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Citizen, Invert, QueerLesbianism and War in Early Twentieth-Century Britain$
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Deborah Cohler

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780816649754

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816649754.001.0001

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Public Women, Social Inversion: The Women’s Suffrage Debates

Public Women, Social Inversion: The Women’s Suffrage Debates

Chapter:
(p.31) Chapter 2 Public Women, Social Inversion: The Women’s Suffrage Debates
Source:
Citizen, Invert, Queer
Author(s):

Deborah Cohler

Publisher:
University of Minnesota Press
DOI:10.5749/minnesota/9780816649754.003.0002

This chapter analyzes the rhetoric of debates over women’s suffrage from the 1890s through 1918, when some women were granted the parliamentary franchise in England. Shifts in women’s public roles corresponded to the changing representations of female sexuality and women’s gender roles in the early twentieth century. The chapter focuses on various groups of suffrage agitators, and the ramifications of their rhetoric and actions on constructions of female gender or sexuality. Beginning with antisuffrage representations, it next examines moderate suffragists and then radical suffragettes, and concludes with a reading of Virginia Woolf’s novel of Edwardian struggle, Night and Day. It argues that debates over women’s suffrage produced complexly feminine and masculine “public women”; that the “domestic” of the public/private dualism is always produced in reference or relation to that other dualism of domestic/imperial; and, finally, that such debates illustrate the historic and representational stakes of contests over citizenship, gender, and sexuality in the British public sphere.

Keywords:   women’s suffrage, women’s roles, female sexuality, gender roles, suffragettes

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