08 March 2017

International Women's Day 2017: Some formidable women who fought for our freedom

Today marks the 106th International Women's Day, an important day for all women across the globe.
The day was set up in 1911 when women were not equal and they were expected to cook and clean all day, plus this was without the help from Mr Muscle as well.
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 have a special Google doodle created for them, now that's serious stuff.
Nowadays most 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 cook and clean, speaking for myself that's not true, definitely not the cleaning part. We are allowed to flourish and become whatever we want from pilots to doctors, fashion designers to astronauts, no one gets in our way.
Of course there is still some prejudice, especially in male dominated jobs like banking, flying 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 kick arse heels or flats and favourite lipstick.
Getty Images
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 are often forgotten about.
It's a shame it took two world wars and several decades 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 the women involved deserve a giant tin of Fox's Biscuits, don't you?
The Suffragettes
National Archives
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.
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 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 from going on hunger strike, 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.
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. It is not known whether she was trying to pin a Suffragete sash on the horse or decided to be a martyr to the cause. Thankfully nowadays there are less dangerous ways to protest, like poking all the politicians on Facebook and incessantly tweeting them 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 as 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 their hunky uniforms and went off to war, women put on some work clothes, their most authoritative voice and replaced the men to do the jobs they had left behind.
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.
Getty Images
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), the Women's Royal Air Force and the Women's Royal Navy Service (WRNS), 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 wasn't full of cotton wool and they could operate machinery and dig up a potato or two.
The problem was that after men came back from the war they wanted their 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. Their 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 and they 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 and dirt to scrub out of your nails.
Women also decided to go and work in factories doing anything from making ammunition, uniforms and aeroplanes. Women also joined the Armed Forces again such as the now known (WAAF) Women's Auxillary Air Force, the female part of the army the Auxillary Territotal Service (ATS) and the (WRNS known as WRENS) Women's Royal Naval Service. I wrote about the WRENS in my last post and today they are having a special event to mark IWD with Princess Anne, the Admiral Chief Commandant for Women in the Royal Navy officially launching the exhibition.
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 or go on Desert Island Discs.
National Women's History Museum
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 how capable women were, from growing vegetables to being a spook, they were a huge part of the war and this proved that women were able to work and help themselves.
Slowly over the years women have become more independent and the idea that they 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.
I wrote a post in 2014 for International Women's Day highlighting some ground breaking amazing women, who are a wonderful reminder for us all that you can be whoever you want to be and stand up for whatever you believe in. From scientists to activists and fashion designers to actresses, you are bound to feel inspired after reading about these amazing women here.
Hopefully over the next few decades women will become more independent and more equal in every country across the world. It's all about having equality and the ability to choose whichever path you want to take in life. Whether it's full on career, a stay at home Mummy or a mixture of both, we should not be judged or feel pressured by society to fall into a specific category or have children, we are no longer seen as just breeding machines who make a good Victoria sponge.
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 could follow your dreams. Remember the women across the world who still to this day are not treated equally and are forced into a subservient lifestyle.
Finally, 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 Bradley Cooper in, I'm sure as well as me there are more women out there who dream of that.
Second Hand Rose

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