The Women's Cooperative Guild and Suffrage
SCOTT, GILL (2007) The Women's Cooperative Guild and Suffrage In: Suffrage Outside Suffragism. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 132-156. ISBN 978-1403995964
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This essay developed from Scott’s longstanding research interest in feminism, the organisation of working-class women and the Women’s Co-operative Guild (WCG). Themes were initially explored in a series of invited conference papers delivered, for example, at the Université de Paris VIII, and at the Pankhurst Centre, Manchester conference to mark the centenary of the foundation of the Women’s Social and Political Union. Myriam Boussahba-Bravard, a fellow presenter at the French conference, commissioned a collection of papers for publication, examining the different ways in which organisations not based in the suffrage movement responded to the suffrage question in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This contribution explores three aspects of the relationship between the WCG and the campaign for the vote. In clearly articulating the following aspects within the study, Scott permits re-consideration and re-interpretation of this important material. This close analysis of the ideology and politics of the WCG, a large working-class women’s organisation, offers a different interpretation of the dynamics of late 19th-century suffrage campaigns. Scott’s research method traces the early political evolution of the WCG from socially conservative origins to a broad alignment with the aims of the women’s movement. Further, it argues that the WCG’s pioneering work for divorce law reform and maternity care generated an expansive conception of the reforms needed to improve their situation, underscoring the urgent need for women’s direct political representation. Finally, the chapter focuses on the WCG’s direct involvement with suffrage agitation, and its efforts to hold in equilibrium the claims of class and of sex in relation to political reform. Scott’s contribution is both to her subject and the methods of analysis employed in this field.
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