1940 to 1949
World War II, Women get to Work
"Women have got to make the world safe for men since men have made it so darned unsafe for women".
"We women talk too much, but even then we don't tell half what we know". Nancy Witcher Astor, Viscountess Astor, 1879 – 1964, the first woman to sit as a Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons (1919)"
The pensionable age for women was reduced from 65 to 60 years in 1940, in response to National Spinster’s Pension Association’s petition lobbying for a parliamentary commission for pensions for unmarried women, they collected over 1 million signatures.
1941 Britain became the first country to conscript women, initially calling up childless single women and widows aged between 20 and 30 this was later extended to 19 to 43 and (50 for WWI veterans), women became an integral part of the war effort. Women were still earning around half the wage of their male counterparts, although there were some notable exceptions such as the Auxiliary Territorial Service where women became an equal part of the armed forces and were actually received the same wages as men.
1944 Family allowance paid directly to mothers was introduced following a lengthy campaign by Eleanor Rathbone MP, unfortunately she died the following year. 1944 also saw the marriage bar lifted for teachers.
1946 sees the marriage bare lifted in the both the Post office and Civil Service which was unfortunately less about women's rights and more about the need for labour in the workforce in post war Britain. Although, the Royal Commission on Equal Pay recommends equal pay for teachers, it took a further 15 years to implement finally being phased-in in 1961, civil servants and local government officers were similarly slow and even now many women, due to lack of transparency in pay structures and circumstance are still at the bottom of the pay scale.
The introduction of the National Health Service gives all women free health care for the first time in 1948 and Cambridge University a shamefully 28 years after Oxford University finally gives women full degrees for the first time, although still severely limiting them to University life.