Socialist Women, Feminists and Feminism

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, Feminists and Feminism

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Many contemporary socialist men were antagonistic towards the first-wave feminist movement in Britain, believing that the women's movement ‘deflected the minds of the people from socialist propaganda and socialist activities’. Opinions such as these have led a number of labour and feminist historians to identify the British labour movement as male-dominated and hostile to feminism and the feminist movement. Indeed, it seems that the working men and men of the labour movement were so suspicious of the largely middle-class feminist movement and separate sex organisations, which they regarded as undemocratic, that they advocated a policy whereby socialist women were expected to avoid contact with such organisations to the detriment of feminism and potential coalitions. However, feminism was not the preserve of middle-class women and formal feminist groups. There was a significant number of feminists within the labour movement in Scotland and among working-class women more generally. Although class issues may have remained more important than gender concerns within the labour movement, there were a variety of perspectives on feminism which allowed women to promote gender questions too. Furthermore, while feminists had to compete with anti-feminist ideas, most female activists within the labour movement were feminist in some form or another.

Keywords: labour movement; feminism; feminists; feminist movement; socialist women

Chapter.  12227 words. 

Subjects: Regional and Area Studies

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