Helen McCarthy

Helen McCarthy teaches at Cambridge.

Mr Dug-out and His Lady: Woman’s Kingdom

Helen McCarthy, 19 November 2020

The Endell Street wards were named after female saints and had colourful bed quilts and easy chairs, striking a very different note from the ‘chilly whitewashed walls and gloomy brown blankets’ of standard army hospitals. The WSPU motto, ‘Deeds Not Words’, was embroidered on the curtains in the recreation room, where entertainments were put on throughout the war.

Soothe and Scold: Mothers

Helen McCarthy, 12 September 2019

My first child​ was born in a hospital room in East London on a February morning after 12 hours of labour. Our doula, who had arrived the previous evening, bringing cushions in a supermarket carrier bag, fetched me a hot chocolate and a blueberry muffin. It was the best breakfast of my life.

This is a maternal anecdote. It is fairly boring, and definitely trivial. Yet place such moments...

Very Inbred: Coeducation Revolutions

Helen McCarthy, 10 May 2018

At some point​ in the mid-1960s, large numbers of ambitious young men in Britain and North America lost their enthusiasm for elite, male-only colleges. The prospect of spending three or four years in an exclusively masculine environment had diminishing appeal. The absence of women felt ‘unnatural’, ‘unhealthy’, and increasingly at odds with the social and...

The Statistical Gaze: The British Census

Helen McCarthy, 29 June 2017

About 15 years ago​, when I was renting my first flat in London, a man from the Office for National Statistics paid me a call. A letter had arrived a week earlier informing me that my postcode had been randomly selected for the annual General Household Survey and that I could expect a visit. My interrogator was in his mid-fifties, tall, well-spoken, and wearing a long dark overcoat which...

From The Blog
25 January 2017

If the left didn’t find a constructive policy to tackle Britain’s economic problems at root, Leonard Woolf warned in the Political Quarterly in autumn 1931, the right would go on ‘triumphing until it has created conditions which almost inevitably result in violent revolution’. A global slump, soaring unemployment and a run on the pound had brought about the resignation of Ramsay Macdonald’s Labour Cabinet in August, swiftly followed by the formation of the emergency, cross-party National Government, which immediately pushed massive spending cuts through Parliament.

From The Blog
11 July 2016

Did the politics of motherhood destroy Andrea Leadsom’s bid to be Britain’s next prime minister? Only last week, some Tory diehards were describing her as a new Margaret Thatcher, a figure to restore the soul of Conservatism and secure the nation’s future outside the European Union. Then, on Saturday, she told the Times that being a mother gave her a ‘stake in the future’ which her childless opponent, Theresa May, lacked. Roundly criticised by party colleagues as well as enemies, Leadsom backpedalled, first declaring she had been misquoted and demanding a retraction from the newspaper, then admitting she had ‘misspoken’ and issuing a sorrowful apology to May. She made no mention of the affair when she announced her withdrawal from the race today, but it seems inconceivable that Leadsom would have dropped out had she never made those comments. Talking about the way motherhood shapes political sensibilities used to be simpler.

The General Strike isn’t remembered as one of the labour movement’s great failures, but as a crisis that failed to happen, or even as the moment when Britain faced the prospect of revolution...

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