The Iron Ladies: Why do Women Vote Tory? By Bea Campbell
Virago Press, 1987
Why do women vote Tory? How would a lesbian Communist journalist know?
Bea Campbell, who worked on City Limits and other papers in London in the 1980s, was curious about the rise of Margaret Thatcher – who did little to help her fellow women Conservatives. She persuaded Tory women to tell her why they supported the party. She didn’t realise that some of the women she interviewed – and especially two, Emma Nicholson and Janet Young – would support Section 28 and impose silence about queer lives on a generation.
Bea Campbell examines the strange and contradictory role of women in the Tory Party. She tells the story of the Primrose League, created by men in the party to channel the energy of Tory women away from equality. They became such a successful workforce that the party has needed them ever since – but kept them firmly in second place, confined to roles as guardians of morality and the family. The Iron Ladies helps explain why angry souls like Emma, now Baroness Nicholson, are still fighting against same-sex marriage and trans equality thirty years later.
This is a shortened version of a longer appreciation of Bea Campbell’s ground-breaking work, which will be published as a longer blog soon.