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Second Tuesday: Ruth Cohen will speak about ‘The Life and Work of Margaret Llewelyn Davies: Co-operative Movement Activist, Feminist, Socialist and Pacifist’.
13 July 2021 @ 19:00 - 20:30
Meeting ID: 821 7231 4164
Margaret Llewelyn Davies was General Secretary of the Women’s Co-operative Guild between 1889 and 1921, a tumultuous period of social and political change.
Her leadership was crucial to the Guild’s development into a unique national organisation of working class wives and mothers; as the Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai said, it gave the lie to the accepted wisdom that housewives could not be politicised.
In her time Margaret was a well known and highly respected campaigner both within and outside the Co-operative movement, but she has since been undeservedly forgotten.
This talk will explore Margaret’s fascinating life, her contribution to the Guild’s development and the pioneering campaigns which she led, reflecting her particular combination of feminism and ethical socialism. These ranged from pressing for a Co-operative boycott of ‘sweated’ goods and for better pay for women employees to battling for votes for women, for liberalised divorce laws, state maternity provision – and more.
To illustrate it we will discuss the campaign to extend Co-operation to poor areas, in the course of which she worked with the local Co-operative society in an experimental store and settlement in Sunderland.
Ruth is the author of Margaret Llewelyn Davies: With Women for a New World. Publisher’s information: “Margaret Llewelyn Davies (1861-1944), a co-operator, feminist and socialist, was well known in her time as the outstanding leader of the Women’s Co-operative Guild. This first full scale biography chronicles her life and achievements, intertwining activity among working class women with her personal story. Margaret Llewelyn Davies’ system of education, discussion and campaigning opened doors. Women became impressive activists, committed to change both in the co-operative movement and the wider public world. As one Guild member put it, ‘from a shy, nervous woman the Guild made me a fighter’. The Guild flourished, developing what has been termed a distinctively working class feminism. By 1914 the Manchester Guardian could describe it as ‘probably the most remarkable women’s organisation in the world’. The Guild pressed for boycotting ‘sweated’ goods, supported trade unions, battled for a minimum wage, fought for the vote, new divorce laws and for state maternity benefit to be paid to the wife. Cohen draws on original research: in newspapers, the women’s pages of the Co-operative News, Guild records, unpublished papers, and more. This book breaks new ground, providing not only compelling insights into Margaret Llewelyn Davies’ life and politics, but a fresh perspective on working class women’s activism, rediscovering their words, lives, ideas and campaigns.”