Gender Equality UN

New research network on local grassroots women’s activism in England and Ireland announced by LSBU

07 March 2023

A new international research network, led by Professor of Social History, Caitríona Beaumont, London South Bank University (LSBU), which will study local grassroots women's activism across Ireland and England since 1918, has been announced today.

The ‘Agency and Advocacy: Locating Women’s Grassroots Activism in England and Ireland, 1918 to the present’, network brings together for the first time academics, Early Career Researchers and members of historic women's organisations. The organisations include the: Irish Countrywomen's Association,  National Federation of Women's Institutes and Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) namely Soroptimists Ireland, Soroptimists South East England Region and its Tunbridge Wells and District Club.

The novel participatory research project sets out to:

  • Stimulate new curiosity and awareness about the organisational histories and activism of key women’s groups shining a light on how local female activism in England and Ireland since 1918 informs national and global campaigns to achieve UN Sustainable Development Gender Equality Goal
  • Identify actions and strategies, in conversation with members of historic women’s organisations, to further grow and to diversify their memberships, in order to safeguard their future activism
  • Re-cast the history of Anglo-Irish relations, through the lens of cross-border female activism since 1918, resulting in new insights into cross-border co-operation and solidarity around women’s rights.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded ‘Agency and Advocacy: Locating women’s grassroots activism’ research network will use five workshops to investigate five key themes central to the survival of grassroots women's activism: Legacies (archives and history), Advocacy (campaigns past and present), Grassroots activism (local campaigns), Visibility (how to be seen) and Sustainability.

The research project will be led by LSBU with Professor Beaumont as Principal Investigator (PI) and the University of Kent, with Dr Anne Logan, Emeritus Reader in Criminology, University of Kent, as Co-Investigator (Co-I).

Professor of Social History at LSBU, Caitríona Beaumont, said, “The reach of grassroots women's organisations including Irish Countrywomen's Association (ICA), National Federation of Women's Institutes (WI) and Soroptimist International Great Britain and Ireland (SIGBI) is significant across the two nations with thousands of women active in local branches and clubs.

“These historic women’s organisations continue to make a significant contribution in transforming the lives of women and girls locally, nationally and globally. However they face challenges around membership diversity, lack of visibility and ageing profiles, which threaten their future activism. Working with these organisations, and academics from a range of disciplines including history, sociology, material culture and politics, our network adopts a participatory approach to ensure future sustainability for these organisations which are responsible for so much social progress across Ireland and England.”