Hisstorical Commentary: Woman's Changing Role at the Turn of the 20th Century

New Statesman:

      At the turn of the 20th Century women’s position in society was an extremely controversial topic due to the rise of feminism and an increasing number of women working in industry. In early 1914 the New Statesmen, a traditionally left-wing magazine, published a collection of articles which highlighted the pressures of women working in manufacturing and production, and how it was believed that females had “fewer needs of body and mind” (document) than their male counterpart. This essay will examine who wrote the articles, their contents and whether the document as a whole aids historians in understanding how women lived and worked in the early 1900’s.
The document “Special Supplement on Women in Industry” was written by members of the Fabian Women’s Group, an organisation which had sprung from the Fabian Society. Both were socialist movements who “believed capitalism had created an unjust and inefficient society” (website Spartacus). The Fabian Women’s Group fought for women to be given the same rights as men and for financial state support for mothers. The society was founded by Maud Pember Reeves, who co-writes the closing essay in the New Statesmen document, in 1907 and conducted a study five years later which examined four working class families. A book which included the findings of the study was later produced, entitled Round About a Pound a Week, which called for the government to introduce aspects of a welfare state such as child benefits and a certain amount of free health care. The collection of essays published in 1914 was obviously the Fabian Women’s Group continuing to highlight the struggles of working class families, however it focused on women’s roles within these homes and their struggles in industrial workplaces.
In the articles’ introduction, Mrs. Sidney Webb discusses the “double service” females were expected to provide, that is caring and bringing up children as well as earning an income to help support the family....