‘The unit of the co-operative movement … is a woman’
Gender and the development of the co-operative business model in Britain
in Mainstreaming co-operation
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This chapter traces the growth of Rochdale model consumer co-operatives in nineteenth and early twentieth century Britain, highlighting the ways in which gender shaped, complicated, and sometimes constrained co-operative development. The chapter explores the gendered division of labour and its impact on the developing movement, which politicised household consumption which was mostly performed by women. Subsequent sections highlight women’s economic importance to the movement as consumers and explore the barriers to women’s participation, arguing that despite the movement’s commitment to gender equality in membership, women’s consumer power did not translate to high levels of female membership and participation in co-operative leadership in this period.

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