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Struggle and Suffrage in Watford (Paperback)

Women's Lives and the Fight for Equality

Local History P&S History Social History Women of History Struggle and Suffrage

By Dr Eugenia Russell, Dr Quentin Russell
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Struggle and Suffrage
Pages: 168
Illustrations: 25 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526712660
Published: 15th September 2020

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This book shines a light on the many areas of female activity in and around Watford, both in the home and at work, in traditional rural employment or in dressmaking, textiles and the silk industry. The lives of local women are put into the context of the national movement to address inequality and injustice, highlighting the often difficult lives of those employed in domestic service, the impact of poor housing and terrible poverty on women’s lives and the efforts to redress the situation and the changes in social hierarchy. Within the broad spectrum of life, individual stories show that there were still opportunities for women to take control of their lives, some excelling as entrepreneurs - owning shops, pubs and other businesses.

During this time of immense social change, pioneering women within the community set the example for others to follow, whether as political activists and suffragettes connecting with the feminist issues of their times or as prominent members of the community dedicating their lives to the needs of others. The region was notable for fostering the talents of numerous prominent artists, Lucy Kemp-Welch, the illustrator of Black Beauty and creator of many recognisable war propaganda posters being the most famous, but also in the sciences, such as Harriette Chick, who worked in the Lister Institute in Elstree.

Education became of increasing importance and this was reflected in the growth of the number of schools taken female pupils and employing women as teachers, a number of which were set up philanthropically specifically for girls. Schooling for girls improved their opportunities and in times of crisis, the country came to rely on the varied contribution women could make - from skilled and devoted nurses staffing the hospitals to technicians in the factories in times of war - leading to the reappraisal of the role of women in post-war Britain.

Another excellent book in this series, as I have said before I really do enjoy this series like the ‘Towns and Cities in the wars’ books. Maybe this is because I know a number of the places mentioned in this book that I found it very interesting, but then I found the Morpeth and Northumberland book good to read too as I was learning about a new place. The book covers the 100 years between 185o and 1950, a quite important number of years for the achievements of women and the suffrage of women. I enjoyed this book very much and particularly the growth of schooling and the education of girls and how the achievements of women in life was reflected in the school environment. The book was very well written and a very good read, certainly a book I would recommend.

5 stars

Read the full review here

UK Historian

About Dr Eugenia Russell

Dr Eugenia Russell is an author and Lecturer in History at St Marys University, Twickenham. She has lectured on the history of empires, Renaissance learning and exploration, the Ancient World, art history and political philosophy. 


About Dr Quentin Russell

Dr Quentin Russell is a historian, writer and producer. He holds a PhD in 19th century Anglo-Greek relations. He was part of the writing and production team on Exposure: the Musical (2016) and his TV documentary, An Exile in Paradise: The Adventures of Edward Lear in Greece and Albania, which was broadcast internationally, won the New York Festival’s Arts Silver Medal in 2009. His previous publications include Ali Pasha, Lion of Ioannina: the Remarkable Life of the Balkan Napoleon (2017) for Pen and Sword and an essay on Lear’s travels as a painter of the Balkans (1848-9) in the prestigious British Art Journal.

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