Rebel women between the wars

Fearless writers and adventurers

Sarah Lonsdale
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The interwar years were a challenge to the women’s movement, which was somewhat becalmed and lacking direction after the suffrage victories of 1918 and 1928. While legislation aimed at removing sex discrimination from the workplace was enacted after the First World War, other laws, attitudes and traditions pressurised women to return to traditional gender roles that some had escaped from during the war. Nevertheless, by the outbreak of the Second World War women from all walks of life and in most professions had made steady progress in their search for equality, and the position of women in 1939 was unrecognisable from that in 1919. This book aims to establish how certain women were able to break through the obstacles ranged against them and achieve personal, professional and political fulfilment, and in so doing it formulates a framework for participation for other subjugated and marginalised groups. Taking the structure of a group biography of thirteen understudied and very different women, and using previously unpublished archival material, the book uncovers, on a granular level, the dispositions, skills and personal relationships that these women were endowed with that helped them achieve participation in the public world of work and politics. Each chapter examines a different participation strategy, from direct action to the use of formal networks, which different women employed to gain access to a range of areas barred to them, from politics, to engineering, to mountaineering, to foreign correspondence and humanitarian activism.

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