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Governance, continuity and change in the organised women's movement.

Grant, Jane W (2001) Governance, continuity and change in the organised women's movement. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86200) (KAR id:86200)


This thesis responds to a great gap in empirical research on the organised women's movement, examining both its governance and ways of working, to see how successfully it is responding to the challenge of change. It does this mainly through seventeen case studies - eight traditional organisations from 'first wave' feminism, eight organisations from the women's movement in the 1970s and the Fawcett Society as a bridge between the two. The case studies were selected through a process of network sampling combined with a desire for balance in size, type and area of activity. They are examined through the lenses of a variety of research questions raised by the literature. The methodology is qualitative, using a combination of feminist and organisational theory, voluntary sector governance and grounded theory. It draws on the researcher's long experience as a participant observer in the women's movement, but at its core are in depth semi-structured interviews with at least two participants, with different standpoints, from each organisation. The research reveals a sector which is proving very adaptive in the face of change resulting from a range of contingency factors. It finds a much more 'hybrid' sector with traditional organisations beginning to dismantle layers of bureaucracy and hierarchy while the women's movement groups are building in more structure as they find it no longer appropriate to operate completely flat structures. All parts of the sector have struggled to overcome 'power illiteracy' and develop affirming models of leadership. In spite of the many challenges it faces, the organised women's movement is transformational both in its effect on the wider community and on individual women. I have certainly found it transforming, as have those interviewees who have been inspired to write up their own experience. Although rooted in the literature, this research is action-orientated, intended to be relevant and useful to practitioners in the movement as well as academics. It ends with a detailed list of criteria and recommendations for the better governance and management of women's organisations, and proposals for dissemination.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86200
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: #ethos, Feminism; Feminist; Organisational theory
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:34 UTC
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 15:14 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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