Women Cheat Sheet

Women in Employment

  • In 1951:
  • Women made up 31% of the labour force.
  • 36% of adult women were working.
  • 26% of married women worked
  • 1955-6 Britain’s economy improved resulting in:
  • Increased employment opportunities.
  • Wages increased faster than money – more spending money.
  • In 1971:
  • Women made up 38% of the labour force.
  • 52% of adult women were working.
  • 49% of married women worked.
  • In the 1950s 80% of women were secretaries, factory workers or shop workers.
  • 1955-61 – Equal Pay in the public sector was phased in over the next six years.
  • 1970 – Equal Pay Act – Equal Pay for all sectors, however:
  • It was not enforced until 1975.
  • Men could still be paid more on the grounds of greater experience and training.
  • The act could not prevent women from being passed up for promotion.

Home Life

  • Peak year for births in the 1950s and 60s was 1965.
  • Average number of minutes per day spent on housework (impact of machines):
  • 1950 – 500 minutes.
  • 1960 – 440 minutes.
  • 1975 – 345 minutes.
  • 1960s – Sociologist Hannah Garvon interviewed a number of North London housewives alone at home:
  • 35% of working-class and 21% of middle-class women felt they had married too young.
  • 62% did not know what their husband earned.

The women’s movement

  • 1956 – Sociologists Alva Myrdal and Viola Klein published a book called Woman’s Two Roles: Home and Work – argued for a fairer distribution of work and leisure between the two sexes.
  • Important women’s organisations:
  • Fawcett Society
  • Six Point Group
  • Local women’s liberation groups (across the country)
  • National Conference of Women’s Groups 1970 (agreed that there should be):
  • Equal Pay
  • Equal Education and Opportunity
  • Twenty-Four Hour Nurseries
  • Free Contraception and Abortion on demand.
  • Germanine Greer – The Female Eunuch(1970)


  • First birth control pill available in Britain in 1957.
  • The Pill available on NHS with prescription in 1961.
  • By 1968 there were two million women in Britain on the pill.
  • After the peak year of 1965 the birth year fell dramtically.


  • Estimated 200,000 illegal abortions performed each year in Britain in the early 1960s.
  • 1967 – Abortion Act. Abortion became law in 1968. Abortion available if two doctors considered it necessary, it was carried out no a registered premises and the baby could not survive independently.


  • Divorce Reform Act 1969 –Allowed divorce on grounds of relationship breakdown (no longer necessary to have a matrimonial offence).
  • Matrimonial Property Act 1970 – Women got a share of the family assets during divorce.
  • The divorce rate rose by 3.5 times with over 100,000 divorces per year by the early 1970s.