'A rough kind of feminism' : the formation of working class women's political identities, Clydeside, c1919-1936

Rights statement
Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2001
Thesis identifier
  • T10432
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Feminist historiography has generally focused on middle-class women and formal organisations taking the view the World War I heralded the decline of the feminist movement and thereby any forms of feminist activity in Britain. This thesis,by investigating Clydeside women's experiences between the wars, subverts that approach.It offers a wider interpretation of feminist aims,objectives, and activities by examining the premise that' sexual antagonism' can shape 'sexual solidarity', providing a conduct for the operation of 'a rough kind of feminism'. During the inter-war years attempts were made, through discourse,to reformulate traditional gender identities. The proposed vision of womanhood sought to re-situate females in the 'private sphere' as exulted progenitors and guardians of the race. Correspondingly, these women were to be provided for, and protected by the 'new man' who would love and respect his wife, whilst recognising that their roles,although different should be equal in status. A response to the potential liberation of women after World War 1 ,concerns over the quality and quantity of the British race and the ruptures wrought by war,this world view was to permeate society. Despite the persuasiveness of this discourse, however,these ideals were not generally compatible with the extra-discursive realities and imaginative boundaries of working-class life between the wars on Clydeside and more so those of men. The proposed 'new men' of the Clyde faced extreme social, economic, and political transformations which impeded their subjectification of the ideal.In turn, this contributed to the extreme gender antagonism faced by women in the worlds of work,politics, community, and play and in their relations with men. Women's responses were complex and contradictory. Although they were divided materially and ideologically, sexual antagonism provided a basis for coalition on specific issues which affected these women as a group. Working-class women countered their potential for powerlessness formally and informally in a variety of ways.They formed gender-specific work-cultures, they exploited the dominant gender discourse of this period,they used kin and community networks, they combined to take advantage of community organisations and they used defiance as strategies to challenge male domination. Whilst these same forces could also create class and gender divisions amongst women, nevertheless, sexual antagonism on Clydeside acted as a catalyst for behaviour identifiable as a' rough kind of feminism'.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Brown, Callum G., 1953-
  • McIvor, Arthur
Resource Type