Women’s History Month

// 14 January 2011

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UPDATE: Chitra from WHM asked me to add: “WHM is a collaborative project and we’re looking for women to get involved in many ways: researching and writing for our website, writing lesson plans, contributing to our reading list, suggesting links to other similar organisations, organising events and joining the committee!” Get in touch with them at info@womenshistorymonth.co.uk

WHM.jpgMarch is Women’s History Month. Even though that’s two months away, the pre-launch event for an organisation – also called Women’s History Month is taking place next week in London, with the aim of revitalising the annual event.

So I feel justified in pointing you to their fabulous website, which is packed full of interesting stuff already.

Sure, you can check out the events page to see some of the stuff already scheduled for March, but also check out:

It’s great to see a fresh effort to put the spotlight on women in history.

Comments From You

Garlic // Posted 15 January 2011 at 5:09 am

Fascinating stuff. However, I’m going to have to take issue with the inclusion of Viscountess Astor as Britain’s first female MP in 1919. This is tantamount to historical revisionism because it redraws a national boundary much too early. Since ‘Britain’ in the early 1900s included what is now the Irish Republic, Britain’s REAL first female MP was Sinn Fein representative Constance Markiewicz, a historical figure that, incredibly to me, NOBODY interviewed in the recent video poll of Irish people walking down a street could name. (Readers of this site may remember this – members of the public were asked to name a famous historical Irishwoman – most could not recall even one.) Lady Markiewicz was jailed for her part in the 1916 Easter Uprising and there was also talk of executing her. She was no historical footnote. However, she has apparently been forgotten on both sides of the Irish Sea. One question: Why?

I understand that there are quite a number of good reasons why that site might not have wanted to ‘claim’ Lady Markiewicz, starting with the fact that this could cause serious offence to some people and her own extremely anti-British attitude, but ‘claiming’ her isn’t necessary. Surely this interesting character is worth some sort of honourary mention after Viscountess Astor, briefly put into historical context and with her aims and attitudes explained. As a half-Irish Englishwoman, I would very much like to see it. It would also pour cold water on the stupid and patriarchal stereotype that the Suffragettes of yesteryear were privileged ‘ivory tower dwellers’ who had no political aims besides women’s enfranchisement.

Feminist Avatar // Posted 15 January 2011 at 5:17 pm

Constance Markiewicz was the first woman to be voted into parliament but she never took her seat, because she was an Irish nationalist. Nancy Astor was the first woman to sit in the British parliament, but she was an American, only ‘British’ through marriage.

If you’d like to know more about Constance M, there is a blog post on her at the Women’s History Network Blog (women’s history all year round!)- http://womenshistorynetwork.org/blog/?p=228

Chitra // Posted 16 January 2011 at 12:14 am

Thanks very much for your comments on this. I’m involved with women’s history month and have made changes to the section in question, based on your comments.

Do let us know if you have any other feedback, or wish to write for the website yourself. info@womenshistorymonth.co.uk

Shannon Harvey // Posted 16 January 2011 at 12:23 am

Thanks for the feedback on the web content. The Women’s History Month group is a very small group of volunteers, and content on our website isn’t currently very strictly edited. That we’ve named Viscountess Astor rather than Constance Markiewicz is an oversight rather than something deliberate – I will update the website with all this information, but if anyone would like to help us by contributing resources or checking content, you will be welcomed with open arms! Our email address is info@womenshistorymonth.co.uk.

Shannon, Women’s History Month

polly // Posted 16 January 2011 at 1:03 pm

I’d like to know who the first woman from a working class background to become an MP was (genuinely). Anyone got any idea? Or are we still waiting? (for the purposes of the exercise, I’m excluding anyone who’s oxbridge educated).

I would be interested to know if other people feel as I do that ‘histories’ of this type always concentrate too much on the privileged.

sohcahtoa // Posted 16 January 2011 at 7:14 pm

This is obviously a tricky issue, but ‘from a working class background’ and ‘Oxbridge-educated’ are not necessarily mutually exclusive…

Feminist Avatar // Posted 16 January 2011 at 7:41 pm

@Polly- don’t know for sure who the first wc MP is- but there is Ellen Wilkinson, daughter of textile worker, but degree from Manchester- Labour MP in 1924.

Then there’s Jennie Lee, daughter of a miner, with a degree from Edinburgh Uni (paid by a scholarship) who sits for the ILP in 1929.

Sheila // Posted 16 January 2011 at 10:44 pm

Betty Boothroyd born 1929 does not have a degree at all and is to date our only woman speaker. Her parents were textile workers. I would guess that makes her at least one of the oldest non-Oxbridge, non-degreed (other than later awarded honorary degrees) working class female MPs.

Chitra // Posted 26 January 2011 at 1:38 am

We’ve just uploaded a series on ‘the history of Labour women’ under our women and activism section. This includes both Jennie Lee and Ellen Wilkinson (as well as others).

We’re all doing women’s history month on a voluntary basis and none of us are experts in women’s history. The website will be whatever we all contribute and make of it.

If anyone would like to write about class, women and politics (or any other topic), then please do get in touch: info@womenshistorymonth.co.uk.

Chitra, Women’s History Month

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