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Rethinking Right-Wing WomenGender and the Conservative Party, 1880s To the Present$
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Clarisse Berthezéne and Julie Gottlieb

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781784994389

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9781784994389.001.0001

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Conservative women and the Primrose League’s struggle for survival, 1914–32

Conservative women and the Primrose League’s struggle for survival, 1914–32

(p.66) 4 Conservative women and the Primrose League’s struggle for survival, 1914–32
Rethinking Right-Wing Women

Matthew C. Hendley

Manchester University Press

This chapter examines the adaption of the Primrose League, an extra-parliamentary organization allied to the Conservative Party and having a large female membership, to the aftermath of the First World War. Founded in 1883, the Primrose League was an important vehicle for women’s participation in politics before they held the national franchise. While most historians have downplayed the Primrose League’s accomplishments after 1914, this chapter argues that the League re-made itself for its female members between 1914-1932. This chapter will show how the Primrose League deftly survived the deluge of the First World War by focusing on wartime hospitality and philanthropy and rebranding itself as a political educator of citizens newly enfranchised by the 1918 Representation of the People Act (especially women). It will also show how the League continued to be relevant in the postwar period through a combination of anti-socialism and a consumerist version of popular imperialism. In these ways, the Primrose League did not become redundant but was able to remain a useful political weapon for the Conservative Party and an important part of Conservative political culture throughout the 1920s.

Keywords:   Political Culture, Conservative Party, Women in politics, Primrose League, Politics in the First World War, Popular Imperialism, Philanthropy, Anti-Socialism

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