Dr Carol Stephens reflects on her recent contribution to the Radical Women event in Huddersfield
When I was asked to contribute to a ‘Radical Valleys’ event in Huddersfield in October I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I’d agreed to talk about the rise of Feminism in the 1970s and 1980s in an event that celebrated radical women and their activism. Feminism in the 1970s and 1980s? Where to begin? Who were the audience and what would they know? To top it off I only had around 40 minutes to talk.
In the end I had nothing to worry about – the Milnsbridge Red and Green Club in Huddersfield proved to be a warm and welcoming venue (a former Labour Club very much like a working men’s club) where socialist and environmentalists meet to socialise and learn. A large group of women (and some men) had gathered on a sunny October Saturday to discuss everything from sexual violence to Orgreave to women’s health. Despite the subjects being heavy, the mood was upbeat and respectful – and what was most wonderful was the range of ages: long retired women activists mingled happily with University students in their early 20s.
For my part I began with the rise of Liberal Feminism and then looked at its frailties through an exploration of class, ‘race’ and sexual violence. I was quickly joined in the discussion by women who had lived through and made this feminism and the activism which sprang from it. A key theme which emerged during the day was that of biography and the personal as political. As a group – around 50 attended – we discussed our life stories in terms of our engagement with work, trade unions, feminism and protest.
Thanks to Radical Valleys for organising this and inviting me – I came away refreshed by the stories I had heard and by an atmosphere of co-operation and respect. I agreed to go to the event because of a commitment to informal learning: my decision paid off, a really good event.
Dr Carol Stephenson