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Mothers in British left-wing politics have often sought to downplay or distance themselves from their roles as mothers, to emphasise instead their past as workers and activists who can be fully committed to the left cause. Feminist historians, keen to not engage in essentialist or regressive analysis, have often followed their lead and have tended to write around political mothers’ maternal roles in their scholarship. This means that the complexities of the maternal in British politics have been largely overlooked, and the role of mothers on the left has been downplayed or ignored. Following a Royal Historical Society/Mile End Institute funded workshop, we have been working to draw together contributions to a roundtable exploring the place of mothers and motherhood on the political left in modern Britain. This paper will set out our impetus for raising these research questions, present some of the initial themes and ideas from our roundtable, and consider future directions for this work.

Charlotte Lydia Riley is Associate Professor in the Department of History, University of Southampton. In addition to writing widely for popular outlets, her publications include the edited collection The free speech wars: How did we get here and why does it matter (MUP, 2021) and Imperial Island: A History of Empire in Modern Britain (Bodley Head, 2023).

Lyndsey Jenkins is Departmental Lecturer in Modern History at St. Hilda’s College, University of Oxford. Her publications include Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr (London, 2015) and Sisters and Sisterhood: The Kenney Sisters, Class and Suffrage c.1890-1965 (OUP, 2021). She is currently co-editing a collection for Oxford University Press, entitled Women, Power and Politics in Britain, 1945-1997.

All welcome – This event is free, but booking is required.