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Copy of 'There's always been a women's movement this century?' Assessing Decline, Impact and Social Change 1918-1945

Questions to ponder whilst you read…

  • To what extent did the feminist movement change the lives of working-class women in the first half of the twentieth-century?
  • Did a ‘feminist identity’ still have political purchase among women in the inter-war years?
  • Why was birth control so controversial?
  • How might historians assess the impact of feminism on social change?

Preparatory Activity

Watch 'The Emancipation of Women, 1890-1930' (part 2) produced by the Open University with Arthur Marwick as historical adviser. Consider the films message alongside your reading for this week.

NB: Part 1 of this film has some great footage of suffragettes

Core Reading

Making Modern Women: Women's Magazines in Interwar Britain (Women's Library Exhibition) - ALL

Barbara Caine, English Feminism 1780-1980 (1987) [chapter on the inter-war citizen] - Charlie, Emily, Tamyla

Lesley Hall, ‘"Not a domestic utensil but a woman and a citizen": Stella Browne on Women, Health and Society’, Clio Medica: The Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine,1 Aug (2000) 60:1, 275-302 - Megan, Ateeqa, Harprit

(See also Lesley Hall's website with published and unpublished articles on sexuality, birth control, women's history and more)

Further Reading

Dale Spender, There’s Always Been a Women’s Movement this Century (1983)

Lesley Hall, Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain Since 1880 (2000)

Joanna Alberti, Beyond Suffrage: Feminists in War and Peace, 1914-1928 (1989)

J. Martin, ‘Beyond Suffrage: Feminism, Education and the Politics of Class in the Inter-War Years’, British Journal of Sociology of Education 29:4 (2008), 411-23


‘Six Point Group. Extension of the franchise to women in the colonies’ (1939) from the Women in the National Archives original documents database. [Access via Warwick Library: Databases – History]

‘The Bastardy Bill’ (1920) MRC MSS.243.56 [available digitally at]

Workers’ Birth Control Group, ‘To Our Men Comrades’ (1928) MRC MSS.292/824/1 [available digitally at]

Virginia Woolf, ‘A Room of One’s Own’, in Three Guineas (1926)

Dorothy L. Sayers, Gaudy Night [a detective novel]

Party Political Pamphlets aimed at Women Voters [Digitised MRC document]

‘Report of a Conference of the Abortion Law Reform Association’ (1936) [Digitised MRC document]