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Within Germaine Greer is quoted as making

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Within
western society with its patriarchal structure, looking specifically at British
society, women have been treated as if they were belongings. Not only were
rights given only to men, but those so-called rights gave men power over women.
In Britain in the 1800s, women were relegated to a subordinate role in society
by laws and powerfully entrenched male attitudes. The first woman’s suffrage
bill was presented to the House of Commons in 1867 by John Stuart Mill, the
liberal philosopher who was elected MP for the City of Westminster in 1865 on a
platform of including votes for women. It was not until 1918 that the
“Representation of the People Act” was passed by the government and gave some
women the vote. These fortunate women had to be over thirty years old or women over
the age of twenty one who were householders (owned their house) or married to
householders. In 1919, the first woman took her seat in Parliament, but it was
not until 1928, that women were granted full suffrage equal to men under the
“Representation of the People (Equal Franchise Act)” 1928. At the same time,
the age for women to vote was lowered to twenty one years old.

The
career choices for a male were more open than that of a female. A woman’s role
was close to a life of servitude, and women were often controlled by the men in
their lives, whether it was a father, brother or the eventual husband. Women were
discouraged if wanting to do anything else other than bear children and
maintain the household. In the book Gender,
Work and Education in Britain in the 1950’s, written by Stephanie Spencer, her introductory chapter discusses how despite the increased
educational opportunities from 1944 to full employment in the 1950s, women’s
career choices were constricted by the universal opinion that a woman’s place
would be in the home, an expectation confirmed by a younger age of marriage and
motherhood. The vast majority of girls left school at 15 and, after a brief
training period, entered employment only to leave once married. Germaine
Greer is quoted as making the observation that “The house wife is an unpaid
employee in her husband’s house in return for the security of being a permanent
employee” (Quotes.thefamouspeople.com, 2018).

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The
role of women socially, economically, and politically has been the subject of
many literary writers who depicted it in their works. D. H. Lawrence, was the
first great writer of the twentieth century to come from the working class and
much of his work deals with issues of class and society and the women’s role
within them. Works such as Sons and Lovers, Women in Love, and Lady
Chatterley’s Lover are about the position of men and women in society. In Give
Her a Pattern published in 1929, Lawrence argues that “men are fools” (Lawrence, 1929 cited in Roberts and Moore, 1968) and
he criticises men for not accepting women as “real human beings of the feminine
sex” (Lawrence, 1929 cited in Roberts and Moore, 1968).
Lawrence’s conclusions are cleverly visualised as a pattern and the reader is
presented with Lawrence’s forward-thinking views championing the free modern
woman and her right to an independent existence. However, the world that Lawrence
inhabited treated women very differently, and female authors found themselves
having to adhere to male values in order to publish without prejudice in
male-dominated circles; experiment with the freedom of anonymity; or to
encourage male readership. Female writers often employed male pseudonyms, such
as Marian Evans who in 1857 adopted the pseudonym George Elliot, to conceal her
gender and to disguise her irregular social position, living as an unmarried
woman with a married man in. The British science fiction writer Katharine
Burdekin wrote several works under the pseudonym Murray Constantine. The true
identity of Constantine was only discovered in the 1980s. Within the art world,
much the same was happening and a good example of this is the Abstract
Expressionist Corinne Michelle West, who in the 1930’s adopted the more
masculine name of Michael West. Her work under the name Michael West was exhibited
in a 1945 exhibition alongside Milton Avery and Mark Rothko, but she is still
left out of history books and exhibitions on the avant-garde art of the 1940s
and Abstract Expressionism.

Turning
our attention to the art world, from the end of the nineteenth century to the
first half of the twentieth century an upheaval within western art movements saw
the appearance of impressionism, fauvism, dada-ism to name a few, which all moulded
together to form “Modernism”. This “Modernism supported the stereotypical white
male artist as women artists were kept to the shadows; often sacrificing their
careers so not to outshine the men in their lives, making their art only when
they themselves had retired from their day jobs if they worked and continuing
to be vilified by critics as not being as good as the men. Often, it was the
women artist that made huge innovative leaps, only to have the credit go to
their husband. The artist Sonia Delaunay a prominent figure in the Orphism art
movement, noted for its use of strong colours and geometric shapes is a fine
example of this. Sonia was married to the painter Robert Delaunay and together
they developed a colour theory named “Simultanism”. It is Robert Delaunay that
attains most of the credit for this theory and is publicised as a genius. However,
when one looks back at their work, it is clear to see that Robert’s paintings
never evolved over the years, but Sonia was always innovating and clearly pushing
the limits within art.

During
the 1940s, women took over the roles for men in the workplace who were fighting
abroad during World War II, and it is this that aided the feminist movements of
the 1960s. For the first time in history, women were in the exact same place as
their male counterparts, even working the same jobs. Female factory workers
sustained the production of textiles, including uniforms as well as moving into
metal working in factories that created war material such as munitions. Factory
work was not new for many of these women, however, the substantial shift of
female workers from things like domestic service into industrial work, and an
expansion of the range of jobs within factories was unprecedented.

Following
the end of the war in 1945, women once again took a step backwards and turned
to the home, focusing their attention on homemaking and taking care of the
children. Due to the idealisation of domesticity in the media, there was a
significantly static period of time for women’s rights between 1945 and 1959.
This was perpetuated due to the increasing popularity of advertising and the
media’s involvement in the lives of housewives, through a variety of mediums
such as magazines; two British magazines for housewives in circulation were The Housewife (London: Offices of
“The Million”, 1886-1900) and Housewife
(London: Hultons, 1939–68). Magazines
and were used to promote stimulating girls to train for jobs ‘suitable’ for
women and future housewives such as secretaries, teachers and nurses. The British Chambers’s Twentieth Century
Dictionary (1901) defined a housewife as “the mistress of a household;
a female domestic manager; a pocket sewing kit” (Davidson, 1901). Radio was another instrument and the contemporary radio soap The Archers, “conveyed messages in an engaging
form on how girls and women should behave” (Spencer,
2005).

Over
time, women’s duties, and role in the home and in society have arguably changed
for the better. In the twenty-first century, women have endeavoured to make
their lives easier by wanting to be more equal with men in society by being
part of the “bread winning” efforts within a family. An increased rise in
women’s wages have given them the opportunity to increasingly free themselves
from economic dependency. Women have gained equality through voting, working,
and overall equal rights, but conversely are also accused of losing sight of
the family even though in the late twentieth century, it has become harder for
a family to live on a single wage, an subsequently, many women have returned to
work following the birth of their children.

When discussing
patriarchy and a women’s place in society, one is drawn back to the idea of
family, where the beginnings of society and relationships take place. It is
amongst this entity that the origin of women’s oppression began with the
constant power struggle between man and woman. With the now popular term for
this traditional family being “Nuclear Family”, and its ideologies of the man
supporting the women replaced with the new “Dual Earner” family of the twenty
first century, where both the man and women earn and provide on an equal
footing, it is no wonder that women’s positions have been able to evolve
radically over the past one hundred years. It is not just society’s interest in
the material conditions of women’s lives, but a need to explore their
representation through writings and art that has been pivotal in women’s
history beginning to be given a voice

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