On Feminism

When the great historian EP Thompson was giving a talk to a WEA group about women’s oppression, he was interrupted.

“An elderly self-educated villager, with a keen weather-beaten face, became tense, and at last burst out: “We women knew our rights, you know. We knew what was our due.”

Thompson discovered his misinformed emphasis on female victimhood was heard by her and others as offensive. They told him of how working women established their own spaces and made sure they received their “dues”. They may not have measured up to modern concepts of feminism but they were not passive victims.

I cited this in my book on wife selling as it is important to see how women’s rights – or lack of them – need to be seen within the norms of the age. So much of what we know now have been shaped by the post-war women’s movement.

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