Out of Bounds: Women in Scottish Society 1800-1945

Out of Bounds: Women in Scottish Society 1800-1945

Out of Bounds: Women in Scottish Society 1800-1945

Out of Bounds: Women in Scottish Society 1800-1945

Excerpt

ESTHER BREITENBACH AND ELEANOR GORDON

It is a commonplace to say that Victorian society created a definition of femininity that idealised woman's domestic role as wife and mother, and that this definition was emphasised to the virtual exclusion of all others, no matter how much women's experience actually differed from this. The ideological force of this definition was extremely powerful, and it often worked to control and restrain women from full participation in public life. It has also been forceful enough to gain a perhaps too ready acceptance by many historians writing about Scottish society in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As a consequence women's experience and women's participation in social and public life, and their participation in movements for social change, have often been overlooked. Until very recently, as far as Scotland is concerned this has even been true of the Women's Suffrage Movement, a movement which endured for a period of sixty years, and involved thousands of women in activities which were often very public and highly visible, from public meetings to mass demonstrations, from waylaying prime ministers to arson attacks. The present volume shows that the experience of Scottish women reached well beyond the confines of the home, and that whilst the prevailing ideology of womanhood was undoubtedly a restricting influence, it was one that was subverted, challenged, fought over, and often contradicted by the reality of women's lives.

In the introduction to The World is Ill Divided , the companion volume to this one, we noted the paucity of publications on the history of women in Scotland. It is therefore heartening to record that recently a number of books in this field have been published, several of them complementary to the work presented here. This welcome development serves to underline not only the breadth of women's experience and their contribution to Scottish society, but also the potential richness of this historical seam. The chapters published here shed light only on some aspects of the history of Scottish women, and the scope for further research remains very wide. As such work progresses it must inevitably lead to a reconsideration of current orthodoxies about Scottish social and political history, as . . .

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