Political Studies Association (PSA) academics, Dr Julie Gottlieb and Dr Clarisse Berthezène, have said today (5 July) that the EU Referendum has sparked “a new face of feminism”.

In an article published via the PSA Blog the pair explore the rise of women in politics—across the board, across the spectrum, and across Europe – in the wake of the referendum on Britain’s membership of the 28-state bloc.

“This momentous achievement for feminism seems to be almost entirely accidental and unintentional,” notes Dr Gottlieb, with women now either already leading or likely to head up almost every mainstream party in the UK: Angela Eagle for Labour; Theresa May for the Conservatives; Nicola Sturgeon for the SNP, Ruth Davidson for the Scottish Conservatives; Kezia Dugdale for Scottish Labour; and Leanne Wood for Plaid Cymru.

“Could this be explained by deep distress about and distrust of the political establishment and its old-boy-old-school-tie politics?” she asks.

Despite arguing that women were underrepresented in the press coverage leading up to the Referendum, Dr Berthezène states that “aspects of the debate were notably feminised.” Indeed, four of the six participants in the 21 June BBC Debate at Wembley were women.

With what is beginning to look like the end of patriarchy and the beginning of a new matriarchy, Berthezène and Gottlieb question whether female leaders are “providing a ‘safe pair of hands’ to clean up the mess left by their male counterparts?”

The article also looks at the phenomenon of ‘social mothers’ – a term used to refer to women activists in political and humanitarian efforts since the late 19th century who were not married or did not have children by design or due to missed opportunity. With many prominent political women being childless, it is important to look at attitudes of political parties to motherhood.

A number of the first Conservative women MPs after suffrage including Marjorie Graves, Florence Horsbrugh, Irene Ward, Thelma Cazalet-Keir and the Duchess of Atholl were childless and/or unmarried.


Note to editors


Dr Julie Gottlieb and Dr Clarisse Berthezene are available for interviews on these issues in English and in French (Dr Berthezene). To arrange an interview please contact:

Stefanie Mair, Communications and Media Relations Officer, Political Studies Association, Stefanie.mair@psa.ac.uk, 0207 321 2545, @PolStudiesAssoc


Julie Gottlieb is the author of ‘Guilty Women’, Foreign Policy and Appeasement in Interwar Britain (Palgrave, 2015). She tweets @julievgottlieb. Clarisse Berthezène is the author of Training minds for the war of ideas. Ashridge College, the Conservative Party and the cultural politics of Britain, 1929-54 (MUP, 2015). She tweets @C_berthazene. Together with the Conservative Party Archives, last June they organised a conference on “Rethinking Right-Wing Women: Gender, Women and the Conservative Party, 1880s to the Present,” and they are currently co-editing a book on the same theme for Manchester University Press.