Against a backdrop of increasing democracy and the associated process of aristocratic decline, this book examines the political influence of the leading Tory hostesses, the Marchionesses of Londonderry. Over one hundred and fifty years, from 1800-1959, these women were patrons and confidantes to key political figures such as Disraeli, Bonar Law, Edward Carson and Ramsay MacDonald. By the late 19th century upper-class women were at the height of their prowess, exerting political sway by private means whilst exploiting more public avenues of political work: canvassing, addressing meetings and leading the new associations established in an attempt to educate a mass electorate. At that time this hybrid of private and public aristocratic politicking aroused little criticism but, by the interwar period, the hold that the 7th Marchioness of Londonderry, Edith Vane-Tempest-Stewart, allegedly had over MacDonald prompted widespread criticism of her role as the 'Mother' of the National Government.
"The Ladies of Londonderry" offers the first examination of the powerful political hostesses of the Anglo-Irish establishment and sheds considerable light on the workings of 19th and 20th-century politics.
Diane Urquhart is a Senior Lecturer in Modern Irish History and Deputy Director at the Institute of Irish Studies of the University of Liverpool. A graduate of the Queen's University of Belfast she is a former Fellow of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen's. She has also worked as a researcher for the Women's History Project. She is the author of Women in Ulster Politics: A History Not Yet Told; editor of The Minutes of the Ulster Women's Unionist Council and Executive Committee, 1911-40; co-editor of Coming into the light: the work, politics and religion of women in Ulster, 1840-1940; The Irish Women's History Reader and Irish Women's History.