Sheila Rowbotham

Rowbotham was born in Leeds, the daughter of a salesman for an engineering company and an office clerk[1] From an early age, she was deeply interested in history[2]. Rowbotham was to write that traditional political history “left her cold”, but she credited Olga Wilkinson, one of her teachers with encouraging her interest in social history by showing that history “belonged to the present, not to the history textbooks”.[1]

Rowbotham attended St Hilda’s College at Oxford and then the University of London. She began her working life as a teacher in comprehensive schools and institutes of higher or Adult education. While attending St. Hilda’s College, Rowbotham found her syllabus with its heavy focus on political history to be of no interest to her.[3] Through her involvement in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and various socialist circles including the Labour Party’s youth wing, the Young Socialists, Rowbotham was introduced to Karl Marx's ideas.[2] Already on the left, Rowbotham was converted to Marxism.[4] Soon disenchanted with the direction of party politics she immersed herself in a variety of left-wing campaigns, including writing for the radical political newspaper Black Dwarf. In the 1960s, Rowbotham was one of the founders and leaders of the History Workshop movement associated with Ruskin College[5].

Towards the end of the 1960s she had become involved in the growing Women’s Liberation Movement (also known as Second-wave feminism) and, in 1969, published her influential pamphlet "Women’s Liberation and the New Politics" which argued that Socialist theory needed to consider the oppression of women in cultural as well as economic terms. She was heavily involved in the conference Beyond the Fragments (eventually a book), which attempted to draw together democratic socialist and socialist feminist currents in the UK. Between 1983 and 1986, Rowbotham served as the editor of Jobs For Change, the newspaper of the Greater London Council[6].

Sheila Rowbotham's

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