Reality is a flux, an endless becoming that is beyond words and language – all language is metaphor, useful to us but ultimately detached from reality ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The world has recently celebrated Women’s Day on 8th of March, so it seemed fitting that I write on a topic related to it. With the help of this article, I am going to trace the changing reality of women in the last century by chronicling the most noticeable changes in the laws of the United Kingdom.

A lot has changed for women since the end of World War 1. Over the years, we gained the right to:

  • Hold property on the same terms as men- 

Men and women did not have equal rights. Before 1870, women were required to give up all property rights and money earned to their husbands upon marriage. But this changed with the introduction of the Law of Property Act 1922.

  • Serve on a jury-

Women were unable to serve on a jury or as a magistrate until the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 was passed.

  • Open a bank account or apply for a loan-

Women faced financial discrimination and were seen as a high-risk investment by banks as little as just 50 years ago. It wasn’t until 1975 that women could open a bank account in their own name.

Single women still couldn’t apply for a loan or credit card in their own name without a signature from their father.

Working women were also refused mortgages in their own right in the seventies unless they could secure the signature of a male guarantor.

  • Become an accountant or lawyer-

The Sex Discrimination Removal Act of 1919 changed the law on women being disqualified from certain professions on the grounds of sex.

It gave women access to the legal profession and accountancy for the first time and meant they could also hold any civil or judicial office or post.

  • Equal pay-

According to some reports, it is assumed that it will another 100 years before the global equality gap between men and women disappears entirely.

  • Be considered a ‘person’ in the eyes of the law-

 In 1929, women became ‘persons’ in their own right under Canadian law following a ruling by the Privy Council.

  • Sit in the House of Lords-

The Life Peerages Act 1958 entitled women to sit in the House of Lords for the first time.

  • Work on the London Stock Exchange-

Women were admitted to the London Stock Exchange for the first time in the institution’s history in 1973 following campaigning by women in the financial sector.

  • Obtain a court order against a violent husband-

The 1976 Domestic Violence and Matrimonial Proceedings Act provided legal protection to female victims of domestic violence.

  • Access contraceptive pills-

The contraceptive pill was launched in 1961 but was initially only available to married women. In 1967, contraception was made readily available through the NHS Family Planning Act.

  • Get a legal and safe abortion-

The 1967 Abortion Act legalised abortion in the UK, for women who were up to 24 weeks pregnant.

  • Report marital rape-

It was not until 1991 that the House of Lords made rape in marriage a criminal offence in the UK.

Apart from these policy changes, revolutionary movements such as #MeToo, the bill legalizing women’s and girls’ entry inside the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, India, and the global uproar over the scandal in the President’s Club show how far the world has come in the last 100 years. 

As a girl living in the 21st century, I feel that it was about time for such changes to happen and such reforms to be made in society. Things have never been so good for women yet there is such scope in improvement. The world is changing, it is time for our reality to change as well. As the Sophia the Robot rightly quoted,

“Women’s Rights still has a long way to go to completely end discrimination of women.”

With so much enthusiasm from women, as well as men, that milestone will be soon achieved. 


~ Stuti, Class IX, DPS Noida


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