WHAT THE MEN WROTE
(AND WHAT THEY DID NOT)
One part of my research project The Personal and the Political concerns the New Liberals in Britain before the First World War, and especially their views on women’s suffrage and the various other questions that women posed ‘beyond the vote’.
Their views were surprisingly diverse. I focus on the Nation group, the writers, journalists, MPs and academics who grouped themselves around H.W.Massingham’s New Liberal periodical, meeting each week in the National Liberal Club. The group was deeply divided over the principle of women’s suffrage and even those in favour were mostly opposed to militant women’s suffragists’ demands for immediate legislation.
The men were also divided over questions ‘beyond the vote’. There is quite a lot in The Nation concerning new feminist perspectives on marriage, parenting, domestic living and the family, especially a series of critical short articles written by the New Liberal political economist J.A.Hobson. There are also writings on the subject by L.T.Hobhouse, Gilbert Murray and others. Yet this body of work is almost wholly unknown.
Furthermore, and importantly, no acknowledgment is made in New Liberals’ writings about their own, personal experiences of marriage, parenting, domestic living and family. This is true not only in the articles they wrote, but even in their autobiographies.