Thursday, June 16, 2011

To what extent did World War Two bring about real change in women’s role in Australian society?

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World War Two played a major part in the change of women’s role in society. During the war women were allowed to fight alongside men as equals. Back at home there was a shortage of men to do jobs so women had to do them in their place. After the war people expected things to go back to the way they were before the war, but women had experienced a different life outside the home and many now felt they had more to offer in society. Women wanted to receive more opportunities, respect, and value for their work. This started the Women’s Liberation Movement. Many women were also seeking an education. The government passed and changed laws which would help women. Women began to have a higher profile in politics.


Women were allowed to join the Australian Armed Forces during the Second World War for the first time in history. By the end of the war there was nearly 4 000 enlisted women. They worked as drivers, aircraft spotters, pilots, signallers, nursers, clerical workers, and some even maned anti-aircraft guns. Although they fought along side the men they didn’t receive the same pay and received a lower standard of discipline. When men left to fight the war the country needed people to fill their jobs so they turned to women. They did all sorts of jobs like manufacturing clothes, ammunition, tanks, ships, planes, farming, and in food processing plants. Between 1 and 141 over 4 000 women entered the paid workforce. When the war was over and all the men and women came home, the women who had been occupying their jobs were expected to leave them. Increasing pressure was placed on them from the government, the churches, and in popular reading matter such as the Australian Women’s Weekly to return to their traditional place as housekeepers. No plans were made to keep women’s armed forces during peace time. They had little choice in what they wanted to do. They were expected to leave their jobs and devote their time to family and housework.


After the war when women lost their jobs to men their views on their role in society began to change. Before World War II women’s groups were mainly interested in the role of women in the family and at home. They now started to focus on having equal opportunities and women’s rights in society. The women who fought for these causes after the war were not called suffragettes but feminists.


In 11 a females wage was only 54% of a man’s, by 150 the feminist fight had achieved raising a women’s wage to 75% of a man’s. During 14 the Women’s Employment Bureau was started on the terms that it would break up after the war. While it was running it managed to increase the women’s wage in some jobs to 0%. It was not until 17 that women received equal pay for equal work, in all occupations.


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Women’s level of education began to increase after the war with more women wanting to get a tertiary education. A large part of society still didn’t approve of this, they wanted women in the home. In 170 the government changed its view by starting programs encouraging girls to finish their secondary education and go onto commence their tertiary education.


Many laws against women have been changed over the past 00 years. In 1 The Sex Disqualifying Removal Act legally stopped discrimination. But discrimination still continued throughout much of this century. During 16 and the 170’s women couldn’t control anything to do with money. If they wanted a credit card from a store they could only have it if it was in their husband’s name, and if a couple wanted a loan the women’s income wasn’t taken into account.


The first woman didn’t enter parliament till 14 even though they had had the right to stand for about 40 years. Even though women didn’t become heavily involved in parliamentary participation in this century they were still greatly involved in political organisations and activities. For example the Women’s Electoral Lobby, established in the 160’s, helped promote the parliamentary representation of women. In 16 a women’s section was established, called the Women’s Bureau, within the Department of Labour and National Service. Its main function was to deal with women’s employment issues. The National Women’s Advisory Council was set up in 178 to inform the government on matters which troubled women.


The role of women has changed considerably since World War Two. They now have equal rights and are respected in society and the workplace. The number of women seeking a tertiary education is almost equal to that of men. Today you will see women serving in local council, state and federal parliament.





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