Genre: Nonfiction – History, Social history, Politics
Parliamentary Pioneers : Labour Women MPs 1918-1945 is a compelling account of the trailblazers who laid the foundations for women having an influential voice in the House of Commons. Written by MEP and authoritative spokesperson on women’s rights and gender equality Mary Honeyball, the book tells the story of the issues these first MPs championed, the challenges they faced and the lives they led.
This doughty group of women, tough and individualistic as they all were, maintained their independence both in their politics and in their personal lives. The election of Labour women to the House of Commons meant that females representing the working classes now joined their male counterparts in articulating Labour concerns in Parliament, still very much a bastion of Edwardian wealth and privilege. The hallowed Chamber regularly echoed with voices that cared passionately about social issues, issues guaranteed to upset the resident delicate gentlemen not used to such talk.
Told through the prism of key contemporary issues, such as working-class women’s fight for birth control in the 1920s and 30s, this book brings to life the little known history of these first Labour women to sit in the House of Commons. Fair representation for women at Westminster has proved to be a long haul. It was not until the Labour landslide of 1997 that over 100 Labour women were returned to the House of Commons much is owed to the original Parliamentary Pioneers.
This well-written and strongly-researched book perfectly manages that fine balance between academically sound and highly accessible reading.
The book is arranged in topics, highlighting not only the pioneers themselves, but also the general political and social movements of the time. I found the chapters on work, welfare and birth control particularly informative, although the entire book contained a wonderful array of ‘ooh, I had no idea’ moments, with fascinating pockets of social and local, as well as historical, information.
This is one for those interested in history, politics or feminism. A pleasure to read, and one to keep coming back to.
*I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.