The book focuses on the key areas necessary to explain the development of women’s role in nineteenth and early-twentieth century British society and develops themes explored in the Nineteenth Century British Society series.
The first chapter considers the relationship between different approaches that have evolved to explain the role of women in history. This is followed by a chapter that looks at the ways in which women were represented in the nineteenth century in terms of the female body, sexuality and the notion of ‘separate spheres’. Chapter 3 explores the relationship between women and work and how that relationship developed. Although women’s suffrage has had a symbolic importance for generations of feminists, the campaign for the vote has obscured the broader agitations for women’s rights during the nineteenth century and was, in terms of its impact before 1914, far less significant. Before the 1880s, the focus was not on winning the vote and the demand for parliamentary suffrage was only one of a range of campaigns. These are explored in Chapter 4.
The following two chapters look at the ways in which women actively sought access to the public sphere through political activity and demands for suffrage reform. Women’s interest in securing access to political rights was not limited to the campaign for parliamentary suffrage. Women, from working- and middle-classes were involved in political protest such as the Chartist movement and in campaigns against slavery and the Corn Laws. The growing powers given to various levels of local government also attracted their keen interest and in the arena of local party politics women were to play a prominent role as early as the 1870s.
It was not until the first decade of the twentieth century that the suffrage movement achieved widespread national recognition largely through the activities of the militant Suffragettes. The nature of the suffrage campaign is considered in Chapter 7 while reactions to this from anti-suffragists, political parties and different social groups form the core of Chapter 8. The impact of the First World War on women generally and the suffrage campaign in particular is discussed in Chapter 9. The book ends with an examination of the notion of ‘borderlands’ as a conceptual framework for discussing women in nineteenth century Britain and the ways in which their personal, ideological, economic, legal and political status developed and changed.
This book will be published in print media in the middle of 2012 and this will shortly be followed by a Kindle version.