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A Lab of One's Own: Science & Suffrage in World War One

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ABSTRACT : In 1919, the year after women over 30 gained the right to vote, the suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett declared triumphantly, ‘The war revolutionised the industrial position of women. It found them serfs, and left them free.’ Her optimism was premature. World War I did benefit some British women by enabling them to take on traditionally male roles in science, engineering and medicine, but after the Armistice conventional hierarchies were rapidly re-established. Concentrating on a small group of well-qualified scientific and medical women, who were marginalized then as well as in the secondary literature, I review the difficulties they experienced and the work they undertook during and immediately after the War. Disappointed, many former suffragists came to believe that professional equality was more important than political emancipation.

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