A ‘Mixture of Britannia and Boadicea’: Dorothy Crisp’s Conservatism and the Limits of Right-Wing Women’s Political Activism, 1927–48
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionTwentieth Century British History. 2018, 1-31. https://doi.org/10.1093/tcbh/hwy042
Dorothy Crisp is known for being the militant Chairman of the British Housewives League (BHL) after the Second World War, but historians have failed to recognize that her views and actions were the culmination of over twenty years of right-wing journalism and political activism through which she tried to influence the Conservative Party. This article re-evaluates Crisp's Conservatism and her political career. It asks why such a powerful pro-Conservative female activist failed to secure a place within Conservative politics during the 1930s and the 1940s. In doing so, it shows that Crisp was not willing to conform to traditional gender roles inside the Party or the broader Conservative movement and that she was a vocal advocate for gender equality. It was the combination of her attitude towards women's issues and her older brand of imperialist, ultra-patriotic, anti-statist Conservatism that was unusual for a right-wing woman in this period. Crisp's views on women's issues did not fit the domesticity agenda of the BHL or that of the ‘Tory women's tradition’, which could not provide her with an opportunity to achieve her career goals. The article also explores how the Party handled challenges from independent right-wing activists, especially women, in a period when ‘one-nation’ Conservatism was dominant. It engages with recent debates about ‘Conservative feminism’ and argues that Crisp was also an important figure because she kept alive the model of the independent radical female Conservative, which would become the hallmark of Margaret Thatcher's politics a generation later.