Open Meeting – March

Open Meeting Monday 4th March Broken Dreams : 40 years on from Margaret Thatcher .

If you didn’t manage to attend this month’s meeting, here are some short notes to fill you in.

‘Home is the centre of a woman’s life but it does not define its boundaries’ said Margaret Thatcher at the beginning of her political career. She was to go on to profess that the individual had responsibility for their destiny and not the state.

 Lewes Labour celebrated International Women’s Day with speakers Gaby Weiner, writer, academic and Lewes Labour party member and Valerie Coultas, Senior Lecturer at the University of Kingston at their March Open Meeting.

‘Margaret Thatcher did challenge traditional stereotypes of women but from the comfort of a rich husband and a nanny for her children’ said Gaby Weiner. Thatcher’s abiding legacy for women was limited. She felt feminism undermined the family but recognised that the new market economy needed a fluid workforce. The National Curriculum introduced in 1988 changed the emphasis from girls doing Home Economics and boys woodwork to more gender equality in education. It ushered in a new era where there were equal numbers of girls taking maths and science to boys.

Valerie Coultas reflected on the role that miners’ wives had played in the strikes in 1984. ‘The police were terrified of the miners. They were very strong men conditioned by years of physical toil. But their wives left a lasting legacy of organisation outside the home and of informal learning’ said Valerie Coultas. It changed the dynamic of the household. Men were looking after the children, and cooking the Christmas turkey. Ultimately the miners strike failed because the Thatcher government had prepared for it with huge stockpiles of coal and the transport to move it to the cities. It was the beginning of a concerted attack on Trade Unions.

Thatcher’s legacy for women was of disappointment. ‘There was no such thing as society’ is her famous quote and it meant that it was a Labour government from 1997 that confirmed of equal rights through legislation.