Baldwin, Anne (2012) Progress and patterns in the election of women as councillors, 1918 – 1938. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This work has three core aims; to quantify the extent to which women stood as council candidates and were elected between 1918 and 1938; to assess the influences on the backgrounds of women seeking election in that period; and to examine a sample of women elected to determine how far they retained separate spheres reflecting gendered interests or were able to join male colleagues in wider council roles. The findings show patchy progress with far slower growth on county
councils than in London and only one or two women councillors present at any one time on some important councils. Council culture and political geography were causes of low representation. Women increasingly needed access to political
parties to be candidates, but the presence of a political battleground and the nature of local social leadership were equally important. London women needed to be politically driven from the outset whereas some towns elected women recognised as community leaders rather than politicians. Women councillors had experience of suffrage activism, voluntary work, as Poor Law guardians and of committee co-option. They could remain in office for decades. Women were
concentrated on committees of domestic interest, but their activities changed as state intervention increasingly influenced family life. By addressing topics such as birth control, the special interest of women councillors became a very public discussion of a previously private domestic matter. Women also took on public
roles as committee chairman or mayors. This blurring between public and private spheres is of relevance to wider discussion about women’s activism as they gained in citizenship. Despite slow progress over 1,400 women contributed as councillors in this period with a very practical style and determined tenacity. This overview of
their distribution, origins and activities shows an uneven spread of women councillors with divided political views, but unity in seeking improvement in family life.

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