Suffrage dominated the women’s movement for half a century, but most campaigners never saw their work as being limited to the vote alone. They hoped voting would enable women to overturn sexual inequalities themselves, and transform the gendered structures of the Edwardian state. After the 1918 Representation of the People Act, feminists followed different paths towards achieving their wider goals. For those whose feminism was shaped by conservative, liberal or socialist ideology, the possibility of equal membership convinced them to put their energies into the political parties which were attempting to integrate women into their structures. Others rejected mixed-sex organisations in an effort to retain the autonomy of the suffrage movement by working collectively with other women beyond the confines of party politics. The failure of the Woman’s Party experiment in 1918 confounded hopes for a feminisation of politics via an autonomous sex-based party. This left the women’s movement working on several demands across a number of different pressure groups, often with overlapping memberships, which lacked the coherence of the suffrage movement. Some of these were reconfigured versions of older suffrage organisations; others represented new developments responding to broader societal changes. Shifts continued after the Second World War, when the groups that formed in 1920s were confronted with an emerging generation of activists with no experience or memory of the Edwardian women’s movement.
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- Beyond Party Politics — the Reconfiguration of Feminist Organisations, 1920–79
- Macmillan Education UK
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