In the 1970s, the first book to be published on women’s oppression was considered to have spurred a fight that was to continue to date. This is what brought an awakening in the lives of women in the preceding generations. Since then, many books and journals have been published on the topic of Women and their rights. However, very few books have been written concerning the history of women in the Great Britain between 1850 and 1945 (Purvis, 1995). This is the major topic addressed in June Purvis’ book, Women’s history: Britain 1850-1945. It presents various research works done on the lives of the British women in this period. It mainly targets students at both undergraduate and post-graduate levels whose disciplines are cultural history, sociology and courses involving the study of women’s history.
This book is non-fictional and historical. Non-fictional books are the book genres addressing real issues. The writers talk about events that have already happened or are yet to happen. Being a historical book, it is about the past events, which in one way or another might be having an influence on the present. The main subject is on the development of women and their role in the society. In the olden days, women had very little to contribute in the building of the society. Their role was mainly centered in taking care of their families, cooking and doing other farm work. The book also addresses the issues faced by women in the contemporary society such as sexual assault, lesbianism and other reproductive health issues.
When compiling the materials for the publication of this book, the author had the support of many researchers in the fields of Economics, sociology, history, medical health and political sciences. Some of these contributors include Hannam June, the head of history department in the university of West England. She contributed her research findings on a research she conducted on the political history of women. Another major contributor in this work is Hudson Pat, who is a professor at the Liverpool University majoring on Economics and Social history. Her contribution to this book was on the process and the consequences of industrialization, with specific reference to the beginning of industrialization, regional differentiation, capital accumulation and the domestic economy in Britain (Purvis, 1995). These are just a few of the people who contributed materials for this book.
The main components of the author’s arguments are the challenges encountered by women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She gives the histories behind sexual problems affecting women such as Lesbianism (Purvis, 1995). These issues have not yet been fully resolved but the progress made so far is a plausible one. She also discusses the roles played by women in putting the topic of women and gender equality at the top of the historical frame. This is a topic that she says will never be outrun by time and as if to concur with her allegations, this issue is still top in the list of contentious issues.
This book was first published in 1995 in New York. The latest edition however was published in 2006. Prof. June Purvis, who is the author, is a sociology professor in the University of Portsmouth. She has a BA Hons in Sociology from the Leeds University, a MEd from Manchester University and a PhD in Educational History from Open University She majors in the teaching of women’s studies and history (Purvis, 1995). She has written other books on women and gender issues in the historical perspective. In fact, she founded a research organization dubbed Women’s History Review, which concentrates on researching on women’s experiences in the past in relation to the present experiences.
This book is written using the Narrative history format, which is in story form. The author presents the history of the development of women from the year 1850 to 1945 (Purvis, 1995). She describes the oppressions, which British women went through over this period as well as the movements, which were formed to lobby for the freedom of women. The book is written according to the year the events occurred, each chapter addressing issues in the latter period than the one discussed in the previous chapter. For example, the second chapter is on Women and industrialization, while the fifth one addresses Women and Education. Women started receiving formal education long after industrialization had taken place.
Historical events are described chronologically. This means that they are arranged according to their time of occurrence. Events are explained in terms of the year or era in which they occurred. An example is whereby the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) was established in the year 1912, which was on the lead against capitalism in 1919, since they believed that it had destroyed women’s status in the Nation. The 1930s marked the beginning of industrialization, and many changes were experienced and this contributed positively to the development of women in professional areas (Purvis, 1995). Many other events are described in terms of the years in which they occurred.
She effectively uses secondary sources of information, which she obtains from research works done by other people. She quoted many relevant examples from different sources and cited the authors of all the materials she utilized. For example, she got the definition of gender from Gender and History journal an editorial of the Anglo-American collective state. The authors’ arguments in the entire book are in line with her thesis of explaining the gender reforms, which took place in Britain between the nineteenth and the twentieth century (Purvis, 1995). She supports her arguments by use of real examples of people who were on the front line lobbying for gender equality and the recognition of women in the society.
The content in this book is related to previous historical happenings. It is not based on any new research. In fact, it is a continuation of the first series, Women’s history: Britain 1700-1850. This first series is about the struggles women went through in those years, since at that time there were no activists for women’s rights. The book under review was therefore written to shade some light on these issues. It describes the awakening of the women and their continued fight for freedom and justice. In future, this can be a resourceful material in the study of history and it can be useful to women in other regions who are still being oppressed. This book targets the public at large. Being a history book does not mean it can just be used by historians. Any person who is interested in learning about the origin of women’s rights movements will find it very resourceful. It is also highly recommended to students especially in the college level who are studying the world’s history.
I liked this book because it contains a lot of information concerning the historical events in the lives of women. It explains the impacts of global events such as industrialization on the role of women. Besides this, it also provides adequate literature in social, historical and health studies. It gave me an understanding of historical events that led to the formation of women’s rights organization in Britain as well as all over the world. I would recommend this book to lecturers, students and the public in general. This is because from reading the book, one discovers the various roles played by women in the world’s politics and most specifically in matters of health (Purvis, 1995). Reading this book gives an understanding of why there are so many groups all over the world advocating for the rights of women. This is because women in the past were living under very poor social conditions and the groups were formed to help them improve on this. Most of these groups have remained active to date in order to enforce the rights to the new generations (Purvis, 1995).
Purvis, June. Women’s History: Britain, 1850-1945: an introduction. New York, NY: UCL press, 1995. Print.