“The effects of war on the role and status of women were mostly beneficial.” Discuss with reference to two wars.

From the May 2017 final exam:

“The effects of war on the role and status of women were mostly beneficial.” Discuss with reference to two wars. 

  One of the rare attempts to answer a question focusing solely on women for an IBDP final exam in History, limiting students' choices of actual questions to succeed in. With the changes to the course imposed in 2017, students were made to focus less on History than on the IBO's ideology. Thus only two questions per topic, one often so narrow in focus (specifically on women or minorities) that one could teach the whole of the First and Second World Wars only for students to be unable to answer any. As a result, whereas roughly 20% of students worldwide are rewarded with 7s for B&M and Economics, a mere 1.5% score top marks in History, further decimating numbers of those choosing to take the course.

This ended up receiving a grade of 10/15; with examiner's comments:


Example II:


Examining the impact of war on society reveals transformative dynamics that extend beyond the military and political spheres. Notably, the role and status of women have often changed significantly as a result of war. This essay will explore the effects of two major 20th-century conflicts – the First and Second World Wars – on the role and status of women, focusing primarily on the UK and the US. 

World War I: A Shift in Women's Roles

With the advent of World War I, women in the UK and the US faced new responsibilities and opportunities as men left for the battlefield. Women filled jobs previously dominated by men in factories, offices, and farms. Their participation was essential in maintaining the economies during the war and led to an expansion of women's roles beyond the domestic sphere. British historian Arthur Marwick argues in "Women at War 1914-1918" that the war had a liberating effect on women. As they stepped into roles as munitions workers, nurses, and other occupations supporting the war effort, women began to challenge traditional gender norms. Furthermore, Marwick contends that the war helped to empower women politically, as their invaluable contributions to the war effort bolstered arguments for women's suffrage, leading to the extension of voting rights to certain groups of women in the UK in 1918 and in the US in 1920. However, the assertion that these effects were mostly beneficial is contestable. While the war did provide opportunities for women to enter new professions and gain political rights, it did not necessarily lead to a lasting change in gender norms. After the war, women were often expected to return to their pre-war domestic roles to make way for returning soldiers in the job market. 

World War II: Further Expansion and Retraction z

World War II further expanded the roles of women as they once again stepped into roles left vacant by men. In the UK, women were conscripted into work and even non-combat military roles, which was a first in British history. In the US, women known as "Rosie the Riveter" took on jobs in industries such as shipbuilding and aircraft production, symbolising women's economic power. Historian Emily Yellin in her book "Our Mothers' War" describes the impact of World War II as a "watershed moment" for American women. The war challenged traditional gender roles, as women successfully performed tasks previously deemed beyond their capability. This bolstered the argument for gender equality and set the stage for the feminist movements of the 1960s and 1970s. However, like World War I, the effects of World War II on the status of women were not entirely beneficial or permanent. Post-war societies often saw a reassertion of traditional gender norms. In the US, for instance, women were encouraged to give up their jobs to returning soldiers and become homemakers, resulting in a decline in female workforce participation in the immediate post-war years. 

In assessing the impact of the First and Second World Wars on the role and status of women, it is clear that the effects of war were significant but mixed. While women in the UK and the US saw expanded opportunities and gained some political rights, the wars did not completely dismantle gender norms or ensure gender equality. The notion of war being 'beneficial' to women's status needs to be treated with caution. While it did create circumstances that allowed women to challenge societal norms and push for their rights, the gender progress made during these wars was often met with significant backlash in the post-war periods, demonstrating that war alone was insufficient to bring about lasting gender equality.