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Britain and the Great War: A Timeline

Explore the years leading up to 1919, the year in which STC’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor is set.

1914: In June, Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is assassinated in Sarajevo. In a rapid chain reaction, the majority of European countries declare war on each other.

1916: Jennie Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston, acknowledges in her book Women’s War Work that war can have at least one positive consequence: women’s liberation. “It is one of the chief virtues of war that it puts the light, which in peacetime is hid under a bushel, in such prominence that all can see it.”

1917: George V changes the name of the ruling dynasty to the House of Windsor to distance himself from his German relatives. Hearing this on his way to the theatre, Kaiser Wilhelm announces that he is about to attend a performance of “The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.”

1918: Marie Stopes’ Married Love brings the issues of sexual love and contraception out into the open using straightforward and accessible advice.

Feb. 1918: The Representation of the People Act extends the vote to men over 21 and women over 30—but only if they pay taxes or are married to a taxpaper.

Nov. 1918: At 11 o’clock on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year, fighting ceases with an Armistice between Germany and the Allies.

1919: Men come back to work from the war, displacing their female counterparts.

Nov. 1919: Lady Nancy Astor is elected to the House of Commons and becomes the first female Member of Parliament.

Dec. 1919: Parliament removes all existing limits on female access to the major professions, including banking, accountancy, engineering and law. They remain excluded from the Church, high-ranking civil service and medicine.

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