Women of Westminster by Rachel Reeves review – the MPs who changed politics


This post is by Jane Merrick from Books | The Guardian


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It is 100 years since Nancy Astor took her seat in the Commons. Has life improved for female MPs?

A question has dogged every woman MP since Nancy Astor took her seat in the Commons 100 years ago, and it is one explored by Rachel Reeves in her book marking that centenary: should female parliamentarians focus on “women’s issues” or approach public policy and law-making as a male colleague would?

Reeves, the Labour MP for Leeds West, shows why it was necessary for women in Parliament to do the former – but in order to build a foundation for the latter, and eventually equality between male and female MPs. Without the pioneers throughout the decades that she celebrates – Eleanor Rathbone campaigning for family allowances, Barbara Castle fighting for equal pay for women, and Harriet Harman and Tessa Jowell pushing for better childcare provision – there would have been much ...