Perhaps the area that has changed the most for Scottish women in the last century is the family and the home. In the first half of the century the norm was for the woman of the house to “service” the male breadwinners within the home and family and to reproduce as their primary roles in life. This included many tasks including preparing meals for the whole family, looking after the family budget (It was usual for the husband to give his wife his pay packet at the end of the week and she would use it to pay the bills and buy the food.Order now
Well as cleaning the house and the doing the whole family’s washing, which all together usually equated to (or more than) full time work. Women were put under heavy strain due to cultural expectations and norms. They were expected to be under their family’s beck and call 24 hours a day and while husbands could escape household pressures such as screaming children, by going to the pub with their friends, women could never even dream of that kind of freedom.
Although their family was seen as a woman’s main priority in life, many HAD to go out and work, often in factories or working as maids or cleaners (24% of employed women worked in the domestic service). They earned far less than men and were also expected to run the family home single handily. Although the 1911 Census of Scotland reported that only 1/20 of married women worked, the results were mainly linked to the middle class, not the poorer families where the woman was forced to work as their husbands wage wasn’t enough to support the family.
This was not uncommon, especially as in 1911, women who married between the ages of 22 26, had an average of 6 children (with 20% having 9 or more). In the first half of the 20th century, Scottish families remained larger than those in England did. One of the theories behind this is that Scotland has a smaller middle class, (who on average, have less children per family) and a higher proportion of Roman Catholics, who do not believe in birth control. Scottish homes were often very small with many children, and it was also common to find many “live-in” relatives in the home too.
Conditions were cramped; in 1911, 50% of the population lived in 2 houses of only 1 or 2 rooms (bearing in mind that the average family size was at least 8). In Wishaw, the average density was 4 or more persons to each room. At the same time almost nobody (including the middle class) had hot water, a bath or a toilet in their home. Even by 1957, 32% still lived in 1 or 2 rooms and 43% had no access to a bath. It was very difficult for women in the first part of the 20th century as they were stuck in the home keeping it tidy and looking after their family, with no leisure time or distractions (unlike men or children).
It wasn’t uncommon for women to suffer at the hands of abusive husbands, but unfortunately divorce was almost unheard of. It is difficult to believe compared to how common it is today, that in 1900 only 142 people sued for divorce in Scotland. However things were made a little easier in the 1920s when “Double Standard” divorce laws were removed, meaning that women could divorce men on the same grounds, and then the divorce act of 1938 introduced a wider range of grounds for divorce, including cruelty.
Another victory for Scottish women arrived in 1949 when legal aid was granted for women in divorce cases (this was previously unheard of). Today divorce is very common, making it a lot easier for women to leave unhappy marriages. However it is only very recently that his has occurred, even in 1961, less that 2000 divorces occurred in Scotland, less than 1/6 of the 12,400 Scottish couples that divorced in 1991, 75% of which were initiated by women. Today life is much easier for women in the home.
No longer are women expected to settle down, marry young, have children and become a “housewife”, although to some extent housework and child rearing is still considered to be “women’s work”, but many labour saving devices such as irons, washing machines and even baby bottle warmers are easily available, knocking hours off daily household chores. Women experience much more freedom in many aspects, are encouraged to pursue careers and aim for the top.
Now, if they are not married with children by the age of 30 they are no longer considered a “failure”, in fact today in Scotland, 29% of households are single person. Many women work because they want to (but usually as well as financially) in order to prove themselves. Many see this as a backlash against women’s lifestyles in the early 1900s. Some women still choose to take on the stereotypical role as a housewife, as they see it as offering stability and it helps them to meet the high domestic values that some of them have, especially the working class. Today 67% of Scottish women work, most of them part time.
In fact since 1945 the majority of part time work has been carried out by women as it still is today, leaving the free to “look after the home and family”, thus proving that the idea of “women’s work” is still present in Scotland, even after we have entered the new millennium. Politically, a lot has changed too. In the early 1900s, women were viewed as “second class citizens” in many areas and therefore not allowed to vote. However by the 1800s both the Conservative and Labour parties were involving women in their campaigns, such as the 1832 reform act thus making them more politically aware and demanding their right to vote.
Many women were against a male only vote, so set out to change the ruling by starting the Suffrage campaign. All political parties were against female suffrage so in 1903 the Pankhursts formed the “Woman’s Social and Political Union” (WSPU) and Flora Drummoned (nicknamed “The General”) and Helen Fraser controlled the Scottish side of the campaign. The campaign for the vote was very important for women all over the country, including Scotland; many things divided women’s groups, so their campaign for the vote was the one thing that would unite them.
In 1908, 4 MPs died and the Scottish by-elections took place, giving Scottish Suffregates a chance to promote their cause. Public displays by women were viewed as “inappropriate” but this didn’t stop the female campaigners producing entertaining displays for the public’s attention. In 1909 the “Votes For Women” newspaper was printed and a huge protest in Hyde Park was organised, but without much success. By this time the suffrage protesters had divided into two sections; the Suffregetes who believed in using action to protest and Suffrigists who were anti-violence and used less severe actions than the suffregetes.
AN example of the suffrigists was the Woman’s Freedom League, who were militant but non-violent, holding the “No Taxation Without Representation” view. However the Suffregetes protests were not quite as peaceful as protests included burning down George Youngers (An MP) house in Scotland. By 1914 there were suffrage groups in every town. When WW1 started women were needed to fill men’s jobs, thus helping their campaign for representation. Another boost came in 1914 when Lord George became PM as he was sympathetic to their cause, but other MPs were still reluctant.
In 1914 after many years of protests (including Emily Pankhurst throwing herself in front of a racehorse) a breakthrough finally occurred; women householders over the age of 30 were allowed to vote, the campaigners pressed harder and in 1921, all women aged over 21 were given a vote. Although they had the vote, women’s issues didn’t get very high on a political agenda until Nancy Astor the first female MP until 1921 was elected in 1919, who remained an MP until 1945. Women’s roles in politics continued to grow until 1979 when Margaret Thatcher, a Conservative MP became the first (and so far the only) female PM.
In the 1800s education, especially university was always considered a “no go area” for women. After all, what use would a degree be to them as a housewife? The idea of women becoming lawyers or doctors was simply ridiculous. In 1892 women were finally allowed into universities, but the focus on male education was much higher due to the Victorian male/female division view, but the numbers of women entering higher education establishments was respectable. However, this ratio of women going to university didn’t remain steady, and fell in the 1930s.
Gender equality in higher education was far from achieved and women’s studies were heavily weighted towards the traditional arts degree. Perhaps this gap was due to male’s education being prioritised over females, especially in areas such as engineering (which it was almost unheard of for women to study) and medicine. In 1935 women accounted for only of all university entrants. Even by 1960 this figure had only risen to 1/3, in fact it wasn’t until the mid-eighties (1986) when women accounted for half (51%) of all students.
However by this time women were also covering a wider breadth of courses, even in male dominated courses. When asked, “Do you expect to attend college or university when you leave school? ” in a Scottish study, 65% of girls replied “Yes”, compared to only 65% of boys. This is a singular example of how women’s expectations and hopes regarding education have grown. Since the mid 1970s girls have been outperforming boys at every level (this applies in every social class), but why?
Is it perhaps a backlash against the education that females received in the past, as today’s women, either consciously or not, drive for equality? It seems that women are no longer regarded as “second class citizens” in Scotland. Although there still remains “massive gaps n our knowledge of the changing patterns and continuities in Scottish women’s lives” it is obvious that women have gained freedom, socially, culturally, financially and sexually that they could never have dreamed possible 100 years ago, thanks to their willpower and determination.