Women’s Campaigning, Petitioning, and Grassroots Activism, 1945-1997

Anna Bocking-Welch, Richard Huzzey, Cristina Leston-Bandeira, Henry Miller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Petitioning provided a flexible repertoire for women’s political activity in the decades after 1945. Petitioning was a popular, widespread practice: aside from voting, signing a petition was one of the few political activities that engaged a majority of women. Building on a long tradition of British women as active petitioners, petitioning was used by a variety of different groups—local action groups, voluntary associations, political parties, pressure groups, and radical social movements, including those associated with the Women’s Liberation Movement. Connecting formal and informal politics, petitioning was a relatively cheap, accessible form of political activity that enabled activism. In particular, the practices associated with name-signing created informal, temporary political spaces for women. Petitioning also provided a mechanism for representation and making representative claims to authority on behalf of women. The media-friendly spectacle of presenting petitions to authority was useful for attracting publicity as a range of activists, including conservative moral campaigners like Mary Whitehouse realised. The flexibility of petitioning explain its popularity as a form of political participation for women, particularly in facilitating local, informal activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalWomen's History Review
Early online date8 Jul 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jul 2024

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