Abstracts from presentations for the 2017 WHN Conference





Caitriona Beaumont


‘Women and the Wider World: The National Council of Women of Great Britain, female activism and the international campaign for peace, 1918 to 1939’


In 1918 the National Union of Women Workers joined the International Council of Women (ICW) and changed its name to the National Council of Women of Great Britain and Ireland (NCW). Despite Martin Pugh’s assertion that the NCW ‘was too widely drawn to be really coherent’ (Pugh: 2000, p. 69) the contribution of the NCW to the women’s movement in twentieth century Britain has now been recognised (Beaumont: 2013). Acting as an influential umbrella group for over one hundred and forty women’s organisations, the NCW campaigned throughout the 1920s and 1930s for the introduction of legislative reforms to protect and improve the status of women, for example the appointment of women police, equal pay and divorce law reform.


This paper will however focus on a lesser-known aspect of the NCW’s work: its involvement in the international peace movement. As an active member of the League of Nations Union and the ICW, the NCW played a key role in the interwar peace movement. The organisation worked hard to ensure that women were well informed and educated about the significance of international relations, disarmament and peace to their everyday lives. The Council’s magazine, NCW News, kept readers abreast of international affairs whilst its ‘Peace and League of Nations Sub-Committee’ devised policy on peace, disarmament and international questions. Underpinning all of these activities was the desire to safeguard the welfare and status of women, both nationally and internationally.  


The paper will explore the role of the NCW in the interwar peace movement and consider how the Council’s engagement with international affairs impacted upon the work of the organisation. Motives for the Council’s participation in the campaign for peace will be identified and assessed. The degree to which the organisation struggled to maintain its pacifist stance as hopes for peace faded in the late 1930s will also be explored. Finally the paper will highlight the female networks established across national borders by the NCW and ICW and consider if British women were more fully engaged with the wider world in the 1920s and 1930s then previously acknowledged.


Caitríona Beaumont is Associate Professor in Social History at London South Bank University and Director of Research for the School of Law and Social Sciences.  Her publications include articles and chapters on twentieth century Irish and British women’s history focussing particularly on the contribution of voluntary women’s organisations to the history of the women’s movement.  Recent publications include

Housewives and Citizens: Domesticity and the Women’s Movement in England, 1928-64 (Manchester University Press, 2013), ‘Fighting for the Privileges of Citizenship’: the YWCA, feminism and the women’s movement in England, 1928-1945’, Women’s History Review, 23, 3 (2014) pp. 463-479 and ‘What Do Women Want? Housewives’ Associations, Activism and Changing Representations of Women in the 1950s’, Women’s History Review, 26, 1 (2017), pp. 147-162.


She is currently working on the history of female activism and voluntary action in England 1960-1980.  She is a committee member of the Voluntary Action History Society and sits on the editorial boards of Contemporary British History and Local Economy.





Louise Fenton


Annie Palmer and Rose Hall: The Legend and Legacy of a Jamaican Plantation


Annie Palmer and Rose Hall: The legend and legacy of a Jamaican Plantation (1746 – 1850) aims to reveal the truth behind the woman who ran this plantation in the early nineteenth century. Annie Palmer has been identified as a Witch, a Voodoo Queen, a cruel mistress and a murderous wife. Much of this was due to the 1927 novel by Herbert G. de Lisser, ‘The White Witch of Rose Hall’ and subsequent publications that fed into Jamaican folklore of the twentieth century. When Rose Hall was restored in the 1960s the legend of Annie Palmer would form the basis for tourism to this Great House. The veracity of these tales will be discussed to question how the history of Rose Hall and Annie Palmer became entwined. She was a female in a male-dominated trade, in charge of a British colonial sugar plantation. Annie demonstrated her strength as she faced changes in the sugar laws, emancipation and rebellions during her ownership and yet has been created as a sensationalised fictional version of who she was with twentieth century representations perpetuating the myth of the White Witch of Rose Hall.


Louise Fenton is a senior lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton where she teaches Contextual Studies and Illustration within the Faculty of Arts. Louise’s research interests lie in the representations of cultures, especially Witchcraft, Voodoo and Roma. She completed her PhD at the University of Warwick, UK, where her thesis focussed on the representations of Haitian Vodou throughout cultural production in Britain and America since 1850. Louise is currently working on a number of publications relating to Witchcraft and Voodoo as well as continuing with her visual practice and has curated an exhibition at the Museum of Witchcraft in Cornwall titled ‘Poppets, Pins and Power: The Craft of Cursing’.