"To what extend did women's position in British society change between 1850 and 1929?"

Essay by dottiedinosaurHigh School, 12th gradeA+, September 2002

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"To what extend did women's position in British society change between 1850 and 1929?"

In society today it is generally accepted that women and men are equal in the eyes of the law and therefore in society. This is a massive change from the position of women before 1850. The movement for equal rights for women began in earnest in the last part of the 19th century and many of the most important changes had occurred by 1929. Changes occurred in the world's of marriage, education, work and, possibly most importantly, politics.

In 1850 a women was viewed as the property of her husband when she married. A few women remained unmarried and were usually under the jurisdiction of their father or another male relative. These women were in the minority though as in 1850 on average 87% of each generation would marry. Once married all money belonging to the woman was her husbands.

Her husband had the right to choose where she lived, what she did and he could beat her or lock her up. Divorce was almost impossible as a Private Act of parliament had to be passed and this was very an expensive thing to get and completely out of the question for most women who had no control over their finances. Between 1765 and 1857 only 276 divorces were granted and only 4 of there were to women.

The first major change in this area was the Divorce Act, which was passed in 1857. This is viewed by some historians as a big step towards more freedom for women, but in reality brought little change. It merely benefited wealthy men. A man could divorce a woman on account of adultery alone, but a woman had to prove bigamy, sodomy, incest or neglect. This shows how society...