Women and the 1832 Reform Act

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 1832 Reform Act

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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The Reform Act of 1832 stands as one of the defining moments in the political history of Britain, yet its implications for women and their involvement in its passage remain underexplored. The reform bill pertaining to Scotland did not specify that the parliamentary voter should be male. It presumably did not occur to those drafting the Scottish legislation that such clarification was necessary; whereas the gender-specific wording of the statutes covering England, Wales, and Ireland suggests an awareness that there was a theoretical possibility that it might be otherwise open to challenge. These differences are indicative of the subtle fissures in seemingly dominant assumptions concerning female citizenship. This chapter examines how, within the interstices of parliamentary legislation, there were many such moments of telling indeterminacy in the collective understanding of women as political subjects. It also explores the notion of women as ‘borderline citizens’, women in parliament and their political rights from 1830 to 1832, women's involvement in the campaign for reform, and the impact of the reform crisis on female subjectivities.

Keywords: Reform Act of 1832; Britain; female citizenship; borderline citizens; parliament; political rights; reform crisis; female subjectivities

Chapter.  14106 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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