A Woman’s Place, 1910-1975

Ruth Adam writes the British perspective of the battle for women’s equality in this volume, breaking each chapter into a distinct time frame. Before WWI, she sets the stage and describes the work that the Suffragettes were doing, which was interrupted when the war came and the nation was furiously patriotic. As in the U.S., women filled the slots that men left behind in the working world, getting their first taste of independence. When some of the boys returned, the ones who didn’t die, they were ushered back home, but as a consolation prize, limited suffrage was granted.

The first woman elected to Parliament, Constance Gore-Booth aka Countess Markievicz, was a militant suffragette and Irish nationalist. She was adopted as the Sinn Fein candidate while she was serving a death sentence for her role in the Easter Rising, and sadly didn’t take it seriously. She was released but never publicly went into the House of Commons, never bothering to take the seat that was so hard-fought by her feminist sisters. The next woman into Parliament was also a discredit to the feminists, Lady Astor, an American Southern belle turned English society hostess, appearing to be “a wholly unsuitable representative of the Cause which she, who was not even British by birth, had never seriously supported.”

Another new name for me was Marie Stopes, the woman responsible for bringing birth control to the masses by way of best-selling books she wrote, then by opening the first birth control clinic in the British Empire with her husband.