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How Women Progressed in Politics

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18-39 (interwar years) use source 9 as evidence.

-8.5 million Women over the age of 30 gained the right to vote in 1918.

-Eleanor Rathbone argued for the latter and dismissed calls for equal roles and responsibilities with men as “me too” feminism; she lead the formation of the NCEC, while her opponents formed the national union of townswomen’s guilds.

-women made important contributions to social and welfare reforms, such as the 1923 Bastardy act (which allowed children born before marriage to be recognised as legitimate after their parents were married).

 -Only 17 women stood as parliamentary candidates and only 1 was elected, the number of female MPs remained low throughout the interwar years.

 -While organisations such as NUSEC were large and well run they lacked the sort of expertise and local arty machinery to help launch an effective women's party.

- Although the main parties recognised the need to try to cultivate female participation, they were unwilling to risk losing a safe seat by selecting a female candidate.

-One pioneering female MP, Edith Summerskill, reflected that the house of commons was like a boys school which had decided to take a few girls.

-female groups were incorporated into national organisations, where they were outnumbered by men: two conservative women groups joined the national union of conservative association, while labour allowed 4 female representatives of the women’s sections to sit on the main policy making committee, the national executive.


-By 1939 there were more women, such as Nancy Astor and Eleanor Rathbone, with a good deal of parliamentary experience, who were able to address specifically female issues that had been the case in the years immediately after 1918.

- Female politicians abandoned strict party loyalty in favour of cross-party co-operation.

- In 1940 Astor set up the women power committee to investigate and promote female-specific issues.  

- In march 1941, minister of labour Ernest Bevin set up the women’s consultative committee to manage female participation in the war economy more effectively.

- The investigation of female MPs such as Maud Tate in debates about compensation for wartime injuries led to the introduction of equal compensation for both genders in April 1943.

- However despite similar interventions in debates over work and pay, female MPs were unable to secure legislation that would have rewarded equal work between the genders with equal pay.

-before 1943 women had previously received 35p a week less than men.


(women in post war politics)

-women who did win a seat tended to have exceptional qualities; once in parliament, they stood a higher chance of promotion to ministerial office. Wilson 1964 contained seven of the 18 female labour MPs.

- The post war generation of f MPs were more determined to be seen as well-rounded politicians rather than simply advocates for women issues.

-It took the growth of an extra parliamentary women’s movement in the 1970s to put female-specific issues back on the agenda.

-Having asserted themselves effectively during the war, women were unable to press home possible gains in terms of female representations in parliament.

- In 1945-1955, there was just 24 females out of the 630 MPs in the house of commons; in 1974, the figure remained a lowly 23 out of 635 MPs. (same as before 1939)

-women were rarely risked in safe seats and so had to overcome large opposition majorities to gain a seat.

- The loss of cross–party cohesion weakened the advocacy of female rights in parliament after 1945.




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