A People's History of London

Published: 2019-10-31 14:00:00
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Womens lives were more centered on household chores, childbirth and bringing up children and any other tasks that were considered female. Even those women who had some form of employment, whether married or not, found themselves limited by virtue of their gender. This was the widely held perception people had of women. A womans role was determined for her by Victorian ideas that no woman could do better in a world dominated by the men because her abilities were limited; that her only reprieve was to focus on household chores because that was her specialty and could therefore excel, but never in a mans world. As expected by the society, the women set forth to create a cozy home for their husbands and children, resigning themselves to societal demands. Some women could not however be contend with this state of affairs as they found the roles ascribed to tem by the society to be stifling and unfulfilling. Nevertheless, some women, either by choice or necessity, stepped out of the roles set out for them by the society, enduring the scorn and ridicule labeled on them. This breed of rebellious women shaped the landscape that marked the beginning of changing roles of women in the society, shifting from limiting household chores and child rearing to blooming career women who could influence the society.

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A small brood of women in London opted to pursue an alternative lives for themselves, choosing to endure the scorn and ridicule of the society. These were the women who signaled the way for other women to follow suit, a different lifestyle into positions of influence and blooming careers that elevated women and gave them a voice in the society and a platform where they could transact at the same level with their male counterparts. Some women chose these different roles for financial independence while for others it was a means of survival. In their new quest some women encountered numerous challenges, ranging from outright abandonment by their husbands to husbands who worked to derail their plans and ambitions, women who opted not to marry and others who were involved in successive strings of marriages, and those whose husbands and families were supportive enough and encouraged them to pursue their dreams and become successful career women. Some women opted to pursue careers that some would consider a mans domain- gambling, art, acting and music. Without the first steps of these bold women, women in todays society probably would not be enjoying the relative freedom and equality that is prevailing, even if the potential of full equality between the genders has not reached all corners of the globe.

The rise of feminism and equal rights movement throughout the world inspired women to push for equal treatment and the chance to pursue their ambitions like free people, just like their male counterparts. Some women would try their luck in different fields, some working as photographers, some as musicians while others scaled the career ladder, amazed of their newfound capabilities. With this push for equality, several windows of opportunities sprung up for women to pursue and derive their fulfillment. Between 1880 and 1910 for instance, there was an upsurge in the demand for music teachers, rising from 42 to 61 percent. This paved the way for middle and upper class women to fill the role of chief promoters of culture. Women could therefore hone their skills in music without necessarily conflicting with Victorian ideologies regarding the role of women in the household. Women however occupied the lower rungs as male musicians dominated the stage as performers. Women were often labeled as music teachers, an umbrella that covered the woman who gave music lessons in the confines of her home to the lady who owned her own studio. Women would however be allowed to perform in bands as pianists and composers. They could also work in circuses and carnivals and family bands, a slight window of reprieve from their routine household and child rearing chores. Some women would end up being photographers, developing their skills in creating and capturing images that arrested the attention of the observers. As pioneers in the field, such women would slowly teach other women the tricks of the field so as to give them alternative skills and way out from their routine lives of household chores and societal defined roles. Some women took part in male dominant roles such as gambling, some even flourishing in it. One such woman was Alice Ivers who would observe gamblers on their job and master the game, becoming a pro. She would travel from one town to another, winning poker games in her trips. Her entire life was characterized by gambling. She had successive strings of marriages where none of the husbands outlived her. She would later purchase a gambling hall where dingy business were conducted and would face constant harassment by the authorities but her advanced age would always get her pardoned. Such women demonstrated rare fits of courage especially in a society where women were not only expected to be grounded to female tasks but also where the men were more at liberty to have several sex partners. Alice Ivers took part in gambling and had several marriages, a thing that was in all ways contrary to societys expectations of how a woman was to conform. Such acts encouraged other women to be courageous in the pursuit of their desires regardless of the odds against them in the society.

The advent of world wars also triggered a change in the role of women in the society. These wars opened many doors for women to pursue their dreams and hastened the collapse of traditional roles ascribed to women, mainly domestic chores. From 1900 to 1911, approximately 11 and 13 percent of women in England and Wales were employed as domestic servants. By 1931, after the world war one, this percentage had plummeted to less than 8 percent. For the middle and upper class, the drop in the number of domestic servants could be explained with the rising adoption of household appliances such as cookers and vacuum cleaners. Women abandoned their work as domestic servants and sought to pursue alternative employment that were opening up to satisfy the demands of the war. Approximately half of the employees of the London General Omnibus Company comprised of former domestic servants. The number of women employed in the civil service shot from 33,000 in 1911 to 102,000 in 1931. This shift from domestic employment to the civil service was motivated by higher wages, better working conditions and increased independence.

As a result of their new employment, women began to advocate for representation in trade unions just like their male counterparts. Female workers were less represented in unions compared to the men. This was mainly because they worked as part-time employees and for smaller firms that did not enroll its employees for unions. Moreover, unions existing at the time were less friendly to female employees, perhaps because of the less pervasive acceptance of women working in traditionally perceived male roles. World War one turned this state of affairs around since the number of women working was increasingly large and could not be ignored. Also, the number of women who were left widowed and unmarried after the war needed help and the unions had to step in to accommodate them. Women established pressure on existing unions to take up women and represent their plight. The formation of parallel women trade unions exerted pressure on male dominated unions which saw this surge as a threat to their existence. This increased pressure ensured that women became members of trade unions and their rights would no longer be trashed by their employers. This signaled the beginning of women representation in trade unions which is prevalent even in todays corporate world.

In the past decades, womens roles were confined to the household where she was regarded more as her husbands servant. She was tasked with the responsibility of making the home a comfortable place for her husband and bringing up their children as the husband was busy working. Some women however found this role oppressive and uncomfortable and chose to rebel the societal norms and roles bestowed on them. The pioneering work by these women has given women in todays society the freedom to pursue their full potential, seeking equal opportunities with their male counterparts. Though some women roles in some parts of the world are still oppressive, huge strides have been made from in creating equality between male and female roles.

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A People's History of London. (2019, Oct 31). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/a-peoples-history-of-london

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