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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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Our Towns

Our Towns

(p.177) 9 Our Towns
Women, Social Leadership, and the Second World War

James Hinton (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter returns to the wider female associational world, examining attempts to consolidate women's organizations around a non-partisan reformist agenda which reflected their conviction that, however extensively the state might or indeed should intervene, ongoing social problems would continue to provide fertile soil for middle-class social leadership. It examines the Women's Group on Public Welfare and its 1943 study of urban poverty, Our Towns; the local co-ordination of the women's movement through Standing Conferences of Women's Organisations; the role of the Townswomen's Guilds and the Soroptimists in these developments; and the limited wartime revival of feminism and efforts to promote independent women candidates in local elections. The ambition and self-assertiveness of this non-partisan feminine reformism was limited both by the inability of women to take on the male-dominated power of the political parties, and by the growing marginalization of philanthropic forms of authority as social work became increasingly professionalized in the welfare state.

Keywords:   Second World War, voluntary work, social leadership, Britain, Women's Group on Public Welfare, Soroptimists, Townswomen's Guilds, feminism

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