Feminist Freikorps: The British Voluntary Women Police, 1914-1940

Feminist Freikorps: The British Voluntary Women Police, 1914-1940

Feminist Freikorps: The British Voluntary Women Police, 1914-1940

Feminist Freikorps: The British Voluntary Women Police, 1914-1940

Synopsis

The Women Police Service was unique as a feminist organization dedicated to the supervision and control of women themselves. Formed in 1914 by middle-class veterans of the militant suffrage campaign in Britain, at odds throughout its history with both the authorities and mainstream feminist organizations and frequently operating in defiance of the law, the WPS combined authoritarianism and feminist activism to create its own distinctive concept of policing between the world wars.

Excerpt

While detailed studies of feminist, pacifist and socialist women's groups in Britain have proliferated in the last quarter-century, the history of women of the right--and a fortiori the far-right--in the postsuffrage era remains virtually a blank canvas. A very small number of sociological and political science-oriented studies of women's involvement in Conservative Party politics have been carried out, of which Janet Robb's monograph on the Primrose League, now three decades old, remains the most valuable; but little so far has appeared in Britain to complement such important works as Jill Stephenson The Nazi Organisation of Women (1981) and Kathleen Blee Women of the Klan (1991). This neglect is chiefly attributable to the fact that the subject has fallen between two historiographical stools. Among historians of British women's movements, there is a tendency to regard right-wing feminism as a contradiction in terms, resulting in the exclusion of groups that fail to fit into established conceptual frameworks. For their part, scholars specialising in the history of right-wing organisations in Britain have generally given short shrift to gender issues, concentrating instead on more traditional analytical categories like anti-Communism and anti-Semitism. It would thus seem that right-wing women have been fated to languish in historical obscurity, the victims of their own uncompromising and idiosyncratic character.

Recently, however, there have been several indications of a growing level of interest in women activists of the right in Britain. A number of scholars, most notably Martin Durham, Barbara Farr and David Mayall, have begun to explore the factors that caused British women . . .

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