever increasing numbers 106

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of women in employment who experienced the relative deprivation of economic parity due to gender, ignited social awareness for the majority. Women were literally let "out of the cage" into a broader world. 3 2 Slowly evolving ideals ebbed and re-emerged, gaining credence as more women sought and practiced public life in both eras. While the periods had marked contrasts and similarities, each one further refined women's sociological progress. Yet the legacies of both post war periods were not as substantive as they were nurturing for the social consciousness of future generations. 107

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END NOTES 1 Elizabeth Roberts, Women and Families, (Oxford: Blackweel, 1995) 10. 2 Clayton Roberts, A History of England, (New Jersey: Princeice-Hall, 1985) 788. 3 Ibid, p.34. 4 Roberts, p.l2. 5 Phyllis Willmott, Joys and Sorrows, London, 1995) 139. 6 Ibid, p. 92. (Owen: 7 Harold Smith, ed. British Feminism in the Twentieth Century, (Massachusetts Press: Amherst, 1990) 121. 8 Hansard, Vol. 408, (13 Feb-9 Mar, 1945) col.2283. 9 Gail Braydon and Penny Summerfield, Out Of The (London: Pandora, 1987) 278. 1o Ibid, p. 71. 11 Ibid, p. 171 12 Elizabeth Roberts, p. 235. 13 Carol Smart, The Tie That Binds, (London: Routledge, 1984) 42. 14 Jane Lewis, Women in Britain since 1945, (Blackwell: Oxford ,1992) 56. 15 Willott, p .139. 16 Ibid, p .144. 108

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1 7 Katherine Bently Beauman, Women and the Settlement Movement, (London: Radcliff Press, 1996) 171. 1BElizabeth Vallance, Women in the House, (London: Athlone, 1979) 167. 1 9 Braydon and Summerfield, p. 278. 2 0 Norbert Soldan, Women in British Trade Unions, (Dublin: Gill, 1978) 173. 2 1 Sheila Lewenhak, Women and Trade Unions (New York: St. Martins, 1977) 285. 22 Ibid, p. 2 8 8 23 Suzanne MacKenzie, Visible Histories, McGill, 1989) 4. 2 4 Braydon and Summerfield, p. 170. 25 Ibid, p. 119. 26 Elizabeth Roberts, p. 122. 2 7 Lewenhak, p. 2 92. (Montreal: 2a Annual Abstract of Statistics No. 97, 1960, p. 106. 29 Annual Abstract of Statistics No. 105 1968, p. 115. 30 Jane Lewis, Women in Britain since 1945, (Blackwell: Oxford,1992) 64. 3 1 Ibid, p. 60. 32 Braydon and Summerfield, p. ii. 109

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JOURNAL ARTICLES Alberti, Johanna. "Inside Out." Women's Studies International Forum. Vol. 13. 1990: 117-125. McBride, Theresa. "A Woman's World: Department Stores and the Evolution of Women's Employment, 1870-1920." French Historical Studies X Fall 1978: 198-211. Smith, Harold. "British Feminist." The Historian. 1993:19-37. GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS Britain 1949-1950. A Reference Handbook. The Central Office of Information (1949) Britain 1950-1951. A Reference Handbook. The Central Office of Information (1950) Statistical Abstracts for the United Kingdom. No. 70: 1911-1925, p.127. Statistical Abstracts for the United Kingdom. No. 82: 1913 and 1924-1937, p.85. Statistical Abstracts for the United Kingdom. No. 86: 1938-1948, p. 97. Annual Abstracts of Statistics. No. 105: 1986, p. 115. Annual Abstracts of Statistics. No. 97: 1960, p. 106. 114