11 March 2012

International Women's Day: A look back at the fabulous beauties

Last Thursday it was an important day for women. No I'm not talking about the new Marni collection being released, I'm talking about the 101st International Women's Day. The day was set up in 1911 when women were not equal and they were expected to cook and clean all day, remember this was without Mr Muscle. Over the next decade the day was recognised in many countries including Austria, Denmark, Germany and Russia, women were fed up of just having a pinny as their main outfit, sadly there wasn't Asos in those days. 

In the millennium IWD was recognised in even more countries including Afghanistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia. Now annually on the 8th of March thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. These include business conferences, political rallies, fashion shows and they even had a special Google doodle done for them, now that's serious stuff.

Now all of us growing up are used to being treated equally by people and there isn't a silly attitude that all us women can do is clean and cook, speaking for myself that's not true, as you well know Mummy Second Hand Rose. We are allowed to flourish and become whatever we want from pilots to doctors, no one gets in our way. Of course there is still some prejudice especially in male dominated jobs like flying, banking and law, but every year there is more of a balance and as the crusty old gits retire, us women are ready to take their place with our four inch heels and pink lipstick. 

In a relationship women were expected to obey their husband and were not allowed an opinion. Now it seems that women sometimes are the ones that wear the trousers in a relationship, well we do know best after all. I think all of us take the opportunities available to us and the attitudes of people for granted. We owe the generations of women before us a lot. I'm not talking about feminists chucking their bra off, I mean the Suffragettes and women in World War 1 and World War 2, these three main events really changed how women were thought of and seen. Of course it took years after for women to be properly accepted in the work place and not have to just be a housewife, but these events started us on the road to equality, I think they deserve a giant tin of Fox's Biscuits don't you?

The Suffragettes
Years before the Suffragettes in the UK, there were women campaigning all over the world to be able to have the right to vote, with New Zealand giving the vote to women in 1893. 

In the UK on the 10th October 1903 the Women's Social and Political Union held its first meeting and declared the situation was so serious it would have to pursue extreme measures to get the government's attention. Remember in Mary Poppins the mum with her 'Votes for Women' sash singing her Suffragette song, which you can indulge in again here. Don't blame me if you get the song in your head and want to go and sing it on the X Factor, it is a pretty addictive song.

There was another group called the Suffragists who were also campaigning, but believed in calm protests, no chucking their shoes at the police, I mean why would anyone want to ruin their shoes?? The Union soon became nicknamed the Suffragettes and began chaining themselves to railings, making a scene in the House of Commons, smashing windows and harassing politicians, which often resulted them landing on that big 'Go to Jail' square on the Monopoly board, going straight past 'Go' and entering the jail. Sadly it wasn't as easy as rolling a double with the dice or paying the bank £50 to get out of jail, you can see I'm an avid Monopoly fan. 

They were force fed to prevent them hunger striking, which often left them leaving prison looking gaunt and skinny, well that's one way to lose the Christmas Turkey weight. The Suffragettes did this so the public would see how skeletal they looked and how bad they were being treated, so the public would be on their side. A bit like when Katie & Peter split up, people wore t-shirts with 'Team Andre' on them. 

One of main Suffragettes was Emily Pankhurst, along with her two daughters Christabel and Sylvia, who helped set up the cause. Emily was arrested many times and went on hunger strike herself, resulting in violent force feeding. In 1913 the Government created the 'Cat and Mouse' Act, this meant that hunger striking prisoners were released until they were healthy again and were re-arrested.

Women were so committed to the cause that they put themselves in danger, particularly Emily Davison. Emily was killed in 1913 when she threw herself under the King's horse at the Derby, as a protest at the government's failure to grant women the vote. Surely there are less dangerous ways to protest, like poking all the politicians on Facebook for instance. Eventually after 15 years of campaigning women over 30 were granted the right to vote and in the 1918 General Election women were allowed to stand as candidates. This was a huge turning point in the history of women becoming equal as men, so thank them next time when you have a vote at work, even if it is over who makes the tea.

World War One
World War One helped women become more equal, the Suffragettes agreed with the Government that they would stop stamping their feet in order to help the war effort, so the women in prison were released. As men got in there hunky uniforms and went to war, women put on their high heels, their most authoritative voice and replaced the men to do their jobs. 

During the war the employment of women increased by over 1.6 million, with 200,000 women being employed in the government and over half a million went to work in offices. Women also worked as conductors on buses and trams and a quarter of a million got their fingers dirty and worked on the land. Over 700,000 women worked in highly dangerous munitions factories and had to work with immense concentration, no gossipping about the girl with the funny haircut then. They had to do heavy work too like unloading coal, stoking furnaces and building ships. Women also fancied wearing a uniform and joined the Army such as the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), they certainly didn't just sit at home doing some crochet. During these four devastating years women became more accepted in the workplace and people actually realised that there brain isn't full of cotton wool and they can operate machinery and dig up a potato.

The problem was after men came back from the war they wanted there jobs back, so women were sadly forced out of work and sent back to ironing sheets all day. Women that were lucky enough to stay in their jobs had a problem with getting fair treatment and being treated equally by men. There pay packet was different, even if they were doing the same job. Many women sadly lost their husbands, brothers, fathers etc in the war, so they now had to start fending for themselves. After the war women were encouraged to go back to the kitchens, but it was the start of them becoming more independent and the beginning of people believing that they could work and look after themselves and not just cook and clean all day.

World War Two
World War Two was really the turning point for women who played a vital part in the war. In between the wars in 1928 women were granted the right to vote for over 21s, just like men. To help the war effort women joined organisations like the Land Army. Their job was to keep Britain from starving by harvesting the land. German u-boats sunk ships entering Britain that were bringing food and goods so everything was scarce. In 1940 a million tons of food were sunk by the Germans, I think that's a reason to put Hitler on the naughty step don't you? How dare he deprive us of our biscuits and Spam. So this meant that food had to be rationed and as much food as possible was grown on the land, that's an awful lot of chipped nail varnish.

Women also decided to go and work in factories doing anything from making ammunition, uniforms and aeroplanes. Well I'd rather do that then mess up my nice manicure wouldn't you? Women also joined the arm forces such as the (WAAF) Women's Auxillary Air Force and the (WRENS) Women's Royal Naval Service. Some women were members of the SOE (Special Operations Executive) and were used as secret agents being parachuted into occupied France. Their work was extremely dangerous and could easily lead to torture, capture and death. Their job was to find out anything they could to support the planned landings in Normandy in June 1944. Their stories really are amazing, two famous members of the SOE that were captured and tortured and were awarded the George Cross are Violette Szabo and Odette Hallowes, who's stories you really should check out. They are truly amazing and would definitely deserve to sit down with Piers Morgan to talk about their life stories. 

Again women took over the jobs that men had left to enter the military, but they were pushed out of them and many wanted society to return to the comfortable norm, with women staying at home. But this war showed again what women were able to do, from growing vegetables to being a spook, women were a huge part of the war and this proved that women are able to work and help themselves.

Slowly over the years women have become more independent and the idea that women will just be a housewife and the men will work has become a rare thought and a lot of women now live happily and independently. Hopefully over the next few decades women will become more independent and more equal. 

So next time when you are applying for your dream job remember those women who heavily campaigned for our rights, spent hours creating ammunition, getting their hands dirty on the land and even parachuting into France risking their lives, so you can follow your dreams. Remember you are a woman and you can do anything you want, even if that means buying a whole Alexander McQueen wardrobe and having a Christian Louboutin shoe room with topless pictures of Smith from Sex and the City in, I'm sure that's not just me who wants that.

Second Hand Rose


  1. yay for women! i really enjoyed reading this post and reading about everything women have gone through throughout the years. :)

    <3, Mimi
    Fashion To Figure Giveaway

  2. I love your interest in History! I personly admire both the Flappers and Suffragettes for gaining womens independace in the 1920s even if the went about doing so in very differant ways!


  3. Amazing post, darling!
    Love the vintage pics and posters!


  4. Just popping over to say hi! xxx

  5. Wow! interesting post SHR. We all still have a long way to go, sista!


  6. love this post , yay for womens day xx poppymale.blogspot.com


I hope you have enjoyed my scribblings! Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think, they will be repeated constantly to anyone who will listen! Don't forget to click the follow button and add me on Twitter @Second_HandRose and Instagram: second_handrose XxxX