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The years covered in this book encompass major shifts and changes in the lives of women. Material benefits such as progress in public health, a decline in family sizes and higher standards of living vastly improved the quality of life for many. Meanwhile, greater access to educational provision, both at the secondary and tertiary level, combined with new openings in many employment sectors, significantly widened opportunities, particularly for those in the upper working and middle classes. Equally, by the end of the period, major legislative advances had been achieved, not least the 1882 Married Women’s Property Act. Such triumphs were considerably indebted to the feminist movement, which, by this date, had become influential and highly organised (if still diverse). Women had also been brought closer into the ambit of formal party politics, as the Women’s Liberal Federation, in particular, testifies. All these developments were of immense significance to the lives, opportunities and aspirations of contemporary women.
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