In two short reflective talks, Sheila Rowbotham and Hilary Wainwright will contribute personal memories of links between events, movements and ideas which surfaced in 1968 and  the emergence of  the women’s liberation movement of the early  1970s. They will describe how these helped to shape their approaches to politics.

These will be followed by contributions and discussion from the audience.

Woman on a engineers' strike march
‘Equal pay for women’ on May 1968 striking engineers’ march in Bristol.

In 1969, Sheila Rowbotham’s influential pamphlet Women’s Liberation and the New Politics, argued that socialist thinking needed to consider the oppression of women in cultural as well as economic terms. She contributed to Beyond the Fragments: Feminism and the Making of Socialism with Hilary Wainwright and Lynne Segal in which she attempted to draw together grassroots movements with democratic socialist and socialist feminist currents in Britain. Her memoir about the 1960s – Promise of a Dream explores being a woman and becoming active on the left. In her historical writing she has traced the connections between feminism and other social movements, arguing that struggles for the emancipation of women bring crucial insights for a wider politics of liberation.

Hilary Wainwright was active in the feminist movement during the 1970s and 1980s. She is a researcher and writer on the emergence of new forms of democratic participation within parties, movements and the state. She has documented examples of resurgent democratic movements in many countries across the world and the lessons they provide for progressive politics. She is a co-editor of Red Pepper magazine and the author of several books. Her latest work, A New Politics from the Left with Polity press draws lessons from the womens liberation movement and the radical democracy of the late 60’s for a new understanding of knowledge and power. She will highlight  connections between the democratic spirit of 68 and the political imagination, directly and indirectly, of those who believe in social transformation today.

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