Nationalism, national liberation struggles, and the Women's Liberation Movement

Nationalism and national liberation struggles

National identity played an important part in the politics of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Find out how feminist campaigners in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales faced the complications of national liberation struggles in addition to their fight for women’s equality.

Bronagh Hinds talks about civil rights in Northern Ireland

Feminist campaigners in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales faced the complications of national liberation struggles in addition to their fight for women’s equality. National identity played an important part in the politics of the Women’s Liberation Movement. Although nationalism is often associated with patriarchy and racism, many women felt that they had a right to a national identity. Feminists tried to find ways to reconcile these ideas.

Elizabeth Armstrong talks about the Women's Liberation Movement in Scotland

Sheila Gilmore talks about the difference between the women's movement in Scotland and the rest of the UK

Wales and Scotland – how did things differ?

The women’s movements in Wales and Scotland were distinct from the movement in England politically, culturally and linguistically. Deirdre Beddoe’s many books on the history of women in Wales, as well as her work with Ursula Masson in setting up the Archif Menywod Cymru / Women’s Archive of Wales, provide an important resource for understanding the background for Welsh women’s activism. Some Welsh-speaking women felt marginalised within the Women’s Liberation Movement, but also within the Welsh language movement. Similarly, Esther Breitenbach and Fiona Mackay’s Women and Contemporary Scottish Politics: An Anthology (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2001) provides much of the context for understanding the distinctiveness of gender concerns in Scotland. In this section you can listen to extracts about women’s fight for representation within the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

Jane Hutt talks about women in the National Assembly for Wales

Northern Ireland – a complicated history

The Irish civil rights movement of the 1960s took its name directly from the African-American civil rights movement that started in the USA in the 1950s. Catholics living in Northern Ireland argued that they were facing the same oppression as African-Americans living in the southern states of the USA. The Northern Irish Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed in 1968. In conjunction with the Derry Housing Action Committee, NICRA organised a march through Derry in 1968 which was attacked by police armed with batons. The following year more protests and riots followed, marking the beginning of the period known as the Troubles.

The Troubles lasted for almost 30 years, with violent clashes between police and civilians, and between nationalist and unionist groups. In 1998 conflict resolution finally began to emerge after the Good Friday Agreement. This made provision for the respect of different communities and traditions under human rights legislation, the decommissioning of arms held by paramilitary groups, and the release of paramilitary leaders from prison. It also addressed the relationship between Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. In this section you can listen to an extract about the experience of women in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. You can also watch a short film about the hugely complicated political situation as well as the important contributions of women to the peace process.

Karen McMinn talks about living through the troubles in Belfast

  • Sisterhood and After Research Team
  • This article was researched and written by the Sisterhood and After Research Team, who are experts in the history of contemporary feminism and narrative life methods. The team included Abi Barber, Dr Polly Russell, Dr Margaretta Jolly, Dr Rachel Cohen, Dr Freya Johnson-Ross and Dr Lucy Delap. Further information about the team and project is available in the About the project section.

The text in this article is available under the Creative Commons License.