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Sue Ledwith completed a PhD by published work at Oxford Brookes University in June 2016. The title of her PhD is ‘Prospects for Gender Democracy in Labour Movements’.
For the last 30 years I have researched and published in the field of gender/women and trade unions. Formerly a newspaper journalist, and then a trainer, in the 1980s I became an academic, teaching labour studies and personnel management in the Business School at the Polytechnic of North London. I then moved to Oxford Brookes in the 1990’s, and finally to Ruskin College, now based in Old Headington, in 2000, where I ran the MA in Women’s Studies, later setting up an MA in International Labour and Trade Union Studies. During my time in each institution I continued my research on gender and trade unions, becoming involved with a number of professional bodies such as SOGAT, ESRC and UNISON. I also joined the Global Labour University, where I became Academic Coordinator of the Gender and Trade Unions Research Group, and have recently published a book with a number of other members titled ‘Visibility and Voice for Union Women: Country case studies from Global Labour University researchers’.
Once retired, I used a two-year Leverhulme Trust Emeritus scholarship to spend time researching with union women in Brazil and South Africa, and have delightedly been offered a book contract for that work.
As you can see, I am both a researcher and an activist, and it is this conjunction that forms the basis of my PhD. My work is rooted in the thinking of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, who was imprisoned by Mussolini in the 1930’s. His working model encompassed the idea of ‘consent of the masses’ to the fascist hegemony, going on to identify critical factors including crisis, and how change could be achieved through pedagogy, intellectuals and revolution. As established by Mitchell (1996), the Gramscian revolution ‘war of position’, which involves capturing the culture, fits well with the ‘longest revolution’ for women. In certain proportions of my writing I have drawn on and illustrated these themes, developing them into a model of change in my PhD; a political project to challenge and change labour movement gender politics, gender power relations and the gendered culture of hegemonic masculinity.