Rethinking Right-Wing Women

Gender, Women and the Conservative Party, 1880s to the Present

29 – 30 June 2015
Bodleian New Weston Library, Oxford

About the conference

This two-day international conference explored the relationship between women and conservatism since the late 19th century.

In the media frenzy and the re-enactment of the visceral political divisions of the 1980s that greeted the death of Margaret Thatcher in April 2013, it soon became clear that Britain’s first woman Prime Minister was being portrayed as an aberrant figure who had emerged from a party of men. It appeared that the media and the public had not been well enough served by academics in making sense of and contextualising the Thatcher phenomenon and, more broadly, the paradoxical sexual politics of the Right.

In many respects — from the foundation of the Primrose League in 1883 all the way to the 2010 so-called ‘Mumsnet’ election — the success of British Conservatives to organise and mobilise women has been ‘exceptional’. In the weeks after the General Election, we came together to assess the British Conservative Party’s gender politics, and rethink right-wing women as political leaders, activists, organisers, and voters.

Collaboratively organised by Julie Gottlieb (the University of Sheffield), Clarisse Berthezene (University of Paris-Diderot) and Jeremy McIllwaine (Archivist, CPA), Dr Rosie Campbell and Baroness Anne Jenkin presented the keynotes, and Professor Stuart Ball chaired a roundtable on “Conserving Conservative Women.” Other speakers included Matthew Hendley, Diane Urquart, David Thackeray, June Purvis, Richard Toye, Adrian Bingham, Krista Cowman, Laura Beers, and Sara Childs.

We are grateful for financial assistance from the Conservative Party Archive, the C&C of the PSA, the University of Sheffield, and the Maison Française d’Oxford.



Bodleian New Weston Library
Broad Street, Oxford

Venue website


Dr Julie Gottlieb (the University of Sheffield)
+44 1865 277 181

Dr Clarisse Berthezene (University of Paris-Diderot)

Jeremy McIlwaine (Oxford)

Bodleian Libraries, Special collections: Modern political papers website