Politics, legislation and the Women’s Liberation Movement

Earlier in the 20th century, generations of women had fought for the right to participate actively in formal politics. In the 1970s the Women’s Liberation Movement continued to campaign for the greater political representation of women and legislative changes that improved women’s lives.

Lesley Abdela talks about how few women were in Parliament in the 1960s, '70s and '80s

Feminists campaigned to change the laws governing equal pay, welfare, education, birth control, maternal health, abortion, marriage and divorce. Legislative changes in these areas have fundamentally altered women’s experiences, both politically and personally. Before the Women’s Liberation Movement, generations of women had fought for the right to participate actively in formal politics. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries these women were referred to as ‘suffragettes’ and ‘suffragists’. Their campaigns focused on gaining the vote, education and property rights; on candidacy for parliament; and on equal representation in political office. It is often underestimated how much activity continued from the 1930s to the 1950s: a full history would take into account campaigns such as the Six Point Group, which pressed for occupational, social and legal equality, and the Fawcett SocietyThe Women’s Library holds a wonderful collection of interviews made in the 1970s with the last surviving suffragettes and also with key members of the mid-century Fawcett Society. Today, as in the 1970s, the political arena remains dominated by men and is therefore unrepresentative of the population as a whole: in 1970 there were 26 women Members of Parliament out of a total of 650; in 2013, the current total is 146 (22.4%).

Jane Hutt talks about her decision to join the Labour Party

Banner credit: Policies cartoon © Jacky Fleming www.jackyfleming.co.uk

  • 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.