Left Activism, Succour and Selfhood: the epistolary friendship of two revolutionary mothers in 1970s Britain

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  • Celia Penelope Hughes
At the height of mass activity on the Left, the ascendancy of the women's liberation movement (WLM), and the beginnings of real social and personal change for men and women, the 1970s are increasingly seen as the decade when sixties permissiveness began to be truly felt in Britain. This article draws upon a personal archive of correspondence from this turbulent decade, between two revolutionary women, Di Parkin and Annie Howells. It argues that the women's letters form an important contribution to new understandings about the construction of the post-war gendered self. The letters represent an interchange of motherhood, domesticity, far-left politics, and close female friendship. The article will show how the women's epistolary friendship offers intimate insight into female self-fashioning at a breakthrough social and political moment in 1970s Britain. As they reflected on some of the key political and social themes of the decade—class, labour, race and gender relations, as well as international politics—Di and Annie sought to negotiate themselves in relation to shifting discourses and social patterns. Writing as relational female subjects and individuals, the women's letters became simultaneously a private and shared space in which to compose themselves as women, revolutionaries and feminists, and autonomous sexual subjects. As a result, this article will show, the epistolary lives of these two radical women inform valuable understanding about some of the complex ways in which post-war individuals used available cultural and political resources to find meaning in their lives
Original languageEnglish
JournalWomen's History Review
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)874-902
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ID: 92051399