Impact of war on women's rights
Before the war the most common employment for a woman was as a domestic servant. However women were also employed in what were seen to be suitable occupations like teaching, nursing and office work. When war broke out in August 1914, thousands of women were sacked from jobs in dressmaking, millinery and jewellery making. They needed work and wanted to help in the war effort. There was much trade union opposition and the employment of women had not increased significantly before the summer of 1915. In July 1915, a ‘right to work’, march was organised by a leading suffragette, Christabel Pankhurst. Women gained access to a whole range of jobs that had previously been men’s jobs. Wages for women rose and the improved wages permitted greater independence for some women. After the war women had to return to their previous jobs but more women remained working in offices. Shorter skirts and shorter hair became more fashionable and women were allowed to go out with men with no chaperone. Women smoked and wore make-up in public for the first time. In 1919 being female or married no longer stopped you holding a job in the professions or civil services. In the long term, women retained some of the social independence that they had gained during the war. The new women’s fashions became more or less permanent.