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'Red Ellen' WilkinsonHer ideas, movements and world$
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Matt Perry

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719087202

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719087202.001.0001

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Feminism and the women’s movement

Feminism and the women’s movement

(p.69) 2 Feminism and the women’s movement
'Red Ellen' Wilkinson

Matt Perry

Manchester University Press

Wilkinson's involvement in the women's movement is crucial to understanding her political trajectory. At the level of her ideas, Wilkinson developed a gendered critique of pre-war British socialism. She sought to fuse democratic suffragism and Labour politics. With the war, both her socialism and her gender politics radicalised and fused into a Marxist feminism centred around the achievements of the early Soviet state and admiration for Kollontai. After quitting the CPGB, her criticisms of middle-class feminists mellowed but strongly defended protective legislation against equalitarian feminists. Over the course of the 1920s, she became more focused on women's reforms rather than revolution. Serving on the NEC constrained her gender politics, especially over family allowances and birth control, alienating herself from even Labour women activists over these matters. She became closer to the Time and Tide circle of Bloomsbury feminism. The transnational dimension introduced anti-fascism into the mix of Wilkinson's feminism though ultimately a drift and de-radicalisation of her gender politics occurred. This specific loss of radicalism helped to prepare the major threshold in her politics in 1940. Thus, Wilkinson's gender politics was a distinctive part of her political journey and was actively constitutive of all its phases.

Keywords:   Suffragism, feminism, women, gender

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