How far did attitudes to women change after they secured the vote in 1918?

The sources have been carefully selected from the Churchill Archive to explore the question of whether attitudes to women changed significantly after they secured the vote in 1918. This small selection of 5 sources can be used to build up a picture of the key events and opinions which shaped the attitudes towards women in society. Teachers can lead pupils through the contextual knowledge and source content for the entire collection or get individuals, pairs or small groups to look at a smaller number of sources and report back. However, it is probably better to try to get students to use the entire collection if possible, working through the sources in chronological order. This way they can move beyond them as a collection of individual documents and use them in the way a historian would, as a collection of documents which build a coherent picture and help to illustrate the past.

With this basis in mind, students who have looked at the collection might then be challenged with tasks which extend their thinking and understanding. For example…
 

Activity 1: How far did attitudes to women change after they secured the vote in 1918?

You might ask students if the sources provide an answer to the question posed by this enquiry.

Source Supports the view AT FACE VALUE that attitudes to women changed significantly after 1918 Does not support the view  AT FACE VALUE that attitudes to women changed significantly after 1918 Reasons why the source is strong or weak evidence about this particular issue (e.g. date of source, typicality, purpose, etc.)
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Activity 2: What can we understand about attitudes to women after they secured the vote in 1918 from these sources?

Students can sometimes fall into the trap of assuming that documents represent ‘the whole’ of the story rather than being part of the puzzle which historians have to piece together. It might be useful to ask them to discuss the following assertions in groups:

  • Hand-written letters definitely tell you about what the letter writer thinks
  • Letters to the press are useful for revealing public opinion
  • Personal letters definitely tell you about what is happening at the time
  • Personal letters are useless as sources because they only tell you about one person
  • Newspaper articles try to report the news objectively
  • If a memorandum is top secret it will reveal the author’s feelings more accurately
  • When information about the author is unknown, the source is less valuable to a historian

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