From the 1890s, women who wanted to work through political parties no longer faced a stark choice between Liberalism and Conservatism. A growing socialist movement drew in many women members, particularly at local level where they became active in party branches and participated in a wealth of cultural organisations. For women on the left, the newly emerging socialist parties offered full membership and distinctive opportunities. The Independent Labour Party (ILP) took self-conscious pride in its ability to attract and retain women members. Women were also active in the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) and, from 1906, in the Labour Party. The latter’s commitment to women’s suffrage encouraged the development of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) Election Fighting Fund, which established a formidable alliance between suffragists and Labour before the First World War. In more recent years, the interplay between labour history and women’s history has encouraged research on socialist women. Thus we have more information about their political work before the First World War than exists for their liberal or conservative contemporaries.
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