Liberals and women

When the Victorian women's movement emerged in the 1850s and 1860s it attracted women from Liberal families such as Barbara Leigh Smith who had been associated with Liberal crusades for temperance, anti-slavery and the repeal of the Corn Laws. Feminist achievements later in the century owed much to Liberals, notably Josephine Butler's campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts, Eva MacLaren's work for the Women's Local Government Society, and Millicent Fawcett's leadership of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies.

Women’s Liberal Federation

The Women's Liberal Federation was formed between 1886 and 1887 under the presidency of Gladstone's daughter, Catherine and by the turn of the century, the organisation had around 60,000 members and almost 500 local branches.

Journal articles

Wife of Lloyd George

Richard Rhys O’Brien, The Campaigns of Margaret Lloyd George: The wife of the Prime Minister 1916–1922 (Y Lolfa, 2022). Review by Russell Deacon.

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Liberal women in Devon

Review of J. Neville, M. Auchterlonie, P. Auchterlonie and A. Roberts (eds.), Devon Women in Public and Professional Life 1900–1950: Votes, voices and vocations (Exeter University Press, 2021). Review by Mark Egan.

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Women and the Liberal Democrats

Review of Dr Elizabeth Evans, Gender and the Liberal Democrats – Representing Women? (Manchester University Press, 2011)

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Mothers of Liberty

How modern Liberalism was made by women. Report of a Liberal Democrat History Group meeting at the Liberal Democrat conference, 22 September 2012, on the role of women in Liberalism and the Liberal Party. Speakers: Helen McCabe, Jane Bonham-Carter, Jo Swinson; Chair Lynn Featherstone


Mothers of liberty: how modern liberalism was made by women

Thanks to their exclusion from the right to vote and to stand for Parliament before 1918, the role of women in Liberal history is often overlooked. Yet many women played crucial roles, from the earliest days of Liberal history, as organisers, campaigners and theorists. This meeting analysed and celebrated the importance of women to the growth and success of Liberal thought and politics.

The meeting also marked the launch of a new History Group booklet, a series of biographies of famous women liberals, which details the contribution of women to Liberal politics from the eighteenth century to the present day.

The speakers were:

Dr Helen McCabe, Oxford University, on women associated with the development of Liberal political thought in the 18th and 19th centuries, including Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Martineau, Harriet Taylor Mill and Barbara Bodichon.

Baroness Jane Bonham-Carter, on the story of one of the most significant Liberal women of the 20th century, Violet Bonham Carter.

Jo Swinson MP (PPS to the Deputy Prime Minister) on the role of women in the modern Liberal Democrats.

Chair: Lynne Featherstone MP, Minister for Equalities, Home Office.

You can ||http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzu8g0coIG0||watch the meeting online here||.