Feminist history in the United Kingdom


Feminist history in the United Kingdom

Feminist history in the United Kingdom covers part of the Feminism movement in the United Kingdom from 1800 to the present day.

19th century

The advent of the reformist age during the 19th century meant that those invisible minorities or marginalised majorities were to find a catalyst and a microcosm in such new tendencies of reform. Robert Owen, while asking for "social reorganisation", was laying down the basis of a new reformational background. One of those movements that took advantage of such new spirit was the feminist movement. Activists such as Emmeline Pankhurst were trying to show that British women needed more than domestic servility. The stereotype of the Victorian gentle lady became unacceptable and even intolerable. The first organised movement for British women's suffrage was the Langham Place Circle of the 1850s, lead by Barbara Bodichon ("née" Leigh-Smith) and Bessie Rayner Parkes. They also campaigned for improved female rights in the law, employment, education, and marriage.

20th century

World War I helped to advance the feminist cause, as women were much needed by the UK heavy industry at the time, and those working women became accustomed to their new-found economic independence.

The 20th century also saw the first and to date the only female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher, who served office from 1979 to 1990, has been viewed with mixed feelings from feminists who either feel she was a positive or detrimental cause to the feminism movement [ [http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/david_boaz/2006/04/the_queen_the_prime_minister_a.html Margaret Thatcher: a feminist success story - Guardian] [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1895781/Margaret-Thatcher-The-housewife-with-power.html Margaret Thatcher: The housewife with power - The Telegraph] [ [http://www.newstatesman.com/199903050013 New feminism, droning on about nail polish and toilet cleaning, is just a branch office of capitalism - New Statesman] .

21st century

Since 2007 Harriet Harman, a well known feminist [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5350450.stm BBC Profile: Harriet Harman] , has been Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, the UK's current governing party. Traditionally being Deputy Leader has ensured the cabinet role of Deputy Prime Minister. However, Gordon Brown announced that he would not have a Deputy Prime Minister, much to the consternation of feminists [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1980533.ece Harman snatches an empty victory - The Times] , particularly with suggestions that privately Brown considers Jack Straw to be de facto deputy prime minister [ [http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23467549-details/Harriet+Harman+will+fill+in++for+Brown+at+Prime+Minister's+Questions+next+week/article.do Harriet Harman will fill in for Brown at Prime Minister's Questions next week - This is London] and thus is bypassing Harman. With Harman's cabinet post of Leader of the House of Commons, Brown has allowed her to chair Prime Minister's Questions when he is out of the country. Harman also holds the post Minister for Women and Equality.

Further reading

* Melanie Phillips; "The Ascent of Woman — A History of the Suffragette Movement and the ideas behind it", Time Warner Book Group London, 2003. ISBN 0-349-11660-1.
* Martin Pugh, "Women and the women's movement in Britain, 1914–1999", Basingstoke [u.a.] : * St. Martin's Press [u.a.] , 2000.
* Barbara Caine, "Victorian Feminists" , Oxford University Press 1992
* [http://www.hastingspress.co.uk/history/19/bodichon.htm Barbara Bodichon] founder of the women's right movement in England.

ee also

* Mary Wollstonecraft
* History of feminism
* The Women's Library (London)


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