From 1914 to the 1949, women’s role in society changed drastically due to World Wars I and II, the Russian Revolution, and economic depressions throughout the globe. In the United States, Europe, and Germany, women gained opportunities both socially and economically during WWI, as they assumed positions previously held by men, who were now at the front, and so women took over their roles back home. However, women temporarily lost these opportunities during the depressions of their respective nations. During WWII however, women regained these opportunities due a labor shortage. In Russia, women remained the guardians of the home and children, but gained rights and economic opportunities because of the ruling Bolsheviks socialist views.
Before the Revolution in Russia, women were unequal to and submissive to men. Women were completely dependent on their husbands, and were slaves to the household. After the Russia revolution, the Bolsheviks replaced the bourgeois morality of capitalism with the “equality for all” emphasis of socialism. They passed laws eliminating prostitution, sexual abuse, and division of labor. Love, sex, and marriage became entirely equal and free from economic obligation. The Bolsheviks even passed legislature in 1920 allowing abortion. However, 15 years later, Stalin reversed the Soviet policy on abortion, and it again became illegal. With these new freedoms for women came the opportunity for women to earn as much, or even more than their husbands. Women were able to be economically independent, and therefore were no longer dependent on their husbands nor slaves to the household. When Stalin came to power, women were able to enter careers and jobs previously closed to them because of new industries and cities being built everywhere under Stalin’s Five-Year Plans. Also, many jobs were left unfilled after their owners were killed in the mass murders by Stalin. Women became steelworkers, physicians, and office managers. However, they maintained their household and child bearing duties, receiving minimal assistance from men.
In America and Europe after 1929, the Great Depression caused businesses and government agencies to lay off their female workers, arguing that men should support families while women worked in the home. Women had gained these jobs during World War I, due to the absence of male workers who were involved in the war overseas. However, now the war was over, the men were back, and the country was in a depression, so the women lost these jobs. In Africa, men worked in newly opened mines, while women stayed behind in the villages, farming, herding, and raising children without their spouses. During Germany’s depression, women, who had entered the workforce during and after World War I while the men were at the front, were forced to release their jobs to men and to return to their homes to help the country rise out of depression. However, during WWII, just as during WWI, employers recruited women to work in jobs once reserved for men as the labor shortage got worse because more and more men were being sent to the front. The American government even opened day care centers for the children of working mothers to ease their burden. Many United States women participated in the military, holding administrative positions and training fighter pilots, but they remained in the US, away from the war front. After the war, many women kept their jobs, or sought higher education, or otherwise began to broaden their horizons.
Stearns, Peter. Adas, Michael. Schwartz, Stewart. Gilbert, Marc. World Civilizations: The Global Experience. (2003)