Chapter 8 looks at the drastic change in woman’s place in society during this era. Hobsbawm places a lot of importance on the decline in birth rates. He thought there were a few different causes: women marrying later in life (more were marrying in their late twenties), more women staying single for life (and this assumes no illegitimate children), or some kind of birth control being used. All of these reasons are signs of modernization and women taking on a different role in society, no longer clinging to the role of mother and wife. Of course, this decline of birth rates was not seen in third world countries where women maintained their role as wife and mother, or did not have access to birth control.
Also, women were allowed into the work place. Now they started to take on jobs outside of the home, further displacing them from their previous role as caretaker. Hobsbawm makes sure to depict both the development of women, and also display their exploitation. Both women and children were exploited for labor at this time, sadly.
Finally Hobsbawm ends the chapter with the feminist movement, discussions of sexual liberation and birth control, and the push for the right to vote for women. All of these were controversial issues, and it is amazing to me that women went from a place of virtually no rights to the forefront of the discussions of the day. I simply wonder why it took so long, and why women were granted a voice (or just listened to) in this era as opposed to before.