Next month, Harriet Harman, the country’s longest-serving female MP, joins us for a special event to mark the release of her ground-breaking political memoir, A Woman’s Work. In this exclusive extract from the book Harriet sets the scene on women’s rights and the work that needed to be done…
“Of all the things that were changing for me in the seventies, it was the women’s movement which was to have the biggest and most far-reaching impact.
This was a time when women were thoroughly constrained, told what we could and, more often, couldn’t do. You can’t expect the same pay as a man, you can’t expect to be treated equally at work, you can’t expect men to play their part at home, you can’t object if your husband beats you, you can’t expect to be valued if you’re not young and pretty, you can’t expect to be taken seriously intellectually if you are. And I, along with many young women back then, had an equally strong corresponding conviction that we were not going to put up with it.
The women’s movement was developing rapidly, finding support among both middle-class and working-class women. At its heart was the idea that women were not inferior to men and should not be subordinate to them. We wanted to be equal. The movement had many different strands, but perhaps three were dominant: the radical feminists involved in ‘consciousness raising’; those women who were keen to tackle issues of domestic violence; and those campaigning for women’s rights…”
See Harriet discuss how far we’ve come – and how much there is still to do at her live talk with Dame Margaret Beckett MP on Thursday 23 March.
Harriet Harman was elected as Labour MP for Peckham in 1982. Joining a House of Commons which was 97% male, she had three children while in Parliament. She has been politics’ most prominent champion for women’s rights, introducing the National Childcare Strategy, the Equality Act and changing the law on domestic violence.