GFRN seminar: Vernacular Discourses of Gender Equality in the Postwar British Working Class

12 February 2020, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm

GFRN is pleased to welcome Dr Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite and Dr Natalie Thomlinson (Uni of Reading) to discuss their paper.

Event Information

Open to





Lucy Stagg

This paper examines oral history interviews with 100 working-class women born in mid-twentieth century Britain, to trace the development of a vernacular discourse of gender equality which impacted profoundly on working-class women’s sense of self, relationships within the family, and orientation to paid work. The interviews were undertaken as part of a project examining women’s experiences in the miners’ strike of 1984-5, and questions about feminism, gender, and the impact of the strike on gender roles were central to the project. While the majority of our interviewees did not identify as feminists, they nevertheless almost all asserted their belief in the principle of gender equality.

The authors map the precise nature of this discourse of gender equality, showing that rather than drawing on feminist ideology, the interviewees were far more likely to turn to socialism or trade unionism, to a discourse of individualism, individual fulfilment and self-confidence deriving from the psy-sciences, and to the language of human rights to justify the equality of men and women. The authors argue that it is to these relatively neglected sources that we must look to explain the progress of belief in gender equality, and the nature of the dominant vernacular discourse of gender equality found among working-class women today.

All welcome but please register to attend. This event is organised by the UCL Gender and Feminism Research Network, part of the Institute of Advanced Studies.

About the Speakers

Dr Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite

Dr Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite is a historian of twentieth-century Britain in UCL History dept. Her PhD examined political and popular ideas about class in England between c. 1969 and 2000. Other historical subjects she has an interest in include gender, sexuality, prostitution and homelessness. From 2013-15 she was a Junior Research Fellow at Clare College, Cambridge. She is working on a study of women's activism in the miners' strike of 1984-5 with Dr Natalie Thomlinson (University of Reading).

Dr Natalie Thomlinson

Dr Natalie Thomlinson is Associate Professor at University of Reading. She is a historian of feminism and gender in modern Britain, though her work is fundamentally concerned with how both of those categories are mediated through race and class. Her first book, Race and ethnicity in the women's movement in England, 1968 - 1993 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) examined debates between white and ethnic minority women about the place of race in the feminist movement in England during this period, and was selected by Choice magazine as an 'Outstanding Academic Title' for 2016.