"ladies are only admitted to the library if accompanied by a Fellow of the College or furnished with a letter of introduction"
Suffragettes gathered in Manchester Census Lodge to boycott the 1911 census
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSuffragettes gathered in Manchester Census Lodge to boycott the 1911 census - Credit: Johnny Cyprus, Wikimedia Commons

During  the early decades of the 20th. century, the standing of women in society was very different from how it is today.

In the wake of vigorous and courageous campaigning by members of the suffragette movement, women  over 30 who were householders, married to householders, or in possession of a university degree had been granted the franchise  (the right to vote in political elections and referendums) in 1918, but it was not until 1928 that this right was extended to all women over 21.

There were also discrepancies between the sexes in the world of education: although both boys and girls benefitted from the Education Act of 1870 (which made education between the ages of 5-10 compulsory) and that of 1918 (which raised the school-leaving age to 14), it was more difficult for women than for men to obtain a university education. All-women colleges were set up at the Universities of London, Oxford and Cambridge from the late 1840's onwards, but female students did not usually have the same rights as their male counterparts. For example, at Oxford University although women were allowed to attend lectures and take exams from 1884 onwards, they were not awarded degrees until 1920. 

Difficulties in obtaining higher education naturally limited entry to those professions requiring a degree. Thus, although there were significant increases in the numbers of women working in teaching, nursing and clerical jobs during the early years of the 20th century, they were still not represented in most of the professions. By 1910, there had never been, for example, a female diplomat, barrister or judge. It was also often obligatory, as well as the social 'norm', during this period for women to give up their work when they married. Interestingly, in spite of contemporary  equal opportunities for men and women in terms of university education, women remain under-represented in the higher echelons of public and professional life, and industry.