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Women’s Suffrage

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Abstract

One of the most profound transformations in the study of political history in the last generation has been the collapse of determinist models that posited a straightforward connection between an individual’s life experiences and political attitudes. The work of Gareth Stedman Jones in particular forced historians to confront the fact that people do not interpret their experiences in a conceptual vacuum — they make sense of their lives using the linguistic resources available to them at a particular point in time. The idea that a particular set of experiences might give rise to particular forms of political consciousness — the idea that underpinned Marx’s theory of history — proved spectacularly vulnerable once one considered ‘the impossibility of abstracting experience from the language that structures its articulation’.1 The results of this ‘linguistic turn’ on social history and labour history are well known, but it has also fundamentally reshaped the study of gender politics in a way that is no less profound for having been accomplished more quietly. Connections that once seemed obvious between women’s experiences of oppression and the emergence of feminist protest no longer seem secure, because — just as working-class politics cannot be reduced to a set of material interests that exist prior to culture — women’s political consciousness could only take shape within the historically specific set of linguistic resources available to them.

Keywords

Liberal Politics Daily News Linguistic Resource Plural Vote Parliamentary Debate 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Gareth Stedman Jones, Languages of Class: Studies in English Working Class History, 1832–1982 (Cambridge, 1983), p. 20.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Anna Clark, The Struggle for the Breeches: Gender and the Making of the British Working Class (Berkeley, 1995)Google Scholar
  3. Helen Rogers, Women and the People. Authority, Authorship and the Radical Tradition in Nineteenth-Century England (Aldershot, 2000)Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Sandra Stanley Holton, Suffrage Days: Stories from the Women’s Suffrage Movement (London, 1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 7.
    Laura Nym Mayhall, The Militant Suffrage Movement: Citizenship and Resistance in Britain, 1860–1930 (Oxford, 2003), pp. 32–6.Google Scholar
  6. 9.
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  9. 17.
    Philip Salmon, ‘The English Reform Legislation, 1831–1832’ in D. R. Fisher, ed., The House of Commons, 1820–1832 (Cambridge, 2009), I, pp. 378–9.Google Scholar
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    Elaine Chalus, Elite Women in English Political Life, c. 1754–1790 (Oxford, 2005), p. 41CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Goldwin Smith, Female Suffrage (1875), pp. 23–4.Google Scholar
  15. 54.
    Helen Blackburn, Women’s Suffrage: A Record of the Women’s Suffrage Movement in the British Isles (1902), p. 123.Google Scholar
  16. 57.
    Andrew Jones, The Politics of Reform, 1884 (Cambridge, 1972), pp. 122–6.Google Scholar
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    Michael Barker, Gladstone and Radicalism: the Reconstruction of Liberal Policy in Britain, 1885–94 (Brighton, 1975), pp. 211–17Google Scholar
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    Matthew McCormack, The Independent Man: Citizenship and Gender Politics in Georgian England (Manchester, 2005).Google Scholar
  20. 66.
    See Ben Griffin, ‘Class, Gender and Liberalism in Parliament, 1868–1882: the Case of the Married Women’s Property Acts’, Historical Journal 46 (2003), 73–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Ben Griffin 2013

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