The Role of Women in Australia 1900-1941

2340 words 10 pages

„« To describe the nature of the role, and lives, of women in Australia before, during, and after World War One
„« To identify, and describe the extent of, the international influences on the role, and lives, of women in Australia before, during and after World War One

Australian women prior to World War One lived a life that consisted of traditional female roles similar to those of their British and Irish relatives. Their value in society was based on their ability to bear and raise children and maintain a home and they were dependent on the financial support of their husbands. Families of 10 or 12 children were common in this era and daily home life was described as ¡§labour intensive.¡¨
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World War One provided women with a sense of independence and a break from the traditional roles that they adhered to before the war. This feeling was intensified by the fact that education was becoming more available to women. Female university graduates would lecture groups of women and Business colleges started encouraging female attendance.

This feeling of independence was also achieved through, and enforced by, taking up wartime employment. At the outbreak of war in 1914 women made up 24% of the workforce, but by 1918 this increased to 37% as women took up positions held by men who had enlisted. Most of these positions were clerical, or traditional female roles, particularly involving the manufacturing of domestic items such as clothing and food. Despite taking over male positions they were paid only half their wages and the jobs were taken with the expectation that they would be returned to men following the war¡¦s end. Their contributions were widely unappreciated and undermined; it was claimed that two or three women were required to fill the position previously held by a single male.

Whilst the efforts of Australian women and their achievements were not widely recognised, their persuasive power over men certainly was during this time. Women became a feature of the Conscription propaganda of 1916 and 1917, a highly emotive and chaotic debate in which both sides targeted women. Posters of the day would appeal to the


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