Repository logo

Love and marriage in Labour and Conservative party cultures, 1918-1970



Change log


Lowe, Eleanor 


This thesis looks at the importance of marital relationships for men and women engaging in electoral politics and political activism in twentieth-century Britain. It argues that marital status is an underappreciated category of analysis, particularly for women, in understanding access to political worlds post-suffrage. It provides a unique perspective that the majority of politically active women were married, and they were often married to another political activist. Particularly in local government, it shows that many husbands and wives stood for their local councils and ran their local parties together.

The thesis asserts that the importance of family and relationships did not disappear with the arrival of mass democracy. Instead, they needed to be accommodated into new forms of political party cultures. The thesis charts a change over the course of the twentieth century, from a wide acceptance of ‘seat inheritance’ between husbands and wives, to a turn against such overt political dynasticism later in the period. However, the proportion of married women in elected politics grew over the period. While seat inheritance declined, politically supportive marriages went from strength to strength.

This thesis provides new insights into the motivations and realities of living a political life. Politics was the cornerstone of their relationship for numerous couples and they lived lives that were organised around political work. It emphasises the importance of grassroot political organisations as sites of sociability, where many would meet their future spouse and within this, argues that political parties adopted active processes for incorporating the political involvement of husbands and wives. For many, these understandings of love and politics were difficult to untangle. This thesis asserts the social functions of marriage in the history of the Labour and Conservative party, but also provides an intimate analysis of how it felt to be political in twentieth-century Britain.





McCarthy, Helen


history of love, history of marriage, modern British history, political history, women in politics, women's history


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge