Changing lives of women

Changing lives of women

Barrier Breakdown 1951-64

  • The period began with continued domesticity as the primary role for women. Post-war stereotypes prevailed with women expected to marry, start a family, and look after domestic chores.

  • Introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1961 led to more control and freedom over women’s lives. Women got more say in starting a family and could plan their careers around it.

  • An increasing number of women began to work, many in part-time roles. But, their jobs were normally less well paid than those of men, even when doing the same work.

  • Actresses like Marilyn Monroe began to redefine traditional women’s roles in society, becoming powerful figures in popular culture and challenging the expectation that a woman should always be submissive and purely domestic.

New Opportunities and the Fight for Equality 1964-70

  • The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was a significant milestone. This law led to equal pay for equal work between men and women. It challenged the traditional view of women as secondary workers.

  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was crucial in the fight for equality. The Act made it illegal to discriminate against women in work, education and training.

  • Changes in education gave more young women the chance to go to university. It opened up new career opportunities and laid the foundations for later political and business careers.

  • The rising popularity of Second Wave Feminism highlighted the progress in women’s freedom and equality, but also the challenges still to be faced. Feminist writers such as Germaine Greer influenced wider public debates about the roles of women in society.

Equal Rights, Working Women, and Personal Freedom 1970-79

  • The 1970s saw a rise in the number of work opportunities for women. The public sector in particular expanded its recruitment of female workers.

  • However, discrimination remained an issue. Women were still largely restricted to ‘feminine’ occupations, found it harder to get promoted and were generally paid less than men.

  • Advancements in technology eased the workload in the home, allowing women more free time and the opportunity to balance work and domestic duties. Items like washing machines and fridges became more affordable and commonplace, reshaping everyday lives.

  • The women’s liberation movement gained momentum. Protests such as the Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970 and the Grünwick strike in 1976 marked the fight for women’s rights and drew extensive media attention.

  • Changes in divorce laws in 1971 made ending a marriage easier. This change gave unhappy married women the chance for a new start.