1 Before the war it was widely believed that a woman's place was in the home.
New laws, better education and new technology opened up more opportunities
for women, however it was clear that only by winning the vote would women's
lives significantly improve.
1.1 The Suffragette and Suffragist campaigns
were in full swing before the outbreak of the
war. When war was declared both
organisations suspended their campaigns.
The Suffragettes demanded the "right to
1.2 The biggest increase
in female employment
was in engineering.
Over 30,000 Scottish
munitions in places
such as Glasgow,
1.3 Women were needed to fill the gaps in the home front especially
after conscription was introduced. Industries which had previously
excluded women now welcomed them. Women worked in Transport,
farming, munitions, on the docks and in the police. Man women also
served on the Western Front as nurses and ambulance drivers and
often faced grave danger.
2.1 Trade unons were worried about dilution - the practice of
using unskilled workers to do skilled jobs.
2.1.1 When men returned from war,
employers might try to reduce their
wages or even worse employ female
2.2 THE DILUTION SCHEME - broke a job down into stages and women would be trained
to do a stage each. This reduced concerns that women in the workplace would
undermine skilled male workers.
3 The 1915 Rent Strikes
3.1 The 1915 rent strikes were significant as they
showed how ordinary women can organise
themselves and challenge authority in order to
improve their lives. Demand for housing increased
dramatically during the war. Workers searching for
accommodation took whatever they could get.
Unscrupulous landlords raised rents some by 20%.
3.2.1 Helen Cruwfurd, Mary Barbour, Agnes Dollan
and Jessie Stephens formed the Glasgow
Women's Housing Association to fight the rent
rises and evictions. They received support from
trade unions and the ILP. Women tried to prevent
evictions by crowding on the stairs and
"Bombing" Sheriff officers with bags of flour.
3.3 Reactions to the Strikes
3.3.1 The Government was anxious about any
disruption to the vital munitions industry of
which Glasgow and the Clyde were part of.
The women argued they were not disrupting
the war effort. They argued fair rents would
prevent profiteering and exploiting of
munitions workers. In addition it would prevent
evictions of local workers for non payment of
3.4 The landlords threatened evictions, fines and
imprisonment. The women began a rent strike in 1915
and 25,000 tenants in Glasgow joined in. Rent strikes
spread to Aberdeen and Dundee. A mass demonstration
took place in George Square on the 17th November and
thousands of men and women marches to Glagsgow's
Sheriff court. Male workers in iengineering and munitions
joined the strike. Employers were increasingly worried
about the effect on wartime production.
3.5 The solution
3.5.1 The Rent Restriction Act froze rents at the 1914
levels unless improvements were made to the
property. This resolved the rent strikes and
prevented any disruption to wartime production.
Some argue that the rent strikes politicized women
and gave them a political role campaigning for
change. Others would say that women were simply
defending their domestic environment - poor
housing was one of the biggest issues facing
working class families.
4 The 1918 Representation of the People Act
4.1 the !918 Act gave the vote to women over 30 who
were householders, wives of householders,
occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5 or
university graduates. It was middle/upper class
women who really benefited. Men over 21 (over 19
if they served in the army) were also given the
vote. Women now made up 40% of the electorate.