Daughters of Dundee: gender and politics in Dundee: the representation of women 1870-1997

Watson, Norman (2001). Daughters of Dundee: gender and politics in Dundee: the representation of women 1870-1997. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e31e


This thesis investigates to what degree women developed a politicised gender consciousness and participated in political activity in Dundee in the period 1870 to 1997. It is a gender and political study on Scotland's fourth city which has three key objectives. The first is to examine whether gender was relevant in the city's history of representation and whether it made a difference to political structures, policy and activity. The second charts the advance of women in the city's political elites to determine whether they shared common interests which formed the basis for collective action, which could be characterised as women's politics. The third sets out to further our understanding of why there is a commonly-held and repeated public view that Dundee was a woman's town and that Dundee women were and are in some way radically "different" because of the city's unique industrial circumstances and the intervention of gender into local political activity.

The thesis uses several sites to explore whether the women involved made a difference in terms of political outcomes. It examines parliamentary and local government elections. It looks at the emergence of trade unions, elected bodies and autonomous women's organisations. It involves an interdisciplinary exploration of issues and problems in political studies, political history, community politics and the analysis of gender relations. It is an idiographic study of gender and political activity that utilises new evidence to challenge myths associated with the object of analysis. It argues that the distinction between the voluntary welfare associations in which women were involved and political activity was often blurred. Influential women's activity which does not fall within conventional definitions of "political" activity is also highlighted.

The study seeks also to place these discourses within the context of theories about representation and equality. Within political science the thesis explores empirical explanations within the context of Dundee, and contends that analysis of the situation in the city during the study period, in particular the role of middle-class women in the 20th century, goes some way to providing a flexible alternative to important feminist approaches on political participation and representation. It is also argued in this thesis that time and place are important factors in charting representation, and that they are factors seldom prominent within feminist theoretical scholarship. Thus, this thesis is as much a first women's political history of a major Scottish city as it is an important analysis of political representation and a framework for establishing new ideas about political activity in Dundee. It provides an original contribution of a historically and socially-specific location and in so doing provides a basis for further comparative work on gender and political activity and in placing tacit assumptions in the research literature in question.

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