The 1920s: A Good Decade for Women in Politics

Bridget Brooklyn


The work of Australian scholars in the field of between-wars feminism has allowed us to move on from the ‘wave’ metaphor of feminist activity over the past 120 years or so, which posited a trough of inactivity between gaining the vote and the ‘second wave’ cresting in the 1970s. Feminism’s journey is more aptly described as one taken on foot: slow and arduous in places, but always continuing. In such a journey, the 1920s represents something of a bend in the road. Following the more singular suffrage campaign, many feminist ideas in the 1920s clustered around a less singular, but still broad and in many ways unifying, set of beliefs about women’s work as homemakers and child rearers, usually described as maternal or maternalist feminism. The galvanising force of this widely accepted form of feminism was combined with new opportunities for women to enter, and assume leadership roles in, the public realm. This chapter examines the political lives of two women active in NSW politics in this turbulent, exciting decade: Mary Booth and Millicent Preston Stanley.


1920s, Anzac Fellowship of Women, Australia, child endowment, World War I, maternalist feminism, Mary Booth, Millicent Preston Stanley, parliamentary politics, women and leadership

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