The Pandemic Depression
The Global Economy Will Never Be the Same
BRITAIN has an adult working population of only 33 million. Yet on this basis she has built up a continental army and a vast navy and air force, equipped them very largely from British resources, and shipped millions of tons of armaments to allies abroad. This achievement was made possible only by the fullest and most far-reaching mobilization of labor -- of all labor, men and women alike. It has revolutionized the lives of most women in Britain. Millions have been called to do work which men did formerly; thousands have undertaken new jobs and responsibilities created by the war; and even those who have not left their homes find these homes a very different place to live in as a result of total mobilization. Today, out of some 17 million women between the ages of 14 and 64, although about 10 million still work in their homes, over seven and a half million are employed in industry, civil defense and the armed forces. Since the beginning of the war, two and a half million women have entered defense work who did not previously work at all. For every two women in employment before the war, there are now nearly three, or (to give a comparison with an earlier effort) the proportion of women in the forces, civil defense and essential industry today is double that of the peak year of 1918.
It would be impossible -- and tedious -- to give a full account here of all the activities into which women have been drawn by the needs of war. In many cases, the work has not differed very greatly from the old peacetime routines. For example, thousands of women have been transferred within industry itself. The very great extension of the civil service -- in 1939, there were some 94,000 women in the non-industrial civil service, in 1942 the figure for permanent and temporary women civil servants was over half a million -- has been brought about by recruiting a larger number of women for work which would in any case have been done by women in peacetime, though by a more limited number. But in other spheres of the war effort, the changes are very drastic.
In engineering, the percentage of women in the total labor force rose from 16 to 35 percent between 1940 and 1943. In recognition of this fact and of the very great variety of skilled work the women were performing, the Amalgamated Engineers' Union admitted women to membership for the first time in January 1943. Hitherto, women had tended to be admitted to the unskilled unions only (to the Transport and General Workers Union and the National Union of General and Municipal Workers), a right they secured in recognition of their work in the last war. In the aircraft industry, the increase in the number of women workers has been phenomenal. In 1940, 12 percent of the workers were women; in 1943 the figure was 40 percent. Over half the labor force working in chemicals and explosives are women. Even in the very heavy industrial jobs, hitherto regarded strictly as the province of men, women have worked successfully. Although only 17 percent of the workers in the iron and steel industry are women, some factories have reached a much higher figure. For example, one firm producing tank castings employs women to the extent of 70 percent of its staff. There are even women working in the shipyards and naval dockyards. And of course women conductresses on busses, postwomen, women porters and engine cleaners are such a commonplace of life today that it is hard to remember the time when all these jobs were filled exclusively by men.
Industry is not the only sphere in which women are doing kinds of work which were never theirs before this war. The women's forces -- the WRNS, the ATS and WAAF -- have been used to release every possible man for combat duties, which has meant not only that there are women clerks and cooks and orderlies and drivers, but that women have been employed on highly skilled technical work like photography, meteorology, draftsmanship and radio location, while ATS crews man AA gun sites and in the Air Transport Auxiliary women pilots ferry every type of plane from the factories to the airfields.
Nor is it simply a question of new skills. Many women and girls who otherwise would not have had any responsibility, have been compelled as officers in the women's services to take decisions and enforce actions which shape the lives of other people. This increase in responsibility has occurred to some extent in civilian life. There has been a certain amount of upgrading in industry, and some women have become forewomen. Another big development is the much more widespread recruitment of women welfare officers and personnel managers. In the civil service, a few women -- a very few -- have been promoted to higher posts, for example to be Assistant Principals and Principals and -- in the progressive Board of Trade -- to be Assistant Secretaries. Even in the section of the civil service still closed to women, the diplomatic service, the war has led to the appointment of four women officials.
These are all changes in the type of work done by women and in the extent of their employment. To give a full picture of the revolution that has changed their wartime lives, however, some mention must be made of the radical changes in the social environment in which the majority of women have to carry on their work. The war and the labor shortage have transformed the old pattern of daily life. First the husbands went; in many large towns, a great many of the children went away at the same time under the Government's evacuation scheme. This was the first great shock to the accustomed fabric of the home. In 1940 came heavy bombing. One house in five in Britain was damaged or destroyed. In 1942 the full effect of the mobilization of women began to be felt. Daughters were called up, and since they were (to use the Minister of Labor's rather repellent phrase) "mobile," they left their homes to begin a new life in barracks and lodgings and hostels in strange new surroundings in industrial towns or deep in the country. The pressure on woman power -- and the attraction of good wages -- drew married women into work. Instead of following the old routine of cooking and cleaning and washing, they left their children in day nurseries -- there now are 1,402 of them in this country -- relied on the works canteen to give their husbands a good meal, and themselves used the canteen or dropped into a British Restaurant. Sometimes the new routine works. The following, quoted from a Mass Observation report, is typical of the energy and skill with which many women have tackled the problem:
I get up at 5 in the morning and get the worst of my housework done, and the children all washed and dressed, and I do the washing, and get my dinner started, so it'll only want a warm up in the evening. Then I go to work, and I get back at 9:30 in the evening and give them all their supper and tidy up a bit. I seem to manage. Sometimes when the alarm goes on Sunday mornings I say to myself, "I won't go today;" but then I think, if everybody said that on Sunday mornings, then what would happen? And so I get up. If everyone worked like I do the war would be over very soon.
But often the new routine does not work or does so only at the expense of good housekeeping -- which is not too serious a sacrifice in wartime -- or of the woman's nerves and health -- which very definitely is.
These are only a few of the drastic changes introduced into family life by the war. They touch all classes. The wealthier homes are more affected by the calling up of domestic servants, the poorer by the greater measure of industrial conscription. Everywhere the effect has been to revolutionize the old domestic routine, to break up home life, send women out of their homes, introduce them to new types of work and responsibility and, in a great many cases, give them a measure of financial independence they did not enjoy before.
Now in the fifth year of the war many people are asking whether the revolution has come to stay. They underline the two most marked tendencies -- the ability of women to undertake with success jobs and responsibilities hitherto reserved for men, and the breakup of home life. From this they argue that Great Britain is moving toward a new conception of woman's place in society. As a result of this war, it is held, women will gain full economic equality with men, just as after the last war they gained political equality. They will compete for the same jobs, receive equal pay for equal work, enjoy the same opportunities of training and apprenticeship, and be debarred from no work on account of marriage. Home life will be conducted on a more communal basis, with more day nurseries, more factory and office crèches, more British Restaurants, more school meals, more labor-saving flats. In general, it is said, women will be emancipated from their rôle of housewife and mother to work as the companion and equal of men.
Admittedly, this is painting the picture in strong colors. Nobody expects the revolution to be as complete or as rapid. Indeed, a great majority of women do not think about it at all. But those who do think about woman's problems tend to see the future in this extreme form; and they either desire it intensely or look on it with loathing. One of the reasons why the problem of woman's place in society is so very rarely discussed rationally must surely be the intensity with which rival schools of thought approach the question. On one side to suggest that it might be quite fun to be a mother and not an engine driver is dismissed as black reaction. On the other, the idea of relieving an overburdened wife by setting up a day nursery is attacked as the thin end of the wedge of communal living and the totalitarian state. A great gulf seems to be set between feminists and anti-feminists -- which perhaps does not create the sanest atmosphere in which to judge the strength of the forces molding woman's place in society or the direction in which they are driving her along.
Will postwar Britain be revolutionized, as these prophets joyfully or gloomily predict? It seems safe to say that the change will not be so great as wartime experience suggests. The great majority of people whose lives have been upset by the war regard the changes as inevitable, unpleasant and essentially temporary. The breakup of home life will be followed by a strenuous and general attempt to build it up again. The men coming back from the forces, the girls leaving their barracks and their hostels, will want to find their family base again. There are no reliable statistics about the postwar intentions of the millions of women who have gone into war work, but a sample inquiry conducted in 1942 by Mass Observation showed that over a third of the women -- war workers and prewar workers together -- said they meant to give up industrial work after the war. As the number of women in work has increased during the war by about one-third of the prewar figure, the Mass Observation result, if correct over a wider field, suggests that the number of women in industry may quickly fall to its prewar figure when peace comes.
The effects of war, deep and widespread as they are, can be exaggerated. Even in these times of national emergency when the pressure on women to leave their homes is greater than it can ever be in time of peace, the vast majority of married women have not undertaken any form of paid employment, and in nearly ten million cases care of their homes and children is still their chief work. There are only three million married women and widows in war work, an increase of little more than a million over the prewar figure. The majority of these, on their own testimony, will return to their homes after the war. Thus the chief revolution the war has brought to the majority of women in this country is to make home life very much more difficult, but not to destroy it or even give it second place.
Another reason for making a rather cautious estimate of the effect of the war is the extent to which the tendencies now being freely attributed to the war existed in prewar society. The number of women "gainfully employed" has been increasing slowly for over a century. Nor is the weakening of home life a new feature. The falling birth rate is not a phenomenon of wartime -- on the contrary, the birth rate has gone up. On the side of employment, the range of professions and jobs open to women has steadily expanded over the last forty years. Women were barristers, doctors, architects, surveyors before the war. A woman was President of the Trades Union Congress. Women served in Parliament and on local government. There was even a woman Cabinet Minister.
Most of these changes came about after the last war and came more quickly because of it, but the trend was already set in that direction. The last war was an acceleration rather than a cause. Or, to change the metaphor, it was like a very large wave in an advancing tide. It raced far up the shore, and when it receded the tide had risen another foot. This metaphor is perhaps more exact because it illustrates how delusory are some wartime changes. Although the tide rises slowly all along the shore, it does not at once reach -- and indeed may never reach -- the highest mark reached by the largest wave. So with the work and status and prospects of women. Much that looked certain in 1918 in the way of rights and opportunities was swept away in the years after the war. The tide rose but it did not rise as far or as fast as the great wave of wartime experiment had suggested. In 1919, for example, the "Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act" laid it down that
A person shall not be disqualified by sex or marriage from the exercise of any public function or from being appointed to or holding any civil or judicial office or post, or from entering or assuming or carrying on any civil profession or vocation or from admission to any incorporated society (whether incorporated by Royal Charter or otherwise).
And in May 1920 the House of Commons passed a unanimous resolution that it is expedient that women should have equal opportunity of employment with men in all branches of the Civil Service within the United Kingdom, and under all Local Authorities . . . and should also receive equal pay.
Yet at the beginning of the next war women were still debarred from the civil service on marriage and were still paid at lower rates than men simply on the grounds of sex.
However certain one may be that the tide of economic opportunity for women is flowing steadily, one still finds difficulty in saying how far the mighty wave of this war's effort will recede or how far the tide will be seen to have advanced when normal conditions return. So many postwar factors will come in to influence the result. Of these, full employment is the most important. If British society achieves full and steady employment after this war, women will have a far better chance of achieving equal economic opportunity -- equal pay where the work is equal and an equal chance to enter jobs and professions closed to them before this war. Women's wages, like all wages, are fixed in peacetime by woman's competitive position. If very many women compete in a shrinking labor market, inevitably their wage level will fall. If men are haunted by the fear of unemployment, they will press for the exclusion of women, especially if women are competing against them at lower rates. It is a fact that, whatever the theory of trade union action, organized labor has been chary about admitting women to equal wages and equal opportunity. In 1811, a men's union protested against "women being unfairly driven from their proper sphere in the social scale . . . and unjustly encouraged to compete with men in ruining the money value of labor." This attitude has slowly weakened. Women are admitted to union membership and the action of the AEU in this war may prove to be a revolutionary advance. But again it may not. The extent to which it remains a dead letter or becomes a real buttress to the bargaining position of women workers will depend more than anything else on full employment.
Another factor in determining women's economic position after the war will be the extent to which a very wide range of new activities, which the war has shown to be needful and possible spheres of employment, is maintained and expanded in the postwar years. If industry developed to the full the newly recognized need for welfare officers, and for labor management in general, a new profession would come into being in which there would undoubtedly be room for women. The new Education Bill will very greatly expand the need for teachers and, incidentally, one of the amendments proposed by the House of Commons and accepted by the Government was the removal of the ban on married women teachers. The development of youth clubs and youth movements demanding trained and skilled leadership and the promise of greatly expanded health services may offer entirely new opportunities for women's employment and relieve the pressure of competition on older jobs and professions. Finally, to carry speculation on to a fundamental shift in the basis of Britain's economic life, the more this country moves from secondary to tertiary industry -- from heavy manufactures to consumer goods of high quality, from iron and steel to plastics and light metals and luxury articles in whose making skill and intelligence and taste are as important as brawn and muscle -- the greater will be the chance of useful employment for women, who in this war have proved themselves the equals of men in intelligence[i] and often better than men in dexterity and conscientiousness.
It is not only a question of postwar employment. A quite different problem has gradually and painfully forced itself on the attention of the Government and, to a much lesser extent, on public opinion. The population of Great Britain is static and will soon decline. Even if the prewar birth rate is maintained, the nation will reproduce itself in the next generation to only three-quarters of its present size. If it falls still further, the population of Britain may fall as low as 20 million by the turn of the century. The unpleasant economic consequences of a declining population are not generally understood, or people would talk less blithely of Britain's overcrowded island. But even the most optimistic cannot but feel a chill at the heart at the grey prospect of a population of whom three-quarters are over fifty. The one- and two-child family has become the norm. To arrest the decline and give the country the best resources for its future, a large clamorous body of healthy young citizens, the three- and four- and five-child family is needed.
The Government has at last registered its concern officially by setting up a Royal Commission to inquire into the causes for the declining birth rate. If it reports in favor of drastic inducements -- economic and social -- to foster family life and increase the size of families, and if the Government acts on its advice, an entirely new factor will have been introduced into women's lives in this country. Hitherto, all the pressures -- economic and social, of fashion, habit, prestige -- have reacted against family life. If there is now a reversal of this trend, the effects may be startling. Among a great many educated women there is already a revulsion against the earlier so-called progressive idea, that child-bearing was an intolerable burden from which emancipation ought to "free" women. There is a new interest in the running of a home and the education of children as the highest form of skilled profession to which a woman can devote her energies. Will this revolution in feeling spread through society? If it were backed by the propaganda and economic assistance of the Government, it might very well set a new pattern of social thinking. Incidentally, the apparent change of policy in Russia may have some effect here. Those who have pressed most for greater economic opportunities for women have always turned to the USSR as a model of emancipation. Now it looks as though the Russian Government were revising its earlier policy. Coeducation has apparently been abolished there and women's training is to be directed much more towards domestic work and mother-craft. Is it too fantastic to suggest that in ten years' time the five-child family may be the "progressive" ideal? The effect of this on the problem of women's employment would be very great. Even with the most elaborate system of day nurseries, the care of very young children would lie with the mother, and there would be strong reënforcement of the traditional pattern of British life -- that the wife on marriage no longer works for an independent wage.
In assessing the influence of the war on women's status in Britain, one must therefore allow for two external factors. The first is the extent to which the underlying tendency toward greater economic opportunity is a secular tendency, independent of war. The second is the possibility that peacetime changes in employment, in governmental policy and in public opinion may later react against the changes brought about by this war. Yet, allowing fully for both these factors, it is safe to say that the extent and variety of women's employment in the last two or three years will act as an acceleration in the process of securing their greater economic freedom and opportunity.
For one thing, public imagination has been caught by woman's achievement in this war. It is a measure of the strength of this feeling that even the House of Commons, which in its ninth year of life does not always very faithfully reflect the people's mood, has shown itself keenly aware of the injustices and prejudices connected with women's work. In 1943 the House compelled the Government to revise its scheme for paying women defense workers less compensation than men for air-raid injuries. In that same year it was laughed out of its proposal to appoint a committee of four young men to inquire into conditions in the women's services. Again, under pressure from the Commons, the ban on married teachers was raised in the Education Bill. Finally -- and most sensationally -- on March 28, 1944, the Churchill Government suffered its first defeat, by one vote, on the question of equal pay for women teachers. The Commons were alive to the implications of their action. Captain Quintin Hogg, speaking for the Tory reformers, said: "This amendment, if passed, would certainly affect the position of the Civil Service: it was intended to do so." (At which the House cheered.)
There can be no doubt at all that a substantial majority in the country supports the demand for "equal pay for equal work" as wholeheartedly as the earlier demand of "votes for women." True, the economic implications of equal pay are not fully understood, but as a statement of principle and aim only a very small minority would now oppose it. To give one small but not unimportant pointer, on a recent Brains Trust broadcast all the members save one unhesitatingly supported the principle of equal pay. The one dissentient, the immortal Commander Campbell, said that "women did not want it" and was shouted down.
Public opinion has changed. So has the opinion of women about their own capacities. They have gone into all manner of exceptionally difficult technical jobs and carried off the work quietly and efficiently. They have accepted responsibility in the services, in industry and in the administration and have given a good account of themselves. It is not only a question of greater self-confidence. They have earned better incomes and gained greater independence. The more energetic and intelligent among them will certainly fight conditions in which, for doing identically the same work, they receive half the man's wage. The case of a girl who by wearing slacks and calling herself Michael earned £5.10 a week for doing work for which as a woman she would have received £2.10 raised a laugh when it was reported in the daily press. But it is a portent, and public opinion is overwhelmingly on the side of the girl. It is safe to prophesy that, although the journey toward economic equality may not be as quick as the more hopeful expect, the women of this country are moving in that direction and the war will have accelerated their advance.
That being so, one may ask a last question: Is the change desirable? Is the goal of complete political and economic equality -- or, rather, interchangeability -- between the sexes a sound and healthy basis for social life? Anyone writing on this subject must at this point leave the foundation of reported fact. What follows is not a deduction from official reports or statistics or mass observations. It is opinion -- one person's opinion. As already noted, the issue divides opinion fiercely, and one hears extremist views more often than attempts to reach a balanced conclusion. Yet surely, as in most other spheres of human life, the extreme position -- on the one hand that there are, practically speaking, no differences between men and women, on the other, that there is virtually no resemblance -- ends in frustration and misery and the deformation of social life. It must be said first of all that the issues of political and economic equality are not on the same footing. The political ban which was lifted after the last war gave women their fundamental human rights. To forbid them the right to vote or to stand for election in a self-governing community was comparable to setting up special law courts to try women or to enacting that the ordinary processes of law should not afford them protection since they were women. Economic equality raises very different problems. No man has the right to every form of work for the simple reason that he is not fitted for every form. Nor are wages fixed in accordance with basic rights. So far there is not, unfortunately, even a right to a minimum wage. The wage level is determined by competitive pressure, by the state of the trade cycle, by historical accident. These facts set unavoidable limits to women's economic rights. Women are limited by physical strength. If they work after marriage and have children, they must be absent at intervals from work. Their competitive position -- which in the past has not been strong -- largely determines their wage rates and, until it is stronger, the raising of their wages might have unexpected and objectionable results. This is not to argue in any way for the prewar status quo. It is simply to avoid a false simplification -- that economic rights are as easy to define as political rights and as straightforward to achieve.
Great Britain's record in the matter of women's employment is not good. Wage rates over a large sphere of industry are roughly 50 percent lower than those paid to men. Even in this war, the women have been given the unskilled work to a very large extent, and there have been strong traditional prejudices against promotion and upgrading. In some trades, such as printing, the men workers have even refused to "dilute" the labor force at all. Although since 1940 the pressure has for once been reversed, and it has been necessary to try to attract women to work, the traditional wage rates have in all too many cases been maintained. The question whether the "rate for the job" can be more generally introduced after the war depends mainly upon trade union action and indirectly on full employment. The admission of women to the AEU is a healthy sign. Nevertheless, as long as girl workers tend to leave industrial work on marriage, there will remain a deterrent to promoting them to responsible positions or even training them for specially skilled jobs. But this difficulty is concerned with opportunity rather than payment. Where equal work is done, there can be no valid argument for a differentiation in rates. The rate for the job should be the norm, and exceptions should be allowed only where the short-term effects of raising the rate would mean wholesale unemployment among women. In the long run, the gradual raising of rates would benefit the whole community, especially men workers whose own rates would not be depressed by the competition of what is still in some cases sweated labor.
In the civil service, the issue is clear. It is a melancholy fact that the British Government has the worst record as an employer of women. In spite of the solemn revocation of discrimination after the last war already noted, women civil servants were still paid less at the beginning of this war than men doing the same work; the road to promotion was still barred; and they were still compelled to leave the service on marriage. The war has changed this to some extent. Some women have been promoted and for the time being the marriage ban has been lifted; but discriminatory rates are still paid and the women recruits for wartime service have been almost inevitably brought in to serve in the lowest grades. The reason why the question of equal pay for equal work roused such a storm in Parliament was that the state's record as an employer of women is notoriously bad, and it was hoped that by insisting on the fulfilment of the 1920 pledge in the case of one branch of the state service -- the teachers -- the Commons would secure fair treatment for women throughout the civil service. This will probably be achieved in the course of the next few years and may well be the greatest gain for women achieved in this war.
It is all the more necessary because many women do not marry. The surplus of women over men is mercifully shrinking in this country, but who knows whether appalling casualty rates in the Second Front may not once again deprive millions of women of the chance of home and children? It is incredibly unfair that they who enjoy none of the compensations of family life should suffer economically and socially (in the matter of promotion) because of the assumption that they will marry and leave the service. They enter by the same examination in equal competition with men, but at present this is all the equality they get. In a country in which many thousands of women are certain not to marry, sex disqualifications in the matter of salary and advancement are most unjust. To this must of course be added the proviso that the proper accompaniment to equal pay is a proper system of dependents' allowances. Either by family allowances or generous tax rebates, the income of the married civil servant must be made approximately equal to his single colleague, male or female. But unmarried women frequently have dependents, too, and the system of allowances and rebates should be elastic enough to cover their needs as well.
The case for equal pay and opportunity as the norm, with divergencies only where the interest of the women themselves demands them, seems unanswerable. But one is not on that account justified in believing that a great majority of women want to abandon the home and the family as their first and most important sphere of activity or that they should be encouraged to do so. In every society there must be some division of labor. Even if mothers do not look after their children, somebody must, unless the total disappearance of the next generation is accepted as a desirable objective. And if somebody must, why not those who are most closely bound to the children by instinct and affection? Besides, in a world in which collective and centralized methods of control and supervision must in the interests of economic stability increase, it is vitally important to secure to the citizen the widest possible measure of autonomy in his political and social life. The home, in its privacy, its diversity, its loves and loyalties, is the first bulwark of distinct human personality against the encroachment of mass organization, mass education, mass leisure and mass work. It is surely a totally perverted sense of value that would maintain that the creation of life and the molding of human beings were in some way degrading occupations, unworthy of the attention and energy of a trained and intelligent woman. For thousands and thousands of men and women, the end of the war means just exactly coming home. It cannot be called an unworthy task to ensure that there will be homes to which they can return. The pattern which still dominates British life -- of wifehood and motherhood as the norm -- is the only satisfactory basis of social living, and to demand free opportunity and advancement for the women who by choice or necessity do not conform to that norm is not to argue that their way of life is preferable or that home life, rightly conceived, is not a challenge to a woman's highest faculties.
But that is not the last word. One of the chief reasons why the crusade for women's rights has sometimes taken the false turning of an attack on the values and opportunities of home life is because of the deplorable conditions under which so many women have been asked to carry on their work in the home. The greatest single cause of degradation is extreme poverty. In so far as the war has created the determination to achieve full employment, it has directly influenced the future of millions of housewives. Another cause has been the lack of a proper family income. To have more than two children has pushed the "marginal family" below the poverty line. Family allowances have been proposed in the course of the war, though not yet on an adequate scale. Bad housing is another handicap. And behind these major difficulties lies the less advertised problem of relaxation and leisure for the overburdened housewife. For the poor, there are none of the reliefs enjoyed by their wealthier neighbors -- no nannies, no helps, no nurseries, no place where the children can be left during the morning shopping or the afternoon rest. The communal and educational side of the housewife's life has been neglected. The great work done in rural communities by the Women's Institutes has little or no counterpart in city life. Although the work of the home is not essentially degrading, all too often it has had to be carried on under degrading conditions, and the drudgery connected with unscientific, unplanned and unremitting household work has created a dangerous and disastrous bias against the vocation -- one might almost say the skilled profession -- of building a home.
How will the war affect these problems, which after all touch the lives of far more women than do the better known topics of equal pay and opportunity? To discuss the larger issues of income and housing would involve the whole question of postwar planning and reconstruction, but it can be said with certainty that women are far more conscious than they were before the war of the need for better houses, for properly equipped kitchens, for greater communal life through clubs and social centers, for home help and day nurseries as auxiliaries to the mother, for health centers and for more scientific feeding. The war, too, has taught that, provided the housewife can rely on some assistance in her daily work, her home need not be her prison. As a recent statement issued by a group of Conservative women put it, "a woman's home should be her focus, but not her boundary." Over a million housewives in this war have worked unsparingly in the Women's Voluntary Services, doing any job in the local community which needed doing. After the war these spare energies can be canalized into local government, social work, communal activities of all sorts. Women have not taken full advantage of their political rights. Wartime responsibilities may teach them a new attitude.
Another sphere of activity for the housewife opened up by the war is part-time work. Educated women might find time to give their services to the schools and Young Peoples' Colleges -- there will be a very serious shortage of teachers. Women with industrial experience might take over on a part-time basis the so-called "blind alley jobs" which fall now to adolescents. One firm has already worked out a successful experiment on these lines. Finally, it should be possible to make far more use of the intelligent experienced housewife whose children are grown up and who needs only a refresher course to fit her again for professional or industrial work. The war has shown that flexibility is possible in all these matters. The false division between home and outside work can be made less wide, and it is interesting to notice in this contest that women with technical and professional skill such as electricians and architects are much more alive today to the needs of the housewife. For example, it is the Women's Electrical Association that has done pioneer work for scientific household equipment -- for labor-saving kitchens, cooking utensils and domestic needs of all types.
It would seem that the tendency for women to draw together regardless of walk of life, profession or experience reflects a growing realization that the problem before them is not only to achieve fair and equal opportunities in work and dignified and worthy conditions in the home. It is even more to ensure that women in making demands on society are prepared to return the benefit fourfold and balance new rights with the acceptance of new responsibilities. Here is a matter of common concern, however violent disagreement may be on other questions; for it is a fact that the women who for the last 25 years have been enfranchised and for whom today an even greater influence in national life is sought are uneven in quality, and the degree to which they have already made use of their opportunities is all too slight. In the war, individual young women have shown superb courage and initiative and resource. The great majority have been conscientious and hard-working, but nearly everyone who has studied young women in the factories and the offices, or has been concerned with catering for their leisure time, is struck by two things. In conscientiousness they do not equal the women over forty, and their standards of social awareness and political consciousness are appallingly low. Much of the difficulty which has arisen over the moral laxity and promiscuity of young girls in wartime is due to the fact that there are apparently no standards to which they recognize an appeal. The break-up of home life, evacuation, bombing, the absence of mothers on war work have accentuated the dangers; but in spite of all these extenuating circumstances, there is the frightening possibility that a new generation is growing up with no principles and no standards and barely any sense of responsibility.
This is the most vital point of all. Whether she is a wife or an official or a worker, a woman in a self-governing community is called on to behave as a sensible and responsible citizen. The war has shown how great potentially is the desire for service. Older women in the Women's Voluntary Service, girls in the armed forces, youngsters in the Girls Training Corps, prove that the finest possible material is there. But the over-all picture of apathy and irresponsibility shows that neither the educational system nor the political and social organization in Great Britain is completely fulfilling its task of molding and sustaining an adult sense of citizenship among women. This issue concerns a much longer term than the war and its aftermath. War has brought out the best and the worst in the women of this country, but it alone will not decide which is to be the dominant type -- the "good time girl," wasting her factory earnings on trivial and dangerous pursuits, or the hardworking responsible woman in public work and in the home. The lasting answer lies in part with the educational system, in part with the political and social reconstruction of this country. The war has opened up some new opportunities, cast down some old barriers and created some problems of its own. But the real issues of women's work and women's rights and women's place in society all lie ahead, still to be solved.
[i] This testimony from a Royal Ordnance factory is worth recording: "We found soon that it was a matter of appealing to intelligence and if the intelligence was there it did not matter whether it belonged to a man or a woman."