You are on page 1of 6

Sheila Rowbotham

Sheila Rowbotham (born 1943 Leeds, West Yorkshire) is a British socialist feminist theorist and writer.

Contents

1 Earl life ! "#tlook on feminism 3 $ecent %rofessional life 4 &otes ' (ee also ) $eferences * Biblio+ra%h , E-ternal links

Early life
$owbotham was born in Leeds, the da#+hter of a salesman for an en+ineerin+ com%an and an office clerk.1/ 0rom an earl a+e, she was dee%l interested in histor .!/. $owbotham was to write that traditional %olitical histor 1left her cold2, b#t she credited "l+a Wilkinson, one of her teachers with enco#ra+in+ her interest in social histor b showin+ that histor 1belon+ed to the %resent, not to the histor te-tbooks2..1/ $owbotham attended (t 3ilda4s 5olle+e at "-ford and then the 6ni7ersit of London. (he be+an her workin+ life as a teacher in com%rehensi7e schools and instit#tes of hi+her or 8d#lt ed#cation. While attendin+ (t. 3ilda4s 5olle+e, $owbotham fo#nd her s llab#s with its hea7 foc#s on %olitical histor to be of no interest to her..3/ 9hro#+h her in7ol7ement in the 5am%ai+n for &#clear :isarmament, and 7ario#s socialist circles incl#din+ the Labo#r ;art 4s o#th win+, the Yo#n+ (ocialists, $owbotham was introd#ced to <arl =ar->s ideas..!/ 8lread on the left, $owbotham was con7erted to =ar-ism..4/ (oon disenchanted with the direction of %art %olitics she immersed herself in a 7ariet of left?win+ cam%ai+ns, incl#din+ writin+ for the radical %olitical news%a%er Black Dwarf. @n the 19)As, $owbotham was one of the fo#nders and leaders of the 3istor Worksho% mo7ement associated with $#skin 5olle+e.'/. 9owards the end of the 19)As she had become in7ol7ed in the +rowin+ Women4s Liberation =o7ement (also known as (econd?wa7e feminism) and, in 19)9, %#blished her infl#ential %am%hlet BWomen4s Liberation and the &ew ;oliticsB which ar+#ed that (ocialist theor needed to consider the o%%ression of women in c#lt#ral as well as economic terms. (he enCo ed wearin+ miniskirts and bein+ se-#all liberated. (he was hea7il in7ol7ed in the conference Beyond the Fragments (e7ent#all a book), which attem%ted to draw to+ether democratic socialist and socialist feminist c#rrents in the 6<. Between 19,3 and 19,),

$owbotham ser7ed as the editor of Jobs For Change, the news%a%er of the Dreater London 5o#ncil.)/.

Outlook on feminism
(ince then, $owbotham has %rod#ced n#mero#s st#dies and articles e-%andin+ #%on her theor , which ar+#es that as women4s o%%ression is a res#lt of both economic and c#lt#ral forces then a d#alist %ers%ecti7e (socialist feminism), which e-amines both the %#blic and %ri7ate s%here, is reE#ired to work towards liberation. $owbotham was es%eciall infl#enced b =ar-ist social histor as %racticed b E. ;. 9hom%son and his wife :oroth ..*/ 5ombinin+ a =ar-ist anal sis with feminism, $owbotham contends that ca%italism not onl s stematicall o%%resses the workin+ class, b#t also %artic#larl o%%resses women..*/ @n $owbotham4s 7iew, women are do#bl o%%ressed as the are forced to sell their labo#r in order to s#r7i7e, b#t also forced to #se their labo#r to s#%%ort their h#sbands and children..*/ $owbotham is critical of traditional =ar-ist histor for what she sees as the ne+lect of s#ch iss#es as famil histor , the role of ho#sewi7es in s#%%ortin+ the econom , se-#alit , and maternit ..*/ @n her 19*3 book Women's Consciousness, Men's World, $owbotham maintained that the domestic ho#sehold work done b women was a %art of commodit %rod#ction as it allowed the %rod#ction and re%rod#ction of men>s labor .)/ 3owe7er, $owbotham claimed that the h#man famil was not C#st an instr#ment for disci%linin+ and s#bCectin+ women to ca%italism, b#t was a %lace where %otentiall h#mans co#ld take ref#+e from the what $owbotham sees as the commodification of h#man relationshi%s #nder ca%italism.)/ @n $owbotham>s 7iew, raisin+ children, se-#alit and need for h#man relationshi% means that the famil can rarel be red#ced down to a ser7ice commoditi .)/. Likewise, she ar+#es for a =ar-ist histor that accords eE#al im%ortance to the role of both se-es in the histor of re7ol#tions, #nions, %olitical %arties and %rotest mo7ements.*/. @n s#ch books as Women, Resistance and Re olution (19*!) and !idden from !istory (19*4), $owbotham %#t her ideas into %ractice b e-aminin+ the e-%erience of women in radical and re7ol#tionar mo7ements in 5#ba, 8l+eria, Fietnam, 5hina, $#ssia, 0rance and Britain from the 1*th cent#r to the !Ath..,/ @n $owbotham4s o%inion, workin+ within the established order has ne7er bro#+ht women an +ains, and onl thro#+h re7ol#tionar socialist mo7ements ha7e women made an social +ains..,/ $owbotham has ar+#ed that thro#+h male re7ol#tionaries are willin+ to acce%t women as %artners as lon+ as the re7ol#tion lasts, once the re7ol#tion is o7er, women are e-%ected to ret#rn to their traditional roles. .,/ @n !idden from !istory, $owbotham e-amined British women>s histor from the 1*th cent#r to 193A from a =ar-ist 7iew%oint.)/ 0or $owbotham, the histor of British women co#ld best be defined thro#+h class o%%ression, the @nd#strial $e7ol#tion and se-ism.)/ $owbotham has %raised Fladimir Lenin and the other Bolshe7ik leaders for le+aliGin+ abortion, di7orce, and contrace%tion %l#s fo#ndin+ the "henotdel (women4s de%artment) and socialiGed restra#rants, health care and la#ndries..9/ $owbotham has criticiGed (o7iet %olicies startin+ with the 0irst 0i7e Year ;lan of 19!,?33 for not onl e-%ectin+ women to work f#ll time, b#t also to take on the b#rdens of ho#se work and child raisin+. .,/ $owbotham has contended that to achie7e women4s liberation reE#ires a Bre7ol#tion within the re7ol#tionB or freedom from the 1colon within the colon 2..,/ $owbotham maintains that ca%italism and se-ism are so closel linked that onl one wa to destro both is a radical chan+e in the

Bc#lt#ral conditionin+B of h#manit as re+ards child?rearin+, homes, laws, and the work. .,/ $owotham4s books were, and are still well recei7ed in radical feminist circles..1A/ @n her 19*3 book, Women#s Consciousness, Men#s World, $owbotham %resented her anal sis of contem%orar social conditions from a =ar-ist?feminist %ers%ecti7e. .1A/ $owbotham ar+#es that ori+ins of se-ism %redate ca%italism, and that the instit#tion of marria+e closel resembles fe#dalism..1A/ $owbotham ar+#es that as in fe#dalism serfs were obli+ed to ser7e their masters, she contends that wi7es are likewise contracted to ser7e their h#sbands. .1A/ @n her books, $owbotham has #sed a broad 7ariet of so#rces s#ch as +o7ernment statistics, %am%hlets, no7els, inter7iews, son+s, secondar so#rces, and her own histor . .11/ 8 maCor so#rce of criticism of $owbotham is her hea7 reliance on secondar so#rces for s#ch books as Women, Resistance and Re olution and !idden from !istory..,/ @n her 19** book Dutiful Daughters co?written with Hean =c5rindle, $owbotham inter7iewed fo#rteen women of lower?middle class and workin+ class ori+in. .11/ 9hro#+h $owbotham notes that the life stories women inter7iewed for Dutiful Daughters were not intended to be re%resentati7e of all British women, she ar+#es that these sna%?shots of different li7es if combined with eno#+h other oral histories can %ro7ide an #nderstandin+ of the e-%erience of ordinar women..11/ 8s %art of relatin+ the %ersonal to the %olitical, $owbotham has e-amined the se-#al and %olitical beliefs of s#ch late 19th?earl !Ath cent#r radicals as Edward 5ar%enter who saw socialism as wa for h#manit >s s%irit#al rebirth and (tella Browne who fo#+ht for birth control and ar+#ed for the im%ortance of se-#al %leas#re for women.)/ $owbotham ar+#ed that the %olitical beliefs of 5ar%enter and Browne were closel tied to their %ersonal li7es.)/ Besides for her work as a historian, $owbotham has been acti7e in left?win+ ca#ses. .11/ @n her book Beyond the Fragments co?written with 3ilar Wainwri+ht and L nne (e+al, $owbotham called for the 7ario#s fractions of the British left to #nite, and work for a socialist Britain thro#+h +rass?roots acti7ism..11/. $owbotham has +reat faith in acti7ist social mo7ements workin+ from the bottom #% to chan+e societ . .1!/ $owbotham feels that historians ha7e a d#t to contrib#te to social chan+e b writin+ books e-%ose what she sees as the e7ils of societ ..13/ 8s s#ch, $owbotham is hi+hl critical of those historians who, infl#enced b theories of 0rench str#ct#ralism and %ostIstr#ct#ralism, write in a st le #nlikel to a%%eal to the +eneral %#blic..14/ @n $owbotham>s o%inion, an iss#e of +reat im%ortance is %ro7idin+ a definition of %atriarch so that women know what the are str#++lin+. .1A/ $owbotham finds fa#lt with those feminists who den men a role in the battle a+ainst se-ism. .1A/ @n her o%inion, women and men sho#ld stand eE#all a+ainst both ca%italism and se-ism to achie7e radical social reor+aniGation..1'/

Recent professional life


@n !AA4, $owbotham was elected as a fellow of the $o al (ociet of 8rts. (he was ;rofessor of Dender and Labo#r 3istor , (ociolo+ at the 6ni7ersit of =anchester, En+land #ntil her in7ol#ntar retirement in !AA,. $owbotham>s in7ol#ntar retirement from the 6ni7ersit of =anchester ca#sed %rotest from st#dents. 9he 0acebook +ro#% (a7e (heila $owbotham was established to cam%ai+n for her contin#ation as a Lect#rer. 9he same ear she %#blished the first e7er bio+ra%h of Edward

5ar%enter, titled $dward Car%enter& ' (ife of (iberty and (o e and did contin#e to teach within the (ociolo+ de%artment at =anchester. @n 8#t#mn !AA,, $owbotham>s reE#est to sta on after the a+e of )' to a third of her Cob was ref#sed. 3owe7er after %rotests from st#dents, academics and others internationall the #ni7ersit offered her a third of research %rofessorshi%. (he is c#rrentl a (imon ;rofessor. 9he archi7es of (heila $owbotham are held at 9he Women>s Librar at London =etro%olitan 6ni7ersit , ref *(3$.

Notes
1. J a b 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*A !. J a b 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie 0ift <e 9hinkers on 3istor , LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*A 3. ^ 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie 0ift )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*A 4. ^ 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+es !*A?!*1 5. ^ 5ook, 3era B$owbotham, (heilaB %a+es 1A!A?1A!1 from *he $ncyclo%edia of !istorians and !istorical Writing, Fol#me !, 5hica+oK 0itGro :earborn, 1999 %a+e 1A!A 6. J a b c d e f g h 5ook, 3era B$owbotham, (heilaB %a+es 1A!A?1A!1 from *he $ncyclo%edia of !istorians and !istorical Writing, Fol#me !, 5hica+oK 0itGro :earborn, 1999 %a+e 1A!1 7. J a b c d e 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*1 ,. J a b c d e f g 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*! 9. ^ 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie 0ift <e 9hinkers on 3istor , LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*! 10. J a b c d e f 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*3 11. J a b c d e 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*4 1!. ^ 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*4 13. ^ 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+es !*4?!*' 14. ^ 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+e !*4?!*' 1'. ^ 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA %a+es !*3?!*4

See also

(ocialist feminism

References

8l-ander, (all L 9a lor, B. B@n :efence of B;atriarch BB, +ew ,tatesmen, 0ebr#ar 1, 19,A. 5aine, B. $nglish Feminism -./01-2/0, "-fordK "-ford 6ni7ersit ;ress, 199*. 5ook, 3era B$owbotham, (heilaB %a+es 1A!A?1A!1 from *he $ncyclo%edia of !istorians and !istorical Writing, Fol#me !, 5hica+oK 0itGro :earborn, 1999. 5o%elman, :. B@nter7iew with (heila $owbothamB %a+es 49M)9 from 3isions of !istory edited b 3. 8belo7e, B. Blackmar, ;. :imock and H. (chneer, =anchesterK =anchester 6ni7ersit ;ress, 19,1. :e+ler, 5.&. 4s there a !istory of Women5, "-fordK "-ford 6ni7ersit ;ress, 19*'. 3#+hes?Warrin+ton, =arnie Fifty )ey *hinkers on !istory, LondonK $o#tled+e, !AAA <a e, 3.H. *he British Mar6ist !istorians, 5ambrid+eK ;olit , 19,4. Radical !istory Re iew, 199', Fol )3, %a+es 141?1)'. (eccombe, W. B(heila $owbotham on Labo#r and the Dreater London 5o#ncilB %a+es 3!M3* from Canadian Dimensions, !1K!, 19,*. (windells, H. B3an+in+ #% on =#m or N#estions of E7er da Life in the Writin+ of 3istor B %a+es ),M*, from 7ender and !istory, !K1, 199A. Fedder?(ch#ltG, &. B3earts (ta7e as Well 8s BodiesK 6lrike ;roko%>s 8roduction and Conte6t of Women's Daily (ifeB %a+es 'M1* from +ew 7erman Criti9ue, Fol#me 13, 19*,. Winslow, Barbara, <a%lan, 9emma L ;almer, Br an BWomen>s $e7ol#tionsK 9he Work of (helia $owbothamK 8 9went ?Year 8ssessmentB %a+es 141?1)' from Radical !istory Re iew, Fol#me )3, 199'. Oissner, H.;. !istory and Feminism& ' 7lass !alf Full, &ew YorkK 9wa ne, 1993.

Bibliography

Women#s (iberation and the +ew 8olitics (19)9) @(B& A?,'1!4?AA,?9 Women, Resistance and Re olution (8 Lane, 19*3) @(B& A?*139?A34)?' Woman's Consciousness, Man's World (19*3) !idden from !istory& :00 years of Women's ;%%ression and the Fight against it (;l#to, 19*3) @(B& A?9A!,1,?!,?*

+ew World for Women& ,tella Browne, ,ocialist Feminist (;l#to ;ress, 19**) @(B& A? 9A43,3?'4?* Dutiful Daughters& Women *alk 'bout *heir (i es with Hean =c5rindle (Fikin+, 19**) @(B& A?*139?1A'A?P *he 8ast is Before <s& Feminism in 'ction since the -2=0s (3ar%er5ollins, 19,9) @(B& A?A4?44A3)'?, Dignity and Daily Bread& +ew Forms of $conomic ;rgani>ation 'mong 8oor Women in the *hird World and the First with (wasti =itter ($o#tled+e, 1993) @(B& A?41'? A9',)?* Women in Mo ement& Feminism and ,ocial 'ction ($o#tled+e, 1993) @(B& A?41'? 9A)'!?A !omeworkers Worldwide (=erlin ;ress Ltd ,1993) @(B& A?,'A3)?434?' Women $ncounter *echnology& Changing 8atterns of $m%loyment in the *hird World with (wasti =itter ($o#tled+e, 199*) @(B& A?41'?1411,?4 ' Century of Women& *he !istory of Women in Britain and the <nited ,tates (Fikin+, 199*) @(B& A?)*A?,*4!A?' *hreads *hrough *ime& Writings on !istory and 'utobiogra%hy (;en+#in Books Ltd, 1999) @(B& A?14?A!*''4?1 8romise of a Dream& Remembering the ,i6ties (Ferso, !AAA) @(B& 1?,'9,4?)!!?P (ooking at Class& Film *ele ision and the Working Class in Britain with 3#w Be non ($i7er "ram ;ress, !AA1) @(B& 1?,'4,9?1!1?9 BWomen $esist DlobaliGationQ =obiliGin+ for Li7elihood and $i+htsB with (te%hanie Linko+le (Oed Books, !AA1) @(B& 1,')49,**, BEdward 5ar%enter 8 Life of Libert and Lo7eB (Ferso !AA,) @(B& 9*,?1?,44)*? !9'?A %k (Ferso !AA9) @(B& 9*,1,44)*4!13

External links

9he Women>s Librar (hiela $owbotham and the 19)As b ;hil (hannon, Dreen Left Weekl , @ss#e 4!,, !AAA. (heila $owbotham ;a%ers *(3$ ? Women>s Librar 8rchi7e entr (taff ;rofile ? 6ni7ersit of =anchester