Aspects of agency: change and constraint in the activism of Mary Sumner founder of the Anglican Mothers’ Union

Anderson-Faithful, Sue (2017) Aspects of agency: change and constraint in the activism of Mary Sumner founder of the Anglican Mothers’ Union. Women's History Review. pp. 1-18. ISSN 0961-2025

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Abstract: This article defines agency as the ability to act towards the realisation of aims within and across the permeable boundaries of private and public space. Agency relates to both empowerment and constraint as the aims of certain groups may be realised by dominating others. This article explores the agency of Mary Sumner as founder of the Mothers’ Union (1876), which by 1921 had a transnational membership in excess of 390,000 and thus constituted the largest women’s organisation in the Anglican Church. In this article Bourdieu’s concepts of reproduction, habitus, field and capital frame the analysis of Sumner’s agency in relation to her own empowerment and constraint, and as an activist for the patriarchal and socially stratified Church of England. It locates Sumner’s activism in the context of clerical networks and identifies strategies she deployed to establish her own pedagogic authority and advance her organisation. Focusing on the years 1876 to 1916, the article argues that Sumner promoted opportunities for women within her temporal and socio-cultural context in ways that were complicit with patriarchal Anglican notions of womanhood and upheld class stratification yet were simultaneously innovative in achieving a voice for an organised body of women within Anglicanism.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anglicanism , philanthropy , mothers union, women, agency
Subjects: V Historical & philosophical studies > V210 British history
V Historical & philosophical studies > V290 History by area not elsewhere classified
Departments: Faculty of Education, Health and Social Care > Initial Teacher Education
Depositing User: Sue Anderson-Faithful
Date Deposited: 14 Sep 2017 10:19
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2017 10:19

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