Socialist Women, the ILP and the ‘Politics of the Kitchen’

Annmarie Hughes

in Gender and Political Identities in Scotland, 1919-1939

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print May 2010 | ISBN: 9780748639816
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653522 | DOI:
Socialist Women, the ILP and the ‘Politics of the Kitchen’

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Women contributed immensely to improvements in social welfare between the wars. Indeed, it was women who were responsible for placing welfare on the Labour Party's agenda. This benefited both political women and the labour movement, but restricted women to what was labelled ‘the politics of the kitchen’. However, these women also challenged the sexual division of labour by adopting strategies intended to guarantee that marriage and the breadwinner ideal did not ‘subordinate and silence women’. They did so by placing value on the home and ‘home workers’ without simultaneously devaluing women's paid work. They may not have enjoyed immense success, but nonetheless many women did not lose their ‘radical and feminist edge’. Socialist women faced many constraints when advancing their policies, but women's experiences differed over time and across parties and place. In Scotland the Independent Labour Party's domination of labour politics until the party's disaffiliation from the Labour Party in 1932 influenced women's experiences.

Keywords: social welfare; Independent Labour Party; sexual division of labour; home workers; labour movement; political women

Chapter.  10523 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies

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