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Visions of equality : women's rights and political change in 1970s Britain

Homans, Elizabeth (2015) Visions of equality : women's rights and political change in 1970s Britain. PhD thesis, Prifysgol Bangor University.

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Abstract

The 1970s are widely thought to have marked a watershed for women. Women’s lives underwent considerable transformations, even as the limits of those changes were bound by continued assumptions about gender roles. The British women’s movement enjoyed its most vibrant upsurge in half a century and a raft of legislation marked the most significant advance in women’s rights since the 1920s. The landmark equality legislation is well known: the 1970 Equal Pay Act and the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. The 1970-74 Conservative Government passed a series of laws strengthening the rights of married women. The 1974-9 Labour Governments introduced statutory maternity leave, child benefit, and addressed some gender inequalities in pension provision. They also passed the 1976 Domestic Violence Act, and the 1977 Sexual Offences Act, which offered women some new protections. This thesis concentrates on those measures which most directly affected women’s economic status and their treatment as workers, in the home and in formal paid employment. It shows how feminists, women rights activists, and other interested parties advanced the cause of reform, and how party and government politicians perceived and responded to these challenges within the context of their broader concerns. The exploration of this particular set of policies shows how governments began to move away from the Beveridge assumptions, whereby women were viewed as dependents, towards a view which saw all women as economically independent workers. This work also shows how these policies, and the ideas about gender equality which they embodied, evolved within a broader political context, which saw the end of the postwar consensus and its replacement with a different set of ideals and assumptions. By adopting a broadly chronological approach, this work shows how the notion and practice of equality for women developed throughout the period which we so closely associate with women’s liberation.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: Degree Thesis
Departments: College of Arts and Humanities > School of History, Welsh History and Archaeology
Degree Thesis
Date Deposited: 14 Aug 2015 08:42
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2016 12:01
URI: http://e.bangor.ac.uk/id/eprint/5203
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