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Labour Women

Labour Women
Women in British Working Class Politics, 1918–1939


  • Date Published: February 1994
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521459198

£ 31.99

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About the Authors
  • After winning the vote in 1918, many thousands of working class women joined the Labour Party and Co-operative Movement. This book is about their struggle to find a place in the male world of organised labour politics. In the twenties, labour women challenged male leaders to give them equal status and support for their reform programmes, but the ideas were rejected. For most labour women, dedication to the class cause far outweighed their desire for power, and the struggle for 'women-power' was abandoned. Consequently, despite the common reform agendas of labour women and the middle class feminists of the era, a working alliance was never achieved. Labour Women uses oral and questionnaire testimony to draw a portrait of grass-roots activists. It contrasts labour women's failure to win power in the national organisations with their great achievements in community politics, poor law administration and municipal government.

    • Accessible history of the Labour Party between the wars
    • Uses oral and questionnaire evidence to draw an accurate picture of working class women in politics
    • Compares work of labour women with that of labour men and middle class feminists
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… an invaluable close study of the issues and debates in the Labour Women's Organization, especially during the 1920s … this book has important implications for both the feminist movement and the Labour Movement.' Martin Pugh, The Times Literary Supplement

    'To read the conventional accounts, you would think that Labour was built as a men-only party. Pamela Graves's pioneering study shows the limitations of that view, and provides a fascinating and important account of the female side of the growth of the British Labour movement in the inter-war period … This book will be of interest both to feminist historians and to all those who wish to understand the development of political parties in Britain.' Ben Pimlott, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History, Birkbeck College

    'Most welcome. A sane and intelligent account of the role and work of Labour women between the wars, caught as they were between sympathy with middle class feminism and solidairy with patriarchal working class socialsim.' Patricia Hollis, University of East Anglia

    '… a major contribution to feminist left wing history … a must for anyone working on twentieth century politics.' Open History

    'A rich and revealing study of the labour women who tried - and failed - to win the Labour Party and Co-operative movement to a politics of sexual equality and a programme of woman-centred social reforms. A very good book.' Anne Phillips, Professor of Politics, London Guildhall University

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 1994
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521459198
    • length: 300 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.44kg
    • contains: 9 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. The doors are open - women's entry into Labour politics
    2. Their devotion was about equal - women and men in interwar working-class politics
    3. But the seats are reserved for men - the gender struggles of the twenties
    4. A sex question or a class question? - Labour women and feminism in the twenties
    5. Helping others - women in local labour politics
    6. Doing our bit to see that the people are not dragged down - class struggle in the thirties

  • Author

    Pamela M. Graves

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