1st Edition

Rapiers and Battleaxes The Women's Movement and its Aftermath

By Josephine Kamm Copyright 1966
    248 Pages
    by Routledge

    The long and bitter struggle for the vote is certainly the most spectacular part of the history of women’s emancipation. Originally published in 1966 Rapiers and Battleaxes tells the story in its wider aspect and in terms of the pioneers in the various fields.

    Just a hundred years previously – in 1866 – the first women’s suffrage committee was formed in London with the object of collecting signatures to petition for the enfranchisement of women which John Stuart Mill, MP for Westminster, had undertaken to present in Parliament. Prominent among the committee members were Barbara Bodichon, who had been active ten years earlier in the agitation for the Married Women’s Property Bill; Emily Davies, pioneer of higher education for women; and Elizabeth Garrett, who was the first woman to obtain a medical training in this country. Among the pioneers also are Mary Wollstonecraft, whose book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman sparked off the women’s movement; the philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts; the social reformers Mary Carpenter, Louisa Twining and Octavia Hill; Emma Paterson and her work for women’s trade unions; Sophia Jex-Blake, who forced an entry for women into the medical profession; and Josephine Butler and her courageous campaign for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts. In the political field, of course, are Emmeline Pankhurst and her followers; and also Millicent Fawcett, Elizabeth Garrett’s younger sister, the statesmanlike leader of the constitutional suffragists, and Eleanor Rathbone, MP, her successor in the campaign for equal rights.

    The story is brought up to date with the work of other women in Parliament and the appointment in 1965 of the first woman High Court Judge. And it points to the outstanding problem at the time, which was not so much lack of equal pay – although this still existed, particularly in trade and industry – but of equal opportunity.  Subjects still being fought today, this reissue can be read in its historical context.

    Foreword Baroness Mary Stocks  1. Birth of a Movement  2. The Philanthropists  3. The Educationists  4. The Doctors  5. The Ladies’ Circle  6. The Outsiders  7. The Constitutionalists  8. The Militants  9. Women Against the Government  10. Women at War  11. Heirs of the Women’s Movement  12. Women in Parliament.  Appendix.  References.  Index.


    Josephine Kamm (nee Hart) (1905–1989) was educated at Burgess Hill School for Girls, Josephine nurtured an ambition to be a writer, but resented her school’s failure, common enough at the time, to prepare intelligent girls for university. On leaving school, she took a secretarial course, and continued to educate herself by wide and demanding reading. 

    During the 1930s and the War years, Josephine worked for Jewish refugee organisations, and became a Senior Information Officer and writer of pamphlets at the Ministry of Information. She also found time to write fiction, and between 1936 and 1948 published five adult novels. Like many writers, she did her stint on the committees of the National Book League, The London Centre of International PEN and the Fawcett Library, where she was impressed by the number of books for and about women. During the 1950s and 1960s, her fame as a writer for young readers was at its height; she fearlessly tackled then taboo subjects, achieving what she described as ‘brief notoriety’ with Young Mother (1965), a tale of teenage pregnancy. She also wrote for older children biographies of the explorer Gertrude Bell (1956) and writer and diarist Fanny Burney (1966), and histories based on the Old Testament.

    In 1958, at the suggestion of Josephine Kamm’s publisher at Bodley Head, How Different from Us: A Biography of Miss Buss and Miss Beale, originally intended as a children’s book, was expanded into an adult study. The book was successful, and the history of the women’s movement in the late 19th and earlier 20th centuries provided its author with a new topic to explore. Between 1958 and 1972, she published Hope Deferred: Girls’ Education in English History; Rapiers and Battleaxes: The Women’s Movement and its Aftermath and Indicative Past: A Hundred Years of the Girls’ Public Day School Trust. Long out of print, these titles have recently been republished in the Routledge Revivals and Library Editions series.