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Women’s Activism in the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1986-1994

Law, Kate

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Assistant Professor


Laying the groundwork for a new way to think through the history of British anti-apartheid activity, this article examines the liminal space between anti-racist and feminist activity through a case study of Leeds Women Against Apartheid. Founded in 1986, LWAA were comprised of a dedicated nucleus of activists, and were concerned with imbuing international solidarity with a tangible meaning. To LWAA, solidarity had a quantifiable basis that could be articulated through the collection of material aid and the raising of funds. The first attempt to ‘gender’ the history of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, this article argues for the importance of reconceptualising women’s activism, whilst also reflecting on the ‘value’ ascribed to their political engagement. As the example of LWAA shows, by organising from an ‘autonomous outside position’, the group did so as a prosaic reaction to the realities of working with a masculinist movement. Furthermore, as is shown, while the movement may have been united by a commitment to anti-racism, matters of sexual equality were certainly understood as secondary, and were seen – on both the national and local level – as an unwanted interpolation. In a broader sense then, the article reflects on the ‘problem’ of gender in progressive social movements.


Law, K. (2023). Women’s Activism in the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, 1986-1994. Historical Journal, 66(1), 258-279.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 28, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 28, 2022
Publication Date 2023-02
Deposit Date Oct 28, 2022
Publicly Available Date Nov 28, 2022
Journal Historical Journal
Print ISSN 0018-246X
Electronic ISSN 1469-5103
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 66
Issue 1
Pages 258-279
Public URL
Publisher URL


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