Ann Oakley is a distinguished writer, sociologist and feminist. She has studied at the universities of Oxford and London, and received honorary degrees from the universities of Salford and Edinburgh. She is best known for her work on sex and gender, housework, childbirth and feminist social science.
Women, Peace and Welfare is her latest release in a long line of published work, with the book delving into the work of 324 women activists between 1880 and 1920.
The lives of the activists detailed in the book were driven by a vision of a society based on welfare and altruism, rather than warfare and competition.
Out of the 324 women in the book, Oakley chose to discuss the lives of four with the festival audience.
These four women were from a variety of backgrounds, socially and culturally, but were connected through transnational networks. Most spoke at least two languages.
The most common theme in Oakley’s lecture was the work these women took on to fight capitalism and oppression. Many of the women fought for protective labour laws and conditions, protecting the vulnerable.
The audience were left captivated by the incredible role these women took on, a role of love and not power.
Oakley also examined the idea of reform in the women’s lives, and the way in which their individual works of activism were undervalued at the time. Many of the women received no praise for their work, and had to fight to be heard.
This is the reasoning behind Women, Peace and Welfare: it celebrates the way in which their endeavours have shaped modern welfare states.
Oakley summed up her celebratory lecture by discussing the importance of women in society, and the importance of their stories being told.
Each of the life stories Oakley told us stayed with me, showing that powerful visions of a good society are not forgotten, nor is the work of these 324 inspirational women.