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In What Ways Did World War one Set the Stage for Women to Gain More Independence in American Society?

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RQ: In what ways did World War One set the stage for women to gain more independence in American society?

        Before World War One, women were greatly depended on their husbands. They were housewives, homemakers and generally belonged in the farms. It was the men who worked outside and provided for their family. Women’s duties consisted of taking care of their husbands and children. Cleaning, cooking and other chores were all part of their daily life. During the year of 1918, women started to move towards the industries and slowly shifted away from their housewife roles. The circumstances of World War One authorized women to gain more independence in American society by getting them included in the work force and setting the stage for the creation of policies that gave them more rights and political weight. As a result of these changes, women’s role was seen as less traditional, which went against the gender roles of the time, and inspired feministt movements.

When the war broke in 1918, women were required to take the places of men in the industries. Almost three million women started working in the textile, food and war industries. Due to the war, there was a variety of jobs available for the women who learned how to work as radio operators, streetcar conductors, in logging camps and in steel mills. In World War One, the employment rates of women increased. The working rate in 1914 was 23.6% which increased to 46.7%. (Braybon 1989, p.49). The income of women was not equal compared to those of men; therefore, women were worried that they would not be able to work when the men returned from the war However, when the men returned from Europe, women kept working side-by-side with men.

During the 1920s, women were involved in the politics and economics of the American society. Indeed, the Great War played a huge role in women’s gain of political rights. The Suffragette’s movement was one of the most important key concept of that period, especially since it resulted in women’s right to vote. Women replaced men in factories and offices, since they were sent to serve overseas. Women also worked voluntary to support the war effort; they had to come into the political life. When the war ended, women were expected to leave the jobs they had been given during the war because the soldiers were returning in the factories. Most Western countries allowed women to vote because many women wished to preserve their new-found independence.

Gender roles was another concept that played an important role in the World War One. Men were viewed as heroes since they went to fight in the war while the women were working in factories replacing them. Many women loved their new roles and weren’t willing to give up their freedom when the men returned from the war to step back into their traditional role. In the 1920’s, the flapper feminist group was created in the United Stated. Women who were independent, wanted to have pleasure and freedom in their life but didn’t want marriage were called Flappers. Women were happier, they danced and explored an independence that they never had before. Women smoked, had short hair, drove cars and became friends with males.



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