Photograph shows Italian opera singer Claudia Muzio (1889-1936). (Source: Flickr Commons project, 2014)
The beginning of the twentieth century was a period of dramatic change for women in the West. In the late Victorian period women were constricted by a patriarchal social structure. But the early twentieth century saw the creation of the Suffragette movement, the catalyst for the rapid social change that occurred over the rest of the century. With career options other than marriage and motherhood opening up to them, women engaged with politics, served in the two world wars, made an impact on the artistic and literary worlds and experienced social and sexual liberation. Between 1880 and 1910, the number of women employed in the United States increased from 2.6 million to 7.8 million. Women's organizations in towns and cities across the U.S. were working to promote suffrage, better schools, the regulation of child labor, women in unions, and liquor prohibition. By emphasizing traditional traits, female social reformers created new spaces for themselves in local and then national government even before they had the right to vote.