“The Aftermath of Suffrage”: What Happened After the Vote Was Won?
24-25 June, 2011, Humanities Research Institute,
University of Sheffield
[Deadline for proposals: 3 December, 2010]
Organized by: Dr Julie Gottlieb (firstname.lastname@example.org)
and Prof. Richard Toye (email@example.com)
Speaking at a luncheon in 1939 to celebrate the 21st anniversary of women’s suffrage, with Britain on the brink of another world war, Independent MP Eleanor Rathbone reflected: “that on 21st birthdays one usually looked forward, but in their case it was perhaps safer to dwell on the past. They could say that they were now better equipped to face difficult times by their past stern struggles. Everybody now had a share in choosing their rulers, and also a share
in the responsibility for the choice….women’s organisations had achievements to their credit, in the cause of peace and wider humanity, disregarding national boundaries.” (Manchester Guardian, March 18, 1939) Taking our cue from Rathbone, what had been achieved and what was seen to have remained unattained after suffrage? Why was it only women’s suffrage that was commemorated in this way and not universal suffrage (where are the men)? This conference will bring together scholars working within this field of historical research to explore the aftermath of the Representation of the People’s Act (1918). This larger question will be approached from a variety of viewpoints, including political, social, organisational, personal, and discursive.
The history of the suffrage movement in Britain has long been of great interest, first principally for women’s historians and political and constitutional history, and more recently for gender and cultural historians. Similarly, there has been significant scholarly interest in feminism between the wars, with some
revision of earlier impressions that the inter-war women’s movement was a failure when compared to the energy, ideas and publicity associated with Edwardian suffragism in particular. However, there has been little systematic exploration of the connection between these two phases or an attempt to break down the rigid periodization of pre- and post-suffrage and think instead of a
continuum of political and personal histories.
This conference seeks to shed new light on gender and political history in the post-suffrage period by doing just this and considering how the contested legacies of both women’s suffrage and universal suffrage reflected and refracted contemporary debates about political representation, democratic reform, the sexual divisions of labour in politics, and women’s very gradual
inclusion in national politics.
The conference will take place in the university’s Humanities Research Institute, centrally located for the university, the city centre, and transport links.
We warmly invite proposals for papers to be presented at this forthcoming international conference. We encourage proposals from PhD students, early career academics and unaffiliated scholars. Papers should be 20 minutes long.
Please send a title and a 250 word synopsis, as well as a short biography (100 words), to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com to reach us no later than 3 December, 2010.
We seek contributions that address aspects of the following questions.
• What happened to the women’s movement after the vote was won?
• Does the celebrated ‘franchise factor’ debate of the 1970s need to be revisited?
• What directions did those women (and men) who had played prominent roles in the suffrage movement take?
• What post-suffrage patterns can be discerned for those who had been at the forefront of the suffrage movement, both the militant and constitutionalist wings?
• What hopes and ambitions were invested in women’s and universal enfranchisement (the Representation of the Peoples Act) upon its achievement, and, crucially, how did those concerned evaluate these successes or failed promises as the years wore on?
• What was the impact of universal suffrage on the main political parties?
• Did celebration of the attainment of full adult male suffrage in 1918 become overshadowed by the more momentous achievement of women’s suffrage, and how was universal suffrage represented in the political discourse of the post-war years?
• How was the historiography of British suffragism conditioned by Britain’s growing isolation as a democratic state in inter-war Europe?
• How did the close relationship between the women’s movement and the peace movement make certain assumptions about the new force women were to represent in politics and in world affairs?
• How were suffrage days memorialised and remembered?
• Where are the significant shifts in the way that suffrage has been remembered, for example from sense of lost promise and disappointment in the inter-war period that women’s enfranchisement did not, in fact, change the nature and practice of politics, to the hero-worship culture that accompanied Second Wave Feminism?
Conference format: The conference will have a combination of plenary and parallel sessions, with plenty of opportunity for informal discussion.
Confirmed speakers include Adrian Bingham, Myriam Boussahba-Bravard, Karen Hunt, June Hannam, Angela John, Jon Lawrence, Helen McCarthy, June Purvis, Mari Takayanagi, Pat Thane, Philippe Vervaecke, Valerie Wright, and the two conference organisers, Richard Toye and Julie Gottlieb.
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