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Engendering city politics and educational thought: elite women and the London Labour Party, 1914-1965

By Jane Martin

Abstract

This article uses biographical approaches to recover the contribution of hitherto neglected figures in the history of education and the political history of the Left in London. Place and location are important since it is important to grasp the uniqueness of the London County Council within the framework of English local government and of the London Labour Party within the framework of the Labour Party. In the 1920s and 1930s, under Herbert Morrison’s leadership, the London Labour Party made a deliberate policy of encouraging able women to run for election to the London County Council, particularly those who had received a good education. By the 1950s Labour women were well represented in this public-sector site and the Education Committee was dubbed ‘the Shrieking Sisterhood’. By this time, three women had been appointed to the chairmanship of the Education Committee (one Conservative and two Labour) and women formed the majority of its membership, although they lost ground after. When a biographical approach is adopted a more spacious idea of politics emerges to accommodate hitherto neglected figures. This article tells the stories of two Labour women whose participation in English educational policy-making has been missed: Helen Bentwich (1893-1972) and Eveline Lowe (1869-1956). It is based largely on a new source of manuscript material, personal papers in the Women’s Library at London Metropolitan University and the archive of Homerton College, Cambridge, and is part of a larger project examining the role of Labour women in London government. It contributes to revisionist debates about the place of women in the history of education, by providing new interpretations of urban education evolution that begin to appreciate the significance of women’s political journeys and the impact of their involvement

Year: 2008
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.ioe.ac.uk.oai2:2165

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