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Parliament and Women, c.1900-1945

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

This thesis examines the relationship between Parliament and women in the early twentieth century. It does so with particular reference to legislation affecting women’s lives and gender equality, the contribution of women to Parliamentary standing committees and select committees, and women staff in the House of Commons and House of Lords. Four pieces of legislation are studied in detail: the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 that allowed women to become Members of Parliament; the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 that widened employment opportunities for women; the Guardianship of Infants Act 1925 that enabled guardianship of children to be granted equally for men and women; and finally the Representation of the People (Equal Franchise Act) 1928 that gave women the vote on the same terms as men. Together these Acts encompass an important and diverse range of issues. This thesis contends that a full comprehension of its Parliamentary passage enables each Act to be better understood and evaluated in its contemporary context. The contribution of women MPs to standing committees, which scrutinise legislation, and the participation of women as members, witnesses and staff to select committees of inquiry, is studied here for the first time, filling a significant gap in the historiography. Finally this thesis provides an analysis of the work and lives of women working in Parliament, letting us view Parliament as an environment for women and enabling the House of Commons and House of Lords to be brought into the broader literature of women workers. This thesis, by considering Parliament in the context of its relationship with women, enables a new understanding of the nature of Parliament in this period, which more accurately reflects its diverse nature. In this way this thesis gives new insights into how Parliament viewed and interacted with women in the early twentieth century.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Award date2012


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