Socialist Women and Gendered Space: Anti-Conscription and Anti-War Campaigns 1914-1918

TitleSocialist Women and Gendered Space: Anti-Conscription and Anti-War Campaigns 1914-1918
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1991
AuthorsDamousi, Joy
JournalLabour History
Date Published05/1991

During the First World War, women were at the forefront in the fight for peace, and took a leading role in the campaign against conscription during the referendums of 1916 and 1917. Women launched organizations of their own, were members of pacifist groups and formed committees within their respective parties to agitate against the introduction of compulsory overseas service. But activism amongst women was to be found not only in women's organizations. Women who were members of socialist organizations also took a leading role in the anti-conscription campaigns and anti-war movement. These women were emerging from the domestic, private sphere - the conventionally ascribed domain for women - into the public arena - the space constructed as male - in numbers unprecedented in Australia's history. In an attempt to explore these themes of gendered space, the author examines in this article the entry of socialist women into the public domain during the First World War and explores the possibility that, traditionally, socialist women did not encounter either physical or verbal hostility because they were engaging within a male discourse which did not challenge male hegemony, and they participated in campaigns which did not undermine male power.

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