Women’s organisations and feminism in interwar Scotland

Wright, Valerie (2008) Women’s organisations and feminism in interwar Scotland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Printed Thesis Information: https://eleanor.lib.gla.ac.uk/record=b2646643


The aim of this thesis is to contribute to the growing historiography which questions the theory that feminism was diminished in the interwar years following the partial enfranchisement of women in 1918. It highlights that a diverse range of women’s organisations were thriving in interwar Scotland. This includes the outwardly feminist Glasgow Society for Equal Citizenship (GSEC) and Edinburgh Women Citizens Association (EWCA); the Scottish Cooperative Women’s Guild (the Guild), which was a largely based in urban working-class areas; and finally the Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes (the Rurals), which provides a rural comparison. Therefore a range of geographical and political contexts within Scotland are considered.
This work explores the differing ways in which these organisations could be termed ‘feminist’, which involves questioning the way that feminism and feminist activism was defined in the interwar period. Each organisation had its own political concerns and demands, which highlight both differences and similarities between the organisations under consideration. However, all of these organisations were ultimately concerned with improving the lives of its members and empowering them. The attempts made by each organisation to achieve these aims are considered in relation to a working definition of feminism in order to determine the extent to which each organisation was ‘feminist’ in its activities.
In addition, this thesis also addresses the double marginalisation of Scottish women in the established historiography. Scottish women are overwhelmingly neglected in accounts of British feminism in the interwar years. Research has tended to focus on developments in the national feminist movement, as represented by national organisations and prominent English feminists. Within such work ‘British’ can often translate as ‘English’. Recent contributions to the historiography of interwar feminism have, with few exceptions, continued this trend, although such research perhaps more explicitly focuses on England. Women are also marginalised within the discipline of Scottish history, which largely neglects women’s experiences of, and contributions to, Scottish society. While there are exceptions, the extent of attempts to include women in the narrative of Scottish history in published research often amounts to case studies or chapters on ‘gender’, rather than systematic and comprehensive inclusion of the female experience.
This thesis therefore provides an in depth account of the diversity of interwar women’s organisations in Scotland, which builds upon recent studies of women’s political experiences in interwar Scotland, and also contributes to the wider historiography of interwar feminism. It also places women’s political experience in this period within the broader Scottish historiography, thereby including women in accounts of interwar political culture, as well as challenging the neglect of women in the historiography relating to interwar Scotland.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Women's Organisations, Feminism, Gender, Scotland, Motherhood, Citizenship, Co-operation, Interwar period, Glasgow Society for Equal Citizenship, Edinburgh Women Citizens' Association, Scottish Co-operative Women's Guild, Scottish Women's Rural Institutes, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth, Falkirk, Dundee, Ayrshire, Stirlingshire
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Economics
Supervisor's Name: Gordon, Prof. Eleanor and Hughes, Dr. Annmarie
Date of Award: 2008
Depositing User: Dr Valerie Wright
Unique ID: glathesis:2008-475
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2008
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2015 10:35
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/475

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