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The history of the feminist movement

People tend to think the suffragettes were the only feminist movement before and during the First World War. This is an oversimplification at best. Feminism was never a united force.

The war, in particular, divided pacifist feminists from those who stopped their campaign to join in the war effort. Even the suffrage movement as such was deeply divided over tactics and aims.

When women were granted suffrage (1) in 1918, it did not mean that feminism disappeared for decades, only to re-emerge (2) in the 1970s. In fact, it was between 1918 and 1970 that the movement succeeded in securing maternity (3) rights for women. Then came the 1970s and since then the share of women in the workforce has been growing.

Many people also tend to think that women have only started work outside the household in the very recent past. Before that, they were supposedly just housewives. In reality, though, the idea of the housewife is a modern invention. According to one historian, up to 98% of married women in 18th century London were engaged in waged (4) labour. Despite our image of the woman whose activity was limited to the private sphere, the majority of women worked outside the home, even at that time.



  1. According to the article, is the idea that the suffragettes were the only feminists of the late 19th and early 20th century correct?
  2. According to the article, did the feminists in the UK support the war?
  3. According to the article, did the women’s movement disappear for a time following the World War?
  4. Explain the meaning of ‘workforce’ (3rd paragraph).
  5. Explain the meaning of ‘housewife’ (4th paragraph).
  6. According to the article, is women working outside of the household something that only came to pass, on a larger scale, in the second half of the 20th century?
  7. Why do you think work and employment were important feminist topics?
  8. Do you think that there are still some goals for feminism to pursue?


suffrage (1) – the right to vote in national elections

emerge (2)– to appear or come out from somewhere

maternity (3) – relating to a woman who is pregnant or who has just had a baby

waged (4) – waged work or employment is work for which you get paid [≠ unwaged]


You can find additional explanation and more examples to help you understand and use English words and phrases at https://dictionary.reference.com, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/, https://www.merriam-webster.com/ or https://www.ldoceonline.com/