Feminism and Political History

By Murphy, Kate | The Australian Journal of Politics and History, March 2010 | Go to article overview

Feminism and Political History


Murphy, Kate, The Australian Journal of Politics and History


Introduction

Traditional political history told stories about men and masculine actions performed within narrowly defined political institutions. Political historians equated politics with parliaments and (mainly male) parliamentarians, and thus overlooked political activities that fell outside these parameters. Beginning in the early 1970s, this view of political history was challenged, first by feminist attention to "women's history" and later by the "gender turn" in the social sciences and humanities. In seeking to make visible women's political activities outside conventional masculine institutions, feminist scholarship revised scholarly understandings of what constitutes politics. It thus played an important role in widening the scope of political history, discussed elsewhere in this special issue. With the development of more sophisticated conceptual approaches in the late 1980s and early 1990s, feminist scholars demonstrated the significant place of gender in political discourse and knowledge. Gender was relevant even in high politics and in spaces in which women were absent, as men were also scrutinised as gendered subjects. Feminist work has made rich contributions to key areas of interest for political historians, including political culture; activism and mass protest; nationalism, national identity and nation building; citizenship; the state; and public policy. Feminist histories have been particularly adept in exploring the links between politics and culture, and in uncovering the intersections between the "public" sphere, associated with masculine action, and the feminine "private" sphere, in a manner which critiques and problematises any stark division between the two.

Nevertheless, the influence of feminist scholarship on political history as a narrowly defined field has been less than transformative. While feminist scholars have engaged extensively in work that has enriched understandings of politics and political history, they have often done so from outside the recognised field of political history, and are not identified as "political historians", due in part to the interdisciplinarity of feminist scholarship. This article traces the contributions of feminist scholarship to political history and the reasons these are not always acknowledged, then goes on to consider why recognised political historians--those concerned with mainstream politics-tend not to incorporate gender analysis and insight into their work. It argues that despite the rich potential of political history as a province for feminist analysis, work undertaken within this discrete field often remains blind to feminist perspectives, indicating the enduring influence of restrictive conceptions of politics.

Feminism, the "Gender Turn" and Australian History

The "second wave" of feminist activism saw significant challenges to male-dominated political, social, and cultural structures. Feminism was a driving force in forging new styles of political action and new scholarly understandings of the definition of "politics" and the nature of power. (1) Traditional conceptions of politics focused narrowly on the formal organisation of power in society. The feminist slogan "the personal is political" represented a challenge both to conventional definitions of politics and to socialist/radical understandings of politics that focused on contestations between capital and labour. (2) It forged an understanding--long before anyone cited Foucault--of the ubiquitous, dispersed nature of power and the "political" nature of power relationships in all areas of society including workplaces, trade unions and the family. Feminist scholars continue to politicise a wide range of experiences: "feminist scholarship" is not a homogenous category but points to a very diverse and evolving field encompassing a range of different approaches and concerns, and has included engagements with questions of race, class and sexuality that have problematised the category "woman". …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Feminism and Political History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.