Women and the family in political culture

Kathryn Gleadle

in Borderline Citizens

Published by British Academy

Published in print September 2009 | ISBN: 9780197264492
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734274 | DOI:

Series: British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship Monographs

Women and the family in political culture

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Historians of feminism, such as Jane Rendall, have demonstrated how the family was construed as a vital locus of civic virtue in Enlightenment histories, evangelical moralizing, and revolutionary politics. More recently, scholars of elite politics have demonstrated that family networks of patronage and electoral influence were critical to the functioning of parliamentary politics. Within the family, gendered roles which privileged the position of the male head of the household remained remarkably enduring, a factor which complicated the construction of female political subjectivity. The family was an important forum for the constitution of political culture and women were sometimes fully implicated in this. It was a process which could — but did not inevitably — result in the construction of empowering female subjectivities. Whilst the bland imprecision of ‘female influence’ acknowledged women's potential for political input within the family, it obscured the complexities of exercising such sway within the actuality of family relations and underplayed the significance of broader cultural currents which prioritized wifely submission.

Keywords: family; political culture; politics; gendered roles; political subjectivity; female influence

Chapter.  13158 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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