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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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The middlebrow and the making of a ‘new common sense’: women’s voluntarism, Conservative politics and representations of womanhood

The middlebrow and the making of a ‘new common sense’: women’s voluntarism, Conservative politics and representations of womanhood

Chapter:
(p.104) 6 The middlebrow and the making of a ‘new common sense’: women’s voluntarism, Conservative politics and representations of womanhood
Source:
Rethinking Right-Wing Women
Author(s):

Clarisse Berthezène

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9781784994389.003.0007

Recent work on interwar Conservatism has stressed the success of the Conservative Party’s politics towards women and the stability of the female vote in this period. This chapter focuses on the contribution Conservative women made to the formulation of Conservative principles. It examines their claim that they were ‘practical’, ‘commonsense’ women, as opposed to what they saw as their cerebral, theoretically minded Labour and Liberal counterparts. The deliberate cultivation of the identity of ‘the middlebrow’ was an important means to embrace democracy and speak to all social classes, which led them to develop a particular view of ‘responsible womanhood’ and citizenship, notions which they felt had been inappropriately annexed by the Left. It was also a response to the emergence of a new culture of non-partisan organisations, which provided an important challenge to the position of political parties in interwar Britain. Women’s voluntary associations were particularly instrumental in educating in citizenship and provided a female sphere of political activity that was removed from the rough-and-tumble of party politics. This chapter investigates the links between the Women’s Voluntary Service and Conservative party politics during the Second World War and the importance of specific representations of womanhood to the Conservative identity.

Keywords:   Middlebrow, Commonsense, Womanhood, Women’s Voluntary Service, Voluntary associations, citizenship

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