The 1900s’ were a time of great change in the roles of men and women. It is very evident if you compare the change from 1900 to 1999 but there were periods throughout that time of great change including both world wars and the fight for women to have the right to vote.
As women fought for the right to vote and to be true citizens of the United States they gained the ability to identify themselves as individuals with identities separate from that of their husbands or fathers. This was a huge step in the process of changing gender roles. Before women gained the right vote they were seen, legally and socially, as their husband’s spouse. They rarely worked outside the home and their lives were fully centered on caring for their husband and children as well as taking care of their home.
World War I
With the outbreak of World War I many of the men who had been working in factories and other jobs left to go fight overseas. In addition there were many more jobs created by the war. However since the majority of the men were gone and the women still had families to support these jobs were filled by them. These women began to make real money and also began to get a true taste of independence and life outside the home. When men came home the women were effectively forced back into the home because the returning men needed the jobs and after all the women’s place was really in the home and not in work place, according to society. The entry into World War I also provided women suffragists the opportunity to help secure women the right to vote, although they wouldn’t get it until several year later.
World War II
Before the beginning of World War II women had only served as nurses and clerical workers in the army however with the entry into WWII women created their own army organization, the Women’s Army Corps and severed in the military. They were banned from direct combat but many flew planes and served as nurses just behind the front line. Women also found themselves back in the factories, working where men once had. Only this time when the men returned many women refused to be forced out and have been fighting for jobs ever since.
Although a lot of progress has been made since the beginning of the 20th century there is still a lot of work to be done. Women have not gained complete equality nor are they truly free of the gender roles that have been present in our culture since it began. Women are still the ones that care for the house and they are still primarily the ones that care for their children.