To what extent did the two world wars change the status of women in Britain?

This is a wide-ranging question and should be considered carefully. The words 'to what extent' mean that you need to explore both how the wars did AND how they did not change the status of women in Britain, before reaching a conclusion on how much the wars changed women's status.

On one hand, the wars did change the status of women in Britain. For the first time, women were actively encouraged to work, participating in the war effort on the home front since the majority of able-bodied men were away on the front lines. Women worked in factories, they kept businesses running and they proved that they could be as competent as men in helping society to function. They were also considered as British citizens who strongly aided in the war effort, not just as women who stayed at home. In this sense, the war helped women gain a higher status and responsibiltiy, contributing to the Representation of the People Act of 1918 which allowed women with sufficient property over the age of 30 to vote.

On the other hand, the world wars did not completely change the status of women. After the war, women were expected to go back to their household duties and their role as wives; it was still relatively rare for women to have a profession of their own. They were still not given full rights as citizens (it was only in 1928, many years after World War One, that all women over 21 were given the right to vote) and pay for the same jobs remained unequal. There were still stereotypes regarding standards of femininity, and there were still things women could not do as a result of their gender (for instance, education remained male-orientated and few women got a higher education).

Overall, the wars obviously did change the status of women, but it is up to you to consider how much you think they did and to find evidence to back up your point of view.

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