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1900 - 1950 AD

from a perspective of women in the Church



before Christ
0-100 AD

The first half of the twentieth century was dominated by the two costly World Wars.

Tens of millions of lives were lost. Cities and towns destroyed. Populations displaced. Political systems overthrown. Cultures and social classes jumbled up. The boundaries of countries redrawn in dramatic ways.

Paradoxically, the wars accelerated the emancipation of women.

The reasons for this were many:
(a) in the 'total war' effort women had to assume new tasks in engineering, production, transport and even in the army itself;
(b) women proved more than capable in performing demanding leadership tasks, so disproving ancient prejudice;
(c) traditional and conservative social forces were being replaced by more liberal and progressive systems.

The heroes of this time in a country like the UK were the Suffragettes who campaigned for women to have the vote. They took direct action. They chained themselves to railings, set fire to mailbox contents, smashed windows and on occasions threw bombs. In return they were jailed, tortured and force-fed when they went on hunger strike. In 1918, the UK gave limited voting rights to women.

A Catholic parallel to the Suffragettes was St Joan's International Alliance (from 1911). They would be the first to also take up the cause of women's ordination in the Roman Catholic Church.

The Pankhurst sisters were leaders of the Suffragettes, the women in the UK who campaigned for the vote.


First Decade. Women become bolder

Social Emancipation of women 1900 to 1909

German women demand higher education March - 1900
First time women in Olympic Games July - 1900
UK women's trade union meets October - 1900
First communal vote for women, Norway December - 1901
Feet-binding banned in China February - 1902
Textile workers call for votes for women February - 1902
Glasgow barmaids win ruling May - 1902
Prussia forbids political grouping of women May - 1902
Women get vote in Connecticut elections September - 1903
Mrs Emmeline Pankhurst founds society October - 1903
Hospital for women in Waterloo October - 1903
Norwegion parliament blocks women's vote November - 1903
First woman to win Nobel prize : Marie Curie December - 1903
Pope attacks low-cut dresses of women January - 1904
Women's suffrage bill forced out, London May - 1905
First suffragettes imprisoned October - 1905
Bertha von Suttner wins Nobel Peace prize December - 1905
Women pParticipate in British election campaign February - 1906
Women over 24 get the vote in Finland March - 1906
Women urged not to play "rough sports" March - 1906
Women disrupt Parliament in the UK as motion is blocked April - 1906
Top suffragettes meet British premier June - 1906
Women banned from "dangerous sport" in Britain June - 1906
Eleven Suffragettes jailed October - 1906
Keir Hardie's female emancipation bill November - 1906
Suffragettes on hunger strike December - 1906
Women's education under Persian Shah January - 1907
Suffragettes clash with police; arrests February - 1907
Finns elect women MPs, first in world March - 1907
Hardie's bill is defeated March - 1907
Women's Labour League first conference May - 1907
Women employed equally in Austrian universities August - 1907
German Women's Congress on anti-militarism August - 1907
Suffragettes drown out Asquith's speech November - 1907
Pre-marital affidavits on good character of women December - 1907
Suffragettes raid six ministers' homes' January - 1908
New York woman arrested for smoking January - 1908
Emmeline Pankhurst tells of prison life February - 1908
"Women's Parliament" meets February - 1908
Denmark chooses universal suffrage April - 1908
Automatic divorce law in France June - 1908
200,000 support suffragettes at rally June - 1908
Barmaids banned in New Zealand January - 1909
Desertion of wife not grounds for divorce February - 1909
Russian prosecutor stops woman barrister November - 1909
French Law favours pregnant women November - 1909
Emancipation heroine celebrated in Shaw's play December - 1909


Second decade. The First World War (1914-1918)


Social Emancipation 1910 to 1919

November - 1909
Divorce too expensive for poor women, Britain
November - 1912
Divorce Commission wants equal treatment for women
February - 1913
Mrs Pankhurst charged with bomb attack
February - 1913
Russian government bars women lawyers
April - 1913
International Women's Peace Conference
May - 1913
Why women dress up, by psychiatrist
September - 1913
Emil Dawson, first woman magistrate, UK
July - 1913
Woman in split skirt arrested in London
October - 1913
Women are inferior, says Almroth Wright
January - 1914
First woman to do aerial loop-the-loop
February - 1914
Women admitted to Turkish universities
March - 1914
Mary Richardson slashes Velazquez art
July - 1914
Problems of women factory workers, UK
September - 1914
Queen starts war "Work for Women" fund
November - 1914
Sewing guilds to make clothes for war
March - 1915
Government wants women war workers, promises equal pay
March - 1915
Special army battalion of women created
March - 1915
International Women Socialists call for peace
October - 1915
Women can apply to be bus, tram conductors
November - 1915
Women factory workers double production
November - 1915
First fully employed women in Scotland Yard
January - 1916
Two million more women employed in Britain
February - 1916
Plan for 400,000 women in UK to till fields
February - 1916
British government promises equal pay
March - 1916
Committee blasts "extravagant dresses" of women
March - 1916
Women dockers strike over male prejudice
June - 1916
Women to receive Military Medal
July - 1916
Queen Mary opens Women's Hospital
October - 1916
Dr Mary Scharlieb says whores cause VD
October - 1916
First birth control clinic, New York
November - 1916
First woman member of US Congress
November - 1916
3.2 million women work outside home in Britain
February - 1917
Women taxi drivers; non-military scheme
June - 1917
First women's battalion, Russia
September - 1917
200,000 women work on land in wartime Britain
October - 1917
Labour Parry educates and organises women
December - 1917
Dr Anderson, first UK woman doctor, dies
July - 1918
Marie Stopes on sex and birth control
August - 1918
Million women factory-workers, USA
August - 1918
London Underground strike for equal pay
August - 1918
Revolutionary woman attacks Lenin; he survives
September - 1918
Women railway workers settle dispute
October - 1918
Commons votes to allow women MPs
November - 1918
100 women police patrols in London
December - 1918
Women vote in British election for first time
December - 1918
17 women among candidates; one elected
March - 1919
Nationalist Moslem women protest in Egypt
March - 1919
1.2 million more women worked during War
November - 1919
Nancy Astor is first woman MP
December - 1919
Sex Disqualification Removal Bill passed
December - 1919
First woman bar student, Lincoln's Inn

The First Mennonite Church in downtown Philadelphia where the first woman in this century was ordained

The Mennonites are Anabaptists who followed church reformer Menno Simons (1496–1561)

Women's ordination 1910 - 1919

First Mennonite Church of Philadelphia
Ann Allebach was the first Mennonite woman to be ordained.
Assemblies of God
Church ordained its first woman clergy
The Pope forbids the veneration of images representing Mary as Priest -fearing they foster the hope women will be ordained
Congregationalist Church (England and Wales)
Ordained their first woman, Constance Coltman, at the King's Weigh House, London


Church documents on women 1910 - 1919

Church of England



Third decade. Women's rights advance

Social Emancipation 1920-1929

April - 1920 Women picket British embassy for Ireland
May - 1920 France beats England at women's football
June - 1920 International Feminist Congress on Geneva
January - 1921 First female jurors in Divorce Court in the UK
February - 1921 Unemployment benefits raised for women
March - 1921 First UK birth control clinic opens
April - 1922 Massachusetts public offices opened to women
May - 1922 Less hardship for divorced women in bill
May - 1922 Dr Ivy Williams, first woman lawyer called to bar
June - 1922 First woman president of Co-operative
August - 1922 First congress of Feminine Athletics
September - 1922 Women get equal citizenship rights in the USA
February - 1923 Coco Chanel's new liberated fashions
February - 1923 Lords' coercion ruling in Britain
March - 1923 Matrimonial Causes Bill introduces equal divorces
April - 1923 First woman admitted to Academie Français
May - 1923 First broadcast of BBC's "Woman's Hour"
June - 1923 Mrs Hilton Philipson is third woman MP
June - 1923 Women can divorce husbands for adultery in new UK law
February - 1924 First woman to practise at Old Bailey
March - 1924 Late night working banned for women by USA court
May - 1924 YWCA say "dress to succeed"
July - 1924 Catholic women's group support modest dress
February - 1926 Dr Russell warns of drugs and tobacco
April - 1926 Mussolini shocked by Violet Gibson shot
April - 1926 Guild of women wants no strikes or lockouts
June - 1926 Women can be elected to public office in India
August - 1926 First woman to swim Channel (breaks record)
October - 1926 Italian women cannot hold public office
September - 1927 Short hair and "avant-garde" bobs are in
October - 1927 First women-only horse race at Newmarket
December - 1928 Hall's "Well of Loneliness" on lesbians
December - 1928 Abolition of veil for women sparks Afghan revolt
March - 1929 Women given limited divorce rights in Egypt
May - 1929 Thirteen women elected in British general election
June - 1929 First UK woman minister : Margaret Bondfield
June - 1929 World Congress on Women's Work in Berlin

Izabella Wilucka-Kowalski, ordained bishop in the Old Catholic Mariavite Church

The Mariavites split off from the Catholic Church in Poland and, originally, joined the Union of Old Catholic Churches

Church documents on women 1920 - 1929

Church of England
Pope Benedict XV
canonizes Joan of Arc
Pope Pius XI
Communion to be refused to women wearing 'immodest' dress: blouses with low cut neck lines; skirts or shorts which expose the upper portions of the legs; clothing which is sheer; tight-fitting dresses such as trousers
Pope Pius XI
United Church of Canada

Women's ordination 1920 - 1929

Some Baptist denominations
Begin to ordain women

Old Catholic Mariavite Church in Poland

The priesthood for women was introduced and Izabela Wilucka was ordained first woman bishop


Fourth decade. The economic depression

Social Emancipation 1930 to 1939

January - 1930 Agree retirement on marriage
April - 1930 First woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia
June - 1930 Trades unionists protest at "invasion" of women
August - 1930 476,041 women unemployed in Britain
March - 1931 Feminists condemn new long skirt fashion
July - 1931 Civil service open to women
April - 1932 Elizabeth Scott's Shakespeare Theatre
August - 1932 Mildred Didrikson breaks Olympic records
May - 1933 Marlene Dietrich trend : menswear for women
November - 1933 No woman in new Nazi Reichstag, Germany
August - 1934 Fourth Women's World Games; German triumph
September - 1934 Polish conscription for men and women
October - 1935 New trend among women: slimming exercises to music
February - 1936 Laura Knight, first woman in Royal Academy
May - 1936 First BBC women announcers
September - 1936 Beryl Markham, first Atlantic woman solo
November - 1936 Marriage Bill widens women's grounds for divorce
January - 1937 Turkey to conscript women in wartime
June - 1937 First woman owner to win Derby
February- 1938 Miss M. J. Ahern manages John Lewis
December- 1938 Dodds new drug to ease menopause
May - 1939 Woman fellow at male Oxford college
June - 1939 Women's League of Health and Beauty in the UK
July - 1939 Women's Auxiliary Air Force formed in the UK

Amelia Earhart, who crossed the Atlantic in solo flight and the German film star Marlene Dietrich introduced trousers for women

Women wearing trousers signalled the ultimate rebellion of women against established norms

Church documents 1930 - 1939

Church of England
Church of England

women's ordination 1930 - 1939


United Church of Canada

Starts ordaining women

United Methodist Church

first women ordained


Fifth decade. The Second World War (1940-1945)

Social Emancipation 1940 to 1949

March - 1944 Women teachers in the UK allowed to marry
March - 1944 UK women teachers to get same pay as men
July - 1944 New homes in UK to be fit for housewives
December - 1944 Queen Elizabeth praises war work of women
January - 1946 First GI brides leave UK for USA
April - 1946 Women vote for first time in Japanese election
June - 1947 UK minister advocates more women in work
September - 1947 Public debate for and against 'longer skirts'
February - 1948 Woman becomes manager of Shakespeare Theatre in the UK
February - 1948 Women's Service Bill passed in the UK
February - 1948 Women's Royal Air Force formed in the UK
February - 1948 Women's Royal Army Corps formed in the UK
June - 1948 Penson is first UK woman vice-chancellor
April - 1949 Women's RAF and Wwomen's RAC incorporated in UK forces
July - 1949 Lords in the UK to admit peeresses
December - 1949 Classic feminist book, "The Second Sex", by Simone de Beauvoir

Women's ordination 1940 - 1949

Anglican communion, Hong Kong
Czechoslovak Hussite Church
Starts ordaining women
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark
Starts ordaining women.
Church of England
Old Catholic Church (in the U.S.)
First women ordained

John Wijngaards

Previous Century

1950 - 2000