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Women, Social Leadership, and the Second World WarContinuities of Class$
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James Hinton

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199243297

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199243297.001.0001

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Uncertain Future

Uncertain Future

(p.157) 8 Uncertain Future
Women, Social Leadership, and the Second World War

James Hinton (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In 1945 most WVS members expected the organization to close down, and when it did not do so, they left. At the same time the national leadership of the established women's organizations which had provided much of the local leadership for the WVS since 1938 pressed the Attlee government to put an end to Lady Reading's fiefdom which they regarded as an alien, state-subsidised wartime growth, offensive to principles both of democracy and of voluntarism. How did the WVS survive? This chapter examines attitudes among the WVS membership at the end of the war, and the strategy of ‘mission creep’ employed by Lady Reading to make WVS indispensable to Whitehall by finding new work for tired hands. Her success in persuading the surviving members, many of them Tories, to collaborate with the Labour Government's management of austerity — notably in food education and fuel economy — testifies to the continuing appeal of non-partisanship among middle-class social leaders.

Keywords:   Second World War, Women's Voluntary Service, social leadership, Britain, Labour Party, Conservative Party, austerity, fuel economy, food education

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