Looking for more women

The Liberal Democrat History Group faces a double bind when it comes to finding authors and topics for our articles, books and meetings cover the history of the Liberal Democrats and our predecessor parties.

The superficial explanation is that our output is bound to be dominated by men because that is how political has been. Just look at the ranks of male party leaders, for example. And look at how nearly all the biographers of our party leaders have been men. So whether we’re looking at topics or authors, you might think we’re bound to be dominated by men for understandable reasons. No problem there. Move along please.

Except it there is rather more to it than this, for when you scratch under the service it is clear things do not have to be quite this way.

Yes, the most prominent ranks of past historians, and current professors, may be dominated by men. But work your way through the rest of the ranks of academics and it is a much more mixed picture. If you know who to hunt out and ask in the more junior – but still very talented – ranks then it stops being inevitable that the author lists are so overwhelmingly male.

Likewise, there were plenty of prominent women in our history, and it’s hard to argue that the relative obscurity of some of them is really due their own lack of achievements. Take Margaret Wintringham, for example. Except for the coverage of her in the Journal of Liberal History and my own writing she is almost completely forgotten. Yet as the first female Liberal MP she could be someone frequently referred to as an inspiration and a pathfinder – especially as, unlike some figures from the past, her political views are ones that still generally are both relevant and acceptable. No embarrassing past support of slavery, but a belief in the importance of building up the party’s local government base, for example. She could, and should, be far better known than she is.

Once again, if you know where to dig a little deeper, there often are great women whose stories the Liberal Democrat History Group could be telling and often, as with Margaret Wintringham, helping rescue them for undeserved obscurity.

But as with finding the other academics, you have to know where to look. Which is where you, I hope, come in. We try hard to do this, but I’m sure we have not covered all the possibilities.

The Liberal Democrat History Group is always looking out for both good female subjects to cover and more female authors to invite to contribute (click on the link to see who we have covered or run pieces by).

Your suggestions for who else we should look out for please…

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