May Rainer. Politics and Protest (b. 1909)

Throughout Rainer’s memoir, we see evidence of her feminist views through her frustration about gender inequality in the early 20th century. She was made to stay in the home and do chores while her brother went out to play, and from an early age she recognised gender oppression, which caused her to become a feminist: ‘One of my regrets in life at the end of the 20s was the fact that I had been too young to be a part of the Suffragette movement’ (Rainer, 64). I believe that Rainer wanted to be a part of the Suffragette movement, as she wanted to get the vote for all women regardless of their income.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Roger-Viollet / Rex Features (437381ae) Suffragettes demonstrating for the vote for women - 1906 VARIOUS, LONDON, BRITAIN

She was critical, however, of the limitation of the vote won in 1918 and some suffragette’s neglect of working-class women’s rights: ‘Emily Pankhurst and her associates claimed to have won the vote for women, but they did not, it was only given to the women over 30 who had property…’ (Rainer, 64) In  Labour Women: Women in British Working class Politics, 1918-1939, Pamela Grave states that many of the women who attended the Suffragette meetings appeared ‘well dressed and middle class’ (Grave, 124). As a working class woman, Rainer finds this extremely problematic: the votes of women  ‘suffering the hardships of sweated labour’ did not count (Rainer, 64).

Rainer notes that by the 1930s all women had received the vote and she was very glad she had lived to see women getting so much more justice, but she recognises that there is still a long way to go. (Rainer, 64) She also became disillusioned with party politics: ‘Over my life I have become very cynical, to me its all a great con, its what suits the powers that be, I am not a Communist and never will be, but I know why it came into being…’ (Rainer, 79) Later on in the memoir, when she is discussing the unemployed, she writes that ‘no one, especially the Tory party, ever said a word, about the sufferings of the poor workers’ (Rainer, 99).

From reading Rainer’s memoir, it is clear that her life shaped her political views. From personal experience, she realised how badly women had it and became a feminist. As a working class woman, she realised that the Tory Party never helped them and later on became cynical of all the political parties. She thought they did not help the working class enough, so she rejected them as time went on.

Bibliography 

Grave, Pamela M., Labour Women: Women in British Working Class Politics, 1918-1939, Cambridge University Press

Rainer, May, Emma’s Daughter, May 20th 1977, Brunel University, July 1977, Vol 2. 0644

Suffragettes Image- http://www.madameulalie.org/grp/pgwsuffragettes.html

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