The role of women in social protest in the Highlands of Scotland, c. 1880-1939

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Abstract

For some time, the presence and prominence of women has been identified as central to events of rural social protest in Britain. Yet explanation of such centrality has tended to be based upon, and perpetuate, gender divisions. Little regard has been given to the notion that women took part in protest for reasons shared with their male counterparts. A similar pattern of explanation has been advanced for protest events in the Highlands of Scotland. Food riot and resistance to clearance are seen as attempts to defend the 'moral economy', whilst the land seizures of the 1880s are seen as products of a developed class consciousness. Where women's participation is recognized and considered, explanation is not based in the underpinning, legitimizing notion of male protest - the ideology of rights to land - but is based instead in women's domestic role. Separate explanations such as these would appear no longer sustainable. The introduction of capitalism into the region and the consequent development of crofting agriculture, compelled the reworking of existing relations between men and women. Women became central to the functioning of the crofting economy and vital to the maintenance of claims to land. From this they drew the strength to participate in protest and drew upon the same nexus of motivations as their male counterparts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-200
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Historical Geography
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1997

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