Revolution in Society The development of women rights and the arts during the interwar period

Revolution in the Arts

The post war period, was a time of unrest and frantic attempts to forget the horrors of war. People found consolation in art and literature, and used it as a way to express their outrage cause by the war.

People demanded a form of expression that was honest, realistic and critical of political and social behaviors.

"The most violent element in society is ignorance"- Emma Goldman, an anarchist known for her political activism, writing, and speeches.

Those earlier Victorian forms no longer seemed adequate in the face of the period's upheavals

Of the works of art presented below, determined whether they were made before, after or during the war.

Top right: during, Top left: after, Bottom: before

During the outbreak of the war, women left their lives tied to to domesticity, joining the workforce as men headed out in order to fight abroad.

Women took their places in factories, shops, and offices across the country; giving them the potential to change everything.

In the attempt to fill the gap left by the generation of men fighting abroad, more than 1 million women took the chance and joined the workforce between 1914-1918.

When productivity was the only aspect that mattered, there was no work and life balance in comparison to when factories were on peacetime production. It wasn't uncommon for women to work shifts that lasted a total 12 hours, many without a break for 13 days.

Although women earned more than they had before the war, workers in munitions factories, doing similar jobs of men got paid as little as half the wage

BBC conducted research

Opportunity was short lived and trumped by the need of jobs for returning troops as the end or the war was near.

The Lasting Legacy of World War 1

For the educated, middle class women, doors to opportunities that were previously off limits began to open up. The Sex Disqualification Act of 1919 made the exclusion of women from professions due to their gender illegal.

The 1918 Representation of the People Act franchised 8.5 million women in Britain the eligibility to vote and have a voice in their parliament. Granted, the right excluded women under thirty who made up the majority of the working force during the war; however, it was a start.

The progress against the prodigious societal norms was trumped by the need of jobs for returning troops. Despite their pioneering contribution, thousands of women were dismissed from their jobs and old ways reasserted themselves. This was because of the Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act that was passed in 1919. Newly unemployed women who worked during war time production pressured into becoming domestic servants.

Constance Markievicz, the first women elected into the UK parliament in 1918

A handful of women were elected to parliament, more professions were opened up, and eventually the vote was granted to all in the late 1920s

infographic made using:

And the war transformed how women looked. Trousers appeared for the first time and corsets declined in popularity. The ‘bob’ saw short hair become the fashion.


Women's style before WW1, specifically 1912.


The traditionalists of the time period were filled with outrage and disgust; however, the times had changed radically, though not enough to let women continue in their wartime roles, seen as temporary, only for the duration. Their achievements were overshadowed by the grim cost of the war.

Future generations learned of their achievements and pioneering efforts as they told their daughters and spread to granddaughters. This legacy is the backbone of women’s independence and citizenship today.

The war was ultimately a catalyst for women's rights in general. It sped up changes for women all around the world by forcing them into the workforce. In current times, all women are a reminder of what advancements were accomplished through the war.

Not only did women's roles change, but men's rights shifted as well. Men were now not always expected to be the income for a family, as women were not always assumed to stay at home with the kids. The war led to many social advancements and this will never be forgotten. The legacy of the war is prevalent in our everyday lives as we are all now able to decide what our futures will be and what type of people we will become.

Works Cited

"BBC IWonder - What Did World War One Really Do for Women?" BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.

"BBC Radio 4 - Woman's Hour, World War One: Changing Women's Lives." BBC News. BBC. Web. 16 Jan. 2017.

"Changing Lives: Gender Expectations and Roles during and after World War One." The British Library. The British Library, 09 Dec. 2013. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.

"From the Archives: Women of the Motor Service." Red Cross Chat. 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 16 Jan. 2017.

"Khan Academy." Khan Academy. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.

Johnson, Reed. "Art Forever Changed by World War I." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, 21 July 2012. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.

"National Women's History Museum." Education & Resources - National Women's History Museum - NWHM. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.

"Striking Women." World War I: 1914-1918 | Striking Women. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.

"The Real Women's Suffrage Milestone That Just Turned 100." Time. Time, n.d. Web. 17 Jan. 2017.

"The Women War Workers Of The North-West." Imperial War Museums. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.

"The Women's Rights Movement, 1848–1920 | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives." The Women's Rights Movement, 1848-1920 | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Jan. 2017.

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