The Acceptable Face of Feminism: The Women's Institute as a Social Movement

The Acceptable Face of Feminism: The Women's Institute as a Social Movement

The Acceptable Face of Feminism: The Women's Institute as a Social Movement

The Acceptable Face of Feminism: The Women's Institute as a Social Movement

Synopsis

Although the British Women's Institute is more often associated with jam and Jerusalem than radical activity, Maggie Andrews explores its relationship with feminism from its formation in 1915 to the 1960s.

Excerpt

Five years ago, one of my students told me she thought every woman was a bit of a feminist. This book is about a group of such women, although they are rarely associated with feminism – women who are both rural and primarily home and family oriented. In recent years there has been a growth in feminist history but the rural women of the twentieth century have received little attention. It is my aim to help rectify this omission by examining The National Federation of Women’s Institutes.

I have been fortunate to gain access to the National, East Sussex and West Sussex Federations of Women’s Institutes archives, as well as those at Denman College. Together with local Institutes and WI members who have shared their histories with me, I have had a wealth of sources to draw upon, for which I am very grateful. Thank you to all those who helped make these sources available and also to thank the British Library, Inter-Library Loan, the Fawcett Library and Sussex University Library.

The suggestion that I study the Women’s Institute Movement came from Alun Howkins. I’d like to thank him for his support and sharing with me a belief that the Women’s Institute Movement really is significant. Thanks also to friends at Sussex University and Chichester Institute, particularly Andy Medhurst whose patient proofreading and encouragement have made this book possible.

My interest in the Women’s Institute Movement grew out of my own concerns as both a rural housewife and feminist. The writing of this book, therefore, owes an obvious debt to my four children. Lynton, Oliver, Dominic and Annie are hereby thanked for their tolerance and their, most of the time, goodnatured acceptance of the many hours I have had to work. Those who have looked after my children are too numerous to mention but without the practical and emotional support of Gill, Alison, Chris and my father this book would never have even neared completion. Lastly, I want to thank Neil – without whose support this book would never have been written and to whom it is dedicated.

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