After winning the vote in 1918, many thousands of working class women joined the Labour Party and Co-operative Movement. This book is about their struggle to find a place in the male world of organised labour politics. In the twenties, labour women challenged male leaders to give them equal status and support for their reform programmes, but the ideas were rejected. For most labour women, dedication to the class cause far outweighed their desire for power, and the struggle for 'women-power' was abandoned. Consequently, despite the common reform agendas of labour women and the middle class feminists of the era, a working alliance was never achieved. Labour Women uses oral and questionnaire testimony to draw a portrait of grass-roots activists. It contrasts labour women's failure to win power in the national organisations with their great achievements in community politics, poor law administration and municipal government.
'... an invaluable close study of the issues and debates in the Labour Women's Organization, especially during the 1920s ... this book has important implications for both the feminist movement and the Labour Movement.' Martin Pugh, Times Literary Supplement 'To read the conventional accounts, you would think that Labour was built as a men-only party. Pamela Graves's pioneering study shows the limitations of that view, and provides a fascinating and important account of the female side of the growth of the British Labour movement in the inter-war period ... This book will be of interest both to feminist historians and to all those who wish to understand the development of political parties in Britain.' Ben Pimlott, Professor of Politics and Contemporary History, Birkbeck College 'Most welcome. A sane and intelligent account of the role and work of Labour women between the wars, caught as they were between sympathy with middle class feminism and solidairy with patriarchal working class socialsim.' Patricia Hollis, University of East Anglia '... a major contribution to feminist left wing history ... a must for anyone working on twentieth century politics.' Open History 'A rich and revealing study of the labour women who tried - and failed - to win the Labour Party and Co-operative movement to a politics of sexual equality and a programme of woman-centred social reforms. A very good book.' Anne Phillips, Professor of Politics, London Guildhall University