Politics, Activism and Feminism
The Merseyside region has been home to a number of significant feminist campaigners and campaigns.
The non-militant Liverpool Women’s Suffrage Society was set up in 1893, and in 1905 the city established its own branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, an organisation which increasingly used direct action in its campaign for votes for women.
The region’s involvement with feminist politics did not stop with the granting of the vote to (some) women in 1918. During the interwar and postwar years, MP’s like Eleanor Rathbone and Bessie Braddock made important interventions in the field of politics, and in the 1970s and 80s second wave feminism flourished in Merseyside with the establishment of the Merseyside Women’s Liberation Movement and groups such as Liverpool Black Sisters.
Dr Samantha Caslin
For more information about Dr Caslin’s current research into the Merseyside Women’s Liberation Movement please contact email@example.com
View the Department of History’s Dr Samantha Caslin discuss suffragette Edith Rigby’s attempt to bomb the Liverpool Cotton Exchange in this blog.
Meet one of the Sisters from our Sisters of Mersey app:
Bessie Braddock: Blue Plaque, 2 Zig Zag Road, West Derby, L12
Elizabeth Margaret Braddock was born on 24 September 1899 at 23 Zante Street, in the Everton area of Liverpool. Her mother, Mary Bamber, was a left-wing political activist who was committed to social reform and helping the poor across the city. In her autobiography, she recalls accompanying her mother, at seven years old, to help in the soup kitchens.
Thus, Bessie was thrust into activism from a young age and continued into a long career in this field, in which she took a passionate interest in matters relating to maternity, child welfare and youth crime. During the Second World War, like many other women in the city, she contributed to the war effort, working as an ambulance driver. However, she resigned in 1945, stood at the General Election and become the first Labour MP for the Exchange Division. She was an MP for 25 years and achieved a reputation for being an ardent socialist and fiery campaigner, earning the nickname ‘Battling Bessie’ in the media.
In Liverpool, she was known as ‘Ma Bessie’ and, in April 1970, was made a Freeman of the city of Liverpool, the first woman to be thus honoured. She died in November 1970, age 71. In his tribute to her at Anfield Crematorium, Harold Wilson declared that, ‘she was born to fight for the people of the docks, of the slums, of the factories and in every part of the city where people needed help’.
University of Liverpool