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With the outbreak of the First World War, differences were forgotten as the suffrage leaders urged  support. Women were called on to take up male jobs as their men folk were sent to the front. They proved their worth as bus conductors, ambulance drivers, and office staff. Nearly a million women were employed to work in the munitions industry, making vital, and dangerous weapons.

The armed forces themselves made a big drive to recruit women and the war years saw the founding of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, the Women's Royal Naval Service, and the Women's Royal Air Force. But most women were employed well away from the fighting - as cooks, clerks, storewomen, messengers and signallers.

Support for the war was not universal. On 18 April 1915, 1500 women from Northern Europe and the USA met in The Hague to discuss peace at the International Congress of Women. Sylvia Pankhurst was one of those who continued to protest against the conflict.

In 1918 women had the vote, but not all were enfranchised. The Representation of the People Act gave votes only to those women aged over 30 who held property.

The following year, Nancy Astor became the first woman to take her seat as an MP. Astor was soon championing women's causes such as equal rights in the civil service, votes at twenty-one and keeping the women police. She was to become famous for her brilliant repartee in the House and her ability to take on the most misogynist of male MPs.

1910

The Girl Guides' Association is founded by Sir Robert Baden-Powell with his sister Agnes as its first president.

  

1910

18 November is "Black Friday", when the suffragettes and police clash violently outside parliament following the failure of the first Conciliation Bill. One suffragette, Ellen Pitfield, later dies from her injuries.

  

1911

Dame Ethel Smyth  (1858-1944) composes "March of the Women", the suffragette battle-tune.

  

1911

Hilda Hewlett is issued with license 122 making her the first British woman to qualify as a pilot.

  

1911

The South African novelist and feminist, Olive Schreiner (1855-1920) publishes her feminist credo Women and Labour.

  

1911

Marie Curie is awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry making her the first person to receive the Nobel Prize twice.

  

1911

Eleanor Davies-Colley becomes the first woman to be admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons.

  

1911

The celebrated American composer, Amy Beach, arrives in Europe.

  

1912

Sylvia Pankhurst  (1882-1960) establishes her East London Federation of Suffragettes, predominantly for working class women in the East End.

  

1912

The American pilot Harriet Quimby becomes the first woman to fly the English Channel.

  

1912

Octavia Hill  (1838-1912), housing pioneer and founder of the National Trust, dies.

  

1913

In Norway, women win the right to vote

  

1913

Caroline Spurgeon (1869-1942) is appointed Professor of English Literature at London University, making her Britain's first official female professor. 

  

1913

The suffragette Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913) is killed by the King's horse at the Epsom Derby.

  

1913

On 26 July, 50,000 women taking part in a pilgrimage organised by the National Union of Women Suffrage Societies arrive in Hyde Park.

  

1914

On 10 March, the suffragette Mary Richardson enters the National Gallery and slashes the Rokeby Venus.

  

1914

The first women's police force, the Women Police Volunteers, are set up by Margaret Damer Dawson (1875-1920).

  

1914

On 4 August, Britain declares war on Germany. During the four years of the First World War  there were huge changes for women.

  

1914

Following the outbreak of war, the Scottish Women's Hospitals movement is set up by Dr Elsie Inglis  (1864-1917).

  

1915

1500 women from Northern Europe and the USA meet to discuss peace at the first International Congress of Women in The Hague.  The American suffrage campaigner, Jane Addams (1860-1935) is its first president.

  

1915

The first Women's Institute in Britain is founded in North Wales at Llanfairpwll.

  

1915

The English nurse Edith Cavell (1865-1915) is executed by the Germans for helping allied prisoners to escape.

  

1916

The Prisoners' Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health Act, also known as "The Cat and Mouse Act", is introduced for suffragettes who refuse to eat.

  

1916

The Women's Army Auxiliary Corps is set up under the leadership of Mona Watson and Helen Gwynne-Vaughan.

  

1916

Olive Baden Powell, wife of Robert, is made Chief Commissioner for the Girl Guides. She was elected Chief Guide of the World in 1930.

  

1917

Alexandra Kollantai (1872-1952) is appointed to Lenin's Bolshevik government as the People's Commissioner for Public Welfare, making her the first woman minister in the world.

  

1917

Mata Hari is executed in Paris as a spy.

  

1917

Annie Besant  (1847-1933), social campaigner and theosophist, is elected the fifth president of the Indian National Congress.

  

1917

The Women's Land Army is established.

  

1917

The Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) is set up with Gertrude Crawford as its first commandant.

  

1917

The Women's Royal Naval Service (WRNS) is formed under the direction of Dame Katherine Furse.

  

1917

Russia gives votes to women.

  

1918

The Representation of the People Act is passed giving votes to women  provided they are aged over thirty and either they, or their husband, meet a property qualification.

  

1918

The Parliamentary Qualification of Women Act is is passed enabling women to stand as a Member of Parliament.

  

1918

Women in Britain vote in a General Election for the first time on 14 December. Constance Markiewicz  (1868-1927) is elected as the first woman MP for Sinn Fein although she declined to take her seat.

  

1918

Germany gives votes to women.

  

1918

The Maternal and Child Welfare Act is passed empowering local authorities to provide new services such as day nurseries, health visitors and child welfare clinics.

  

1918

Under the Education Act all children have to attend school until the age of 14 and half-time work for children is abolished.

  

1918

Marie Stopes  (1880-1958) publishes her pioneering book on sex, Married Love.

  

1919

The National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies changes its name to the National Union of Societies of Equal Citizenship. Millicent Garrett Fawcett  retires and the leadership is taken over by Eleanor Rathbone  (1872-1946).

  

1919

The Registration of Nurses Act is introduced following a campaign by the nursing pioneer Ethel Fenwick (1857-1947).

  

1919

The Sex Disqualification Removal Act is passed ensuring women's entry into the professions. For the first time women could become lawyers, vets, and civil servants.

  

1919

On 28 November Nancy Astor  (1879-1964) is elected MP for Plymouth Sutton and becomes the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons.

  

1919

Save the Children is set up by Eglantyne Jebb, (1876-1928) following her experiences with refugee children during the First World War.

  

1919

The German revolutionist, Rosa Luxembourg, is assassinated.

  

1919

Elaine Burton is the first woman to race in shorts at the English Northern Counties Athletic Champions.

  

1919

French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen (1899-1938) wins Wimbledon for the first time. She shocks the world by insisting on playing in a short dress.

  


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