At the people’s history weekend conference Dr Paula Bartley will be giving a talk on Labour Women in Power: Cabinet Ministers in the 20th century.

Dr. Paula Bartley is a women’s history expert and writer whose has been interviewed on Women’s Hour, Radio 4 and was a key-note speaker at the 2014 International Women’s Day in the House of Commons. —

The abstract of her talk:

Feminist historians are very aware that women who have made huge historically significant contributions can simply disappear, no ripple, no trace. Certainly political historians tend to focus on male politicians: there are various biographies of 20th century Labour male grandees but few of women.

If women were absent from political histories, politics used to be absent from women’s history. Feminist historians initially had little wish to replicate the traditional history of ‘high politics, war and diplomacy’ and preferred to focus on the history of the underprivileged rather than one-time celebrities. Consequently, politics was defined more widely than parliamentary politics and historians sought to uncover the lives of women immersed in local and grass-roots politics, in social and political movements, in women’s organisations, and in one-issue campaigns.

My paper helps restore women to high politics. Until 1997 only five females were appointed Labour Cabinet Ministers. Women in Power will analyse why there were so few women at the very top, will chart their political experiences and will place their lives in a domestic and international context. It will underline the fact that women faced three hurdles to become Cabinet Ministers: they had to be elected as MPs; they needed a Labour Party in government; and they needed a Prime Minister sympathetic to women’s advancement. The combination of these triple barriers made it virtually impossible for Labour women to take part in high politics for most of the 20th century. For almost a hundred years they remained a ‘minority of a minority’.

Dr Paula Bartley
Dr Paula Bartley
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