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WOMEN'S DEPARTMENT

Women

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Women's Department

CP/CENT/WOM. When the CPGB established its national women's advisory committee in 1944, it could look back on a quarter of a century of uneven but sometimes energetic campaigning addressed to women members and supporters. Memorably, an early party pamphlet had exhorted its intended readers to Wake up, Mrs Worker! which doubtless betrays a somewhat restricted view of the topic. Nevertheless, in the context of the period the CPGB's record on women's issues was by no means contemptible. In the early years communists were usually hostile to anything smacking of 'bourgeois feminism' or a separate women's agenda. During the popular front and war years, however, such attitudes were modified; and, as it reflected and often anticipated wider social changes, the CPGB's conception of women's politics was increasingly a fluid and contested one. These developments are well documented in the sequence of Women's Department files dating from about 1950. There are also papers of Marian Ramelson relating to the Conference of Women of Asia, held in Beijing in 1949, and her later history of the women's suffrage movement. Of particular interest is the impact of the women's liberation movement in unsettling as well as energising the party in the 1970s. The magazine Red Rag, published without a King Street licence, reached beyond communist circles on a socialist-feminist platform, but at the same time antagonised some of the older activists entrenched in its Women's Department. The official women's journal Link did, however, come to embrace some of these concerns and records communist inputs into campaigns over abortion law, employment rights and the whole gamut of feminist politics. Though little in comparison survives for an earlier generation of women's activists, the important unpublished biography of Helen Crawfurd can be found at CP/IND/MISC.

Description drawn from Kevin Morgan's introduction.

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CP-CENT-WOM

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