Centenary of the Group at Six Points | Functionality

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This year marks the centenary of the formation of the Six-Point Group, a feminist organization dedicated to campaigning for equal rights for women through legal reform. At any given time, they were targeting six areas; then, if the reform was accomplished in one, added another to take its place. The initial six points, published on February 21, 1921 in the feminist journal Time & Tide, were:

  1. Satisfactory legislation on assault on children;
  2. Legislation satisfactory for the widowed mother;
  3. Satisfactory legislation for the single mother and her child;
  4. Equal rights of guardianship for married parents;
  5. Equal pay for teachers; and
  6. Equal opportunities for men and women in the public service.

Over the years, the Six-Point Group has replaced specific issues with women’s equality in six general areas: political, professional, moral, social, economic and legal.

The group differs from other feminist associations of the time in two respects. First, it focused on achieving formal equality in the public and private spheres – equal rights in the workplace and at home – without special treatment for women. Feminist “news”, on the other hand, have sought to improve the situation of wives and mothers through economic rights in marriage and protective legislation in the workplace. The Six-Point Group also broke away from feminists who thought the first priority was to change attitudes, and then legal changes would follow.

Group founder Lady Rhondda (pictured) had been a suffragist and knew how long it took to change mindsets – a good 70 years in the case of voting. Her view was that now that women could vote and run for parliament (but not sit in the House of Lords, a lifelong crusade, won until 1958, after her death), their electoral power should be exploited to push for reforms that benefit their gender. It was only when formal equality was won, she argued, that the full strength of behavioral resistance would be revealed and could then be fought with the law on their side.

The 1920s started with optimism. Not only was the vote won, but the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 opened most professions to women, while allowing women to serve as magistrates and jurors. Regarding the six-point group’s problems, the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1922 addressed the age of consent for girls, removing the male defense (except for young men and only once) that they mistakenly thought the child was over 16 years old. It was hardly ‘satisfactory child abuse legislation’, but it was a start. The Guardianship of Infants Act of 1925 granted equal guardianship rights to fathers and mothers, but only if they were separated; It was not until 1973 that spouses in intact marriages became equal guardians of their children.

But each of these reforms did not achieve true equality, and the other “points” remained intact until well after the war. The financial situation of widows, single mothers and their children was barely addressed. Equal pay for teachers and civil servants was not introduced until the mid-1950s, and equal employment opportunity was so distant that it was one of four first demands of the Women’s Liberation Movement in 1970. It was not until the death of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 that discrimination in employment was finally banned.

The six-point group has been criticized for attracting mainly professional women, rather than the much larger number of full-time housewives and working-class women. It is true that its members were dominated by educated middle-class women. Affiliated organizations included the British Federation of University Women, the Federation of Women Civil Servants, the National Union of Women Teachers – but also women’s cooperative corporations, radical workers’ associations.

In the defense of the group, it is clear from their initial six points that they were as concerned with the role of women as wives and mothers as with providing women with other necessary means of support and self-fulfillment. to the large number of women left celibate in impoverished post-war society.

The six-point group is important in recognizing the potential of the law to change attitudes – this legal change is the starting point, not the end of the case. In predicting that the resistance could survive law reform and that sexism would persist informally, they were clearly right. Nothing shows this better than the failure of women to flourish in the legal profession: admitted in 1919, they formed only about 5% of notaries and barristers until late in the 1950s – victims of masculine cultures , harassment, a lack of family friendliness. policies and outright discrimination.

The six-point group survived until the death of its last secretary, Hazel Hunkins Hallinan, in 1982, when, with the women’s liberation movement on the rise and the deployment of equality legislation, their goals had become overwhelmed.

Rosemary Auchmuty

Rosemary Auchmuty is Professor of Law at the University of Reading. Erika Rackley is Professor of Law at the University of Kent. Together, they led the Women’s Legal Landmarks Project, an interdisciplinary collaboration involving more than 80 feminist academics in law and history. The book Women’s Legal Landmarks: Celebrating the history of women and law in the UK and Ireland is now available.

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