Years ago, it was unheard of for a woman to work outside the home. Not only were most women kept completely occupied by all the tasks necessary to maintain their families, the views of society at the time were that it was the responsibility of men to go out and earn the money that was needed to look after their families. Women did a lot of work on family businesses like farms and shops but would no more have dreamed of leaving the home to become dock workers or physicians any more than they would have dreamed of running for office.
Gradually, though, things began to change. It began with the lower classes shortly after the Industrial Revolution. With living expenses climbing steadily and no recourse left but to earn more income or watch their families starve, women began to leave the home to take jobs such as being assistant to a physician or working in a textile factory. This, however, was not a liberation. It was a sort of slavery which touched even the lives of their children.
The rise of the welfare state put paid to this state of affairs and once more women went back to tending the households. The difference this time was that now that there were machines, there was much less work to do around the house. So some women, especially in the lower and middle classes where income was tight, still took jobs, albeit more socially acceptable ones for women, such as being a receptionist, operator or acting as a governess for children.
It was the Great War that really began to change things for good. With most of the men off fighting in the trenches, there was a desperate shortage of workers. There had to be someone to run the factories, operate the telephone exchange, do administrative tasks, sell clothing, and run the public transit, so these jobs fell to women. When the men came home at the end of the war they were quickly ousted from these jobs, but women had tasted freedom and there was no going back.
After the war there were movements which netted women the right to vote, and then on the heels of the Great War came World War II. This time women stepped firmly up to the plate, becoming ambulance drivers, air force support workers, factory workers, mail carriers, and motorcycle couriers, and they refused to be dislodged at the end of the war. In fact, women gradually worked their way into every facet of the workforce so that today you can see them as police officers, doctors, soldiers, and even combat pilots.
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