Historians and political scientists have deemed the twentieth century 'the Conservative Century', owing to the electoral and cultural dominance of the Conservative Party in Britain. This book traces the relationship among women, gender and the Conservative Party from the 1880s to the present, and thereby seeks to fill that gap. A gender inclusive approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of political machinations, power and the unprecedented popularity of both conservatism and unionism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The suffragette Christabel Pankhurst, was regarded as a charismatic, radical figure, who was the co-leader of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), a notorious suffrage organization campaigning for the parliamentary vote for women in Edwardian Britain. In 1928 Lady Iveagh, Vice-Chairman of the National Union of Conservative Associations (NUCA), claimed that one million women were members of the Conservative Party. The book focuses on how the Primrose League re-made itself for its female members between 1914 and 1932. It shows that the Conservative Party leadership and male candidates were keen to present themselves as the champions of home interests, playing up their family-man credentials against their rowdy electoral culture of Labour. The book also examines inquires how the deliberate choice of middlebrow rhetoric as well as the language of citizenship enabled Conservative women to construct a cross-class language of democracy. It explores British conservatism, highlighting the history of the Tory Party as part of the study of women and their sectional interest in 'the politics of gender'.
Anglican Church as a significant influence on female voters, with 41 per cent of women declaring themselves to be active church members, compared to 27 per cent of m en – a striking finding given Conservatism, gender and the politics, 1950s–1980s163 that men participated more extensively in all other forms of associational culture.40 The perceived strength of female conservatism was such that Benney, Grey and Pear suggested that the Labour stronghold of Newcastle would become a marginal seat if the electorate were entirely comprised of women.41 Robert McKenzie and
never regained the dynamism of the third home rule crisis and arguably neither did unionism. The Irish Unionist Alliance split in 1919 and the Ulster Women’s Unionist Council of the early twentieth century remains the largest female political force in Ireland’s history.94 This consideration of the inter-relationship between female conservatism and unionism provides a gendered example of political partiality. Resisting home rule was always Unionists’ raison d’être while, as Boyce has observed, ‘as far as British conservative opinion was concerned, the fate of Ulster
themselves within the party with their male counterparts often claiming they would act as the guardians of the interests of the home against Socialist intrusions. Conclusion: the continuities of female Conservatism In summer 1929 Caroline Bridgeman left her position as leader of the women’s Conservative organisation, following her husband’s elevation to the House of Lords. This decision to follow her husband’s retirement from frontline Conservative politics was indicative of the constrained role that women played within the leadership structure of the party. Bridgeman had
strategies. In developing appeals to gendered identities they always had to compete with alternative Labour and Liberal appeals. Annie Chamberlain did more than anyone to develop a culture of female Conservatism, which adapted to working women’s social cultures and responded to the appeal of non-party movements. Yet the Conservatives still struggled to overcome the onslaught of Labour in parts of urban Britain during the early 1920s. Ladywood nearly fell from the Conservative grasp in 1924 despite the missionary zeal of Annie Chamberlain. All the same, there is much to