The Gendering of Political Language in the Early-Twentieth Century: Rev. R. J. Campbell

 

The early-twentieth century is an interesting period of British politics and the women’s suffrage movement. The last two decades of the nineteenth century is cited as a period permeated with narratives of sexual politics. The dominating narratives of sexual morality accumulated in this period, in terms of the conception of citizenship, “personal, political, social identity finally came down to the category of sexuality”[1]. I want to examine how Victorian ideologies translated into Edwardian politics. This era of politics was not a straightforward step away from Victorian anxieties. In the politically turbulent climate, there is arguably a reassessment of Victorian notions of Britishness and citizenship. This was evident in the evolution in the suffrage debate, but as it often noted, social crisis and conflict can create an emphasis on conformity in reaction to domestic anxieties. Twentieth-century political language was therefore both a reaction to, and a reproduction of, inherent gendered conceptions of political engagement.

This period is described by Les Garner as a turbulent beginning of the century, it was permeated with political disruption caused by “constitutional crisis over the House of Lords and Ireland, and the growth of the militant struggle in industry”.[2] Consequently, British notions of citizenship and political identity were in turmoil. The examination of the early Edwardian campaign emphasises the crossroads of contemporary crisis of Britain. The influence of the nineteenth-century gendered notions of politics should be seen as a “much greater process culminating in the first years of the twentieth century where by individuals negotiated with the state to redefine citizenship.”[3]. Victorian discourses of gender difference were just as integrated into the twentieth-century suffrage debate but they were influenced by these collective anxieties. The instability that characterized the beginning of the century was largely attributed to economic problems which “led ultimately to a fall in the value of wages, a rise in unemployment and ever sharper divisions of wealth.”[4] The emergence of Socialism, therefore, also contributed to the gendered language of politics and the suffrage debate. Socialism advocated social reform to address the experiences of poverty, this was incorporated into a reassessment of the experience of working women. The inclusion of a wider scope of the experiences of women extended the concern of enfranchisement into a movement “that challenged the legislature, judiciary, press, public opinion, and government.”[5].

To establish the scale of influence of the gendered nineteenth-century rhetoric and its interaction with the emergence of new crises and political debate, identifying an individual’s engagement with this language is effective. The individual I want to look at is Rev. R. J. Campbell, his career incorporates the conflicting factors of political language of the early-twentieth century.. As Minister of the City Temple of London, from 1903 to 1915[6], he had an inherently religious perception of citizenship, which meant he put emphasis on the morality of men and women. The dialogues between the nineteenth and twentieth century meant that Campbell was therefore active in a transformative period. I want to examine in his work the continuities of the paradigm of sexual politics but also attempt to identify its transformations. Ultimately I want to detect why “the twentieth century women’s suffrage movement was perceived by contemporaries as different from the nineteenth century movement”.[7]

THE GENDERING OF THE MASCULINE VOICE

Before I look at the work of Rev. Campbell I want to discuss the significance of a male voice in the suffrage debate. In examples of the language of sexual morality, not only are male supporters tackling the gendered construction of citizenship, they are doing it with an awareness of their own relational masculinity that is publicly and politically defined. As historians, and as feminists of today, we inherently look at male commentary on issues of gender and politics through a different lens. This lens of analysis is understandable, the male suffragist, or the male feminist, are alike in that as individuals they are aware of this perceived difference. A parallel can be made to modern male commentary on feminism, from articles, tweets, to Facebook statues, similar questions and criticisms are raised. As men there is the issue of speaking for an experience that you do not have. The male contribution should not be on a pedestal and should not omit or overshadow the contribution of women.

When analyzing male suffragists of the early-twentieth-century we must recognize that they would have an acknowledgment of the significance of a male contribution to a supposed ‘female’ cause. Their contribution was to a campaign that was adhesive to their own political agendas. Martin Francis notes that debates over manliness, and particularly the notion of ‘muscular Christianity’ dominated some of the primary interest in the gendering history of men.[8] Christian ideas about masculinity constructed ethical notions of propriety, educated, respectable family men as the stability of society. This religious sense of nationhood and male citizenship reflected patriotic sentiments but was arguably patriarchal in nature. It perpetuated the family as a construct in which men and women have distinct public and private identities. The association of Christian moral values and a gendered conception of politics makes Rev. Campbell an appropriate individual to examine.

REV. R. J. CAMPBELL: CHRISTIAN SOCIALISM AND THE NEW THEOLOGY

Rev. Reginald John Campbell’s political identity was as complex and conflicting as his religious identity and therefore were entirely related. This newspaper excerpt is from before he cemented a relationship with the socialist movement, and details the controversy he caused but did recover from.

workers
Figure 1: “The Rev. R. J. Campbell:                 The Workers Critcised.

“The Rev. R. J. Campbell, pastor of the City Temple. London, in an address delivered to-day before the members of the Paddington and Kensington Trades and Labor Councils, justified his recent statement, that “working men are often lazy, unthrifty, and improvident, while they are sometimes immoral, foul-mouthed, and un-truthful.” Campbell disavowed any intention of making an indiscriminate attack on the workers. Although he was severely heckled by his audience during the delivery of his speech, Mr. Campbell’s courage in facing the unions and acknowledging the truth of the reports as to his previous utterance was recognized and he was loudly cheered at the conclusion of the address.”[9]

Campbell’s comment reveals contemporary notions of masculinity. Campbell’s original statement is evidence of the gendered rationalization of moral purpose. This gendered conception of family and gendered spheres can be uncompromising in its relation to class experience. Particularly in the middle-classes there is an emphasis towards education for young men, respectability, and sense of propriety that consequently demonized the working class male experience. An article in the Spectator details the same controversy with the workers, the article discusses notions of masculinity and its relation to class. It suggests that Campbell “meant only to warn men against vices which it is his pastoral duty to reprehend”[10], this reveals the religious and moral tone to which manliness is articulated. The Labour movement of the early-twentieth century forced individuals to re-conceptualize this version of masculinity and working class experience into their political agendas. This is also evident in the diversification of the scope of the women’s movement as a consequence of the influence of Labour movement.

Rev. Campbell was part of the increasing relationship where socialism gained a religious appeal through “the emergence of a new religious outlook amongst both Nonconformist and Anglican clergy”.[11] Campbell wrote The New Theology (1907) to address this uniting of ideologies. I want to look into this text because I think it divulges the political influences that Campbell structures his viewpoint of the suffrage debate within. Campbell’s political language encapsulated the influence of moral ideas about sexual politics and anxieties of the beginning of the century. Campbell’s ideologies “reflected all the liberal tendencies of the late nineteenth century and chimed with what had become a major strand of contemporary culture.”[12]

the new theology and socialist movement 1908
Figure 2: Front page of “The New Theology and the Socialist Movement”

Campbell constructed the Church as an institution that could address social issues, he stresses an individual’s faith and their moral relationship to society through their politics, emphasizing that “the movement toward social regeneration is really and truly a spiritual movement”.[13] Nonconformity helped shape Campbell’s attitude towards social reform. In his article in the Baptist Quarterly, W. C. R. Hancock notes how there is a conflict in the way people perceive non-conformity and socialism. The relationship between the two inclinations were seen as either incompatible, co-operative, or in the example of Rev. R. J Campbell, so complementary that “Christianity subsumed socialism”[14]. In Campbell’s own words, “The New Theology is but the religious articulation of the social movement”[15], as socialism was a response to the issues of society, he aligns this religious socialism as a lens through which to produce a moral revision of society. The New Theology, can be summarised as “an Edwardian attempt to reconcile modern thought and a burning social conscience with a simplified and easy secularizable version of Christian doctrine.”[16] Campbell’s approach to social reform was therefore denoted by the relationship between the ideologies of socialism and non-conformists. “The religion of Socialism had come of age”[17] because of the early-twentieth century anxieties about the Church’s role in modern life. Campbell suggests that the Church’s significance can only be recovered through “the moral movements of the age, such as the great labour movement are in reality the expression of the Christian spirit”[18] This unifying of ideologies is evidence of contemporary reassessments of citizenship and political language. It therefore shapes the way Campbell articulates his perspective on suffrage.

Despite Campbell’s success and reputation in his career there are few examinations of his contributions to the religious, political, and suffrage debate of the early twentieth century. Keith Robbins’ chapter is one of very few study’s that exclusively looks at Campbell as a religious and political figure[19]. Robbins exemplifies that Campbell’s career was in the context and in relation to other individuals, particularly his affiliation with the socialist movement and his personal relationship with Keir Hardie. Keir Hardie’s introduction to the “The New Theology and Socialism”[20] pamphlet exemplifies the interrelation of socialism into Campbell’s commentary. Campbell “developed a close link with Christian socialism and often spoke on socialist platforms.”[21] Campbell’s writing has a strict undertone of social commentary, and in large part motivates many of his arguments. Campbell embodies the context of the time he wrote in his sermons, speeches, and writing, thus explaining his connection to socialist politics.

Women’s Suffrage and The Social Evil”: The moral movement

Campbell’s writing was engineered by an integrated religious and political precedence, which was underpinned by conceptions of sexual politics. This is evident in his contribution to the suffrage debate in a speech in 1907 titled “Women’s Suffrage and The Social Evil”. The emphasis on the moral obligation to grant women the vote alludes to the notion that it constitutes a right and a deserved entitlement. Campbell attempts to debase and deconstruct anti-suffrage sentiments as “actuated simply and solely by determination to maintain the privileged supremacy of the male sex.”[22] In his discussion of patriarchal notions instilled by the unjust superiority of men, Campbell’s tone is both unifying and moralising.

IMG_6868
Figure 3: “Women’s Suffrage and The Social Evil” by Rev. R. J. Campbell.

Campbell’s speech particularly focuses on the “nauseous problem of prostitution”[23] through a socialist lens which focuses on economic factors. Incorporating and advocating for suffrage within this paradigm is representative of Campbell’s socialist influences and of his religious identity and moral priorities. He perpetuates prostitution as an issue that is primarily a “disparity in the relative economic position of the sexes”[24], referring to an economic discussion of capitalism and its impact on society. This reflects the socialist sentiments emerging in the suffrage movement of the early twentieth century. Campbell encapsulates the sentiment and scope of the nineteenth-century sexual morality that infiltrates discussion of suffrage. Ultimately, the sexual politics of “the Victorian spirit, immersed in scientific determinism and biblical uncertainty, was most conductive to Campbell’s gospel”.[25] This demonstrates that it is not erased within the early-twentieth-century, the gendered influence of capitalism brings these two narratives of political rhetoric together.

Campbell acknowledges this gendered conception of societal issues but he does not deconstruct them. He locates some of the influences of this kind of thinking, such as “the sentimental consideration of female virtue”[26], but he talks about it within the same language of gendered notions of moral influence. Campbell addresses the persistence of nineteenth-century gendered spheres, but struggles to not perpetuate similar notions of gendered morality. For example, he propagates prostitutes “as a class of women”[27], this only helps to reinforce a notion of female morality and feminine expectation. He adversely perpetuates that these women have been corrupted and are corruption to modern society rather than acknowledging their experience. Campbell talks within the paradigm of societal evils and perpetuates the sense of female sexual virtue. “The Great Social Evil” that the suffrage debate cannot shake off is this gendered articulation of the experiences of men and women.

Campbell defines the moral benefit of female suffrage for society, he claims “give women the vote and the pace will be accelerated in the direction of those great social changes”.[28] He stresses that women are the avenue of virtue for the nation at large but through emphasising a moralising appeal he is not addressing the political capability of women. Rather than securing a brighter economic future for the family, women deserved the right of a platform for their politics be it advantageous or not for men. Les Garner addresses the theoretical problems of Campbell’s speech, “It left the sexual division of labour intact – it left women in the home”[29] His political rhetoric was voiced within a nineteenth century restrictive gendered paradigm. Early-twentieth-century femininity still could not shake off the stressed moral virtue of women.

Campbell discusses suffrage from a male perspective, in that he speaks directly and primarily to the male listener by preaching about the male objections to suffrage. He argues that allowing the conditions of society to continue in this way is immoral, uncivilised, and not the mark of a modern gentleman. Campbell speaks for the experience of women by addressing it from a distanced economic position that only reflects male priorities.  He vouches for the political inclusion of women but within a paradigm of patriarchal rhetoric that addresses the concerns of men. For the benefits of the family structure, the economy, and for the benefits of the state and country at large, he emphasises women’s moralising influence. Campbell’s conception of masculinity demonstrates that politics in the early-twentieth-century is still defined by sexuality.

Campbell criticises society and the economic conditions that have caused the issue of prostitution and this evil in the contemporary society, but he perpetuates the perceived moral duality of femininity. It resembles the Victorian notion of the ‘fallen woman’. Campbell’s political rhetoric suggests that women lie on the boundary as an embodiment of purity and moral superiority, but are corruptible by the forces of society, he perpetuates that women are vulnerable in the public sphere.

Campbell demonstrates the influence of a nineteenth-century sexual paradigm of politics on how male supporters of suffrage rationalised gender difference. He acknowledges the prejudice upon women but preaches for its realignment in a structure of contemporary gendered notions of society and politics.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the early-twentieth century demonstrates that individuals write within the contemporary political paradigm of sexual politics. Suffragists “focused so much of their attention on sexual issues and consciously associated them with their demand for the vote”[30], and this was still significant in the early-twentieth-century where “marriage and prostitution formed the nexus of women’s sexual and economic exploitation”.[31]Within their own political predisposition, individuals write, speak, and preach within a framework that is defined by social discourse, social conceptions of the world, and social priorities. Individuals articulate their concerns in contemporary ideals and language. Male suffragists of the early-twentieth century discuss this within their own negotiation of masculinity. Campbell’s political rhetoric demonstrates that constructions of gender are both undertones and motivations of political language. Through an emphasis on sexual morality, religion was a discerning ideology of gender politics.  Campbell’s religious expression exposed the interrelation of political and social discourses. Campbell formulated his response to the ills of society through a paradigm of a gendered conception of masculinity.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

[Figure 1] Front Page of ‘The New Theology and the Socialist Movement” (Stockport: Socialist Publishing Company, 1908), [Accessed at: 2/4/17 https://archive.org/details/newtheologysocia590camp

[Figure 2]”THE REV. R. J. CAMPBELL. – THE WORKERS CRITICISED. LONDON, October 21.The Advertiser, 24 Oct 1904. Trove [Accessed at: 4/3/17 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/5028400]

[Figure 3] Campbell, J. R. ‘Women’s Suffrage and the Social Evil’, a speech delivered at Queen’s Hall, 7 December 1907, London, Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage 1909, pp.3-6.

“The Little Dispute Between The Rev. R. J. Campbell, The Spectator, 29 Oct 1904. The Spectator Archive [Accessed at: 4/3/17 http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/29th-october-1904/8/t-he-little-dispute-between-the-rev-r-j-campbell-o]

Campbell, J. R. New Theology, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1907) p.8. [Accessed at: 2/4/17 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89097216683;view=1up;seq=7

 

Secondary Sources

Bowler, Peter. J. Reconciling Science and Religion: The Debate in Early-Twentieth-Century Britain (London: The University of Chicago Press, 2001)

Francis, Martin. “The Domestication of the Male? Recent research of nineteenth-and-twentieth century British Masculinity”. The Historical Journal, 45.03 (2002): 637- 652.

Garner, Les. Stepping Stones to Women’s Liberty: Feminist Ideas in the Women’s Suffrage Movement 1900-1918 (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1984)

Goroncy, Jason. Hallowed Be They Name: The Sanctification of All in the Soteriology of P.T. Forsyth (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013)

Hancock, W. C. R. “Nonconformity and Politics 1893 – 1914”, The Baptist Quarterly Journal of the Baptist Historical Society, Volume XXXVI, April 1995, No.2, 56-67, p.64. [Accessed at: 6/4/17 https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bq/36-2_056.pdf

Holton, Sandra Stanley. Feminism and Democracy: Women’s Suffrage and Reform Politics in Britain. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

Kingsley Kent, Susan. Sex and Suffrage in Britain, 1860-1914. (Guilford: Princeton University Press, 1987)

Mayhall, Laura E. Nym. The Militant Suffrage Movement: Citizenship and Resistance in Britain, 1860-1930. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

Perks, Robert. ‘The New Liberalism and the challenge of Labour in the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1885-1914 – with special reference to Huddersfield’, Unpublished, PhD thesis, Huddersfield Polytechnic, 1985. [Accessed at: 2/4/17 http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/4598/1/D065033_1.pdf]

Robbins, Keith. “The Spiritual Pilgrimage of The Rev. R. J. Campbell”. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History , 30.02 (1979): 261-276.

Vance, Norman. The Sinews of the Spirit: The ideal of Christian Manliness in Victorian. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009)

 

[1] Kingsley Kent, Susan. Sex and Suffrage in Britain, 1860-1914. (Guilford: Princeton University Press, 1987), p.208.

[2] Garner, Les. Stepping Stones to Women’s Liberty: Feminist Ideas in the Women’s Suffrage Movement 1900-1918 (London: Heinemann Educational Books, 1984), p.8.

[3] Mayhall, Laura E. Nym. The Militant Suffrage Movement: Citizenship and Resistance in Britain, 1860-1930. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

[4] Garner, Les. Stepping Stones to Women’s Liberty, p.8.

[5] Mayhall, Laura E. Nym. The Militant Suffrage Movement, p.4.

[6] Hancock, W. C. R. “Nonconformity and Politics 1893 – 1914”, The Baptist Quarterly Journal of the Baptist Historical Society, Volume XXXVI, April 1995, No.2, 56-67, p.64. [Accessed at: 6/4/17 https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bq/36-2_056.pdf

[7] Mayhall, Laura E. Nym. The Militant Suffrage Movement, p.5.

[8] Francis, Martin. “The Domestication of the Male? Recent research of nineteenth-and-twentieth century British Masculinity”. The Historical Journal, 45.03 (2002): 637- 652, p.638.

[9] “THE REV. R. J. CAMPBELL. – THE WORKERS CRITICISED. LONDON, October 21.The Advertiser, 24 Oct 1904. Trove [Accessed at: 4/3/17 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/5028400]

[10] “The Little Dispute Between The Rev. R. J. Campbell, The Spectator, 29 Oct 1904. The Spectator Archive [Accessed at: 4/3/17 http://archive.spectator.co.uk/article/29th-october-1904/8/t-he-little-dispute-between-the-rev-r-j-campbell-o]

[11] Perks, Robert. ‘The New Liberalism and the challenge of Labour in the West Riding of Yorkshire, 1885-1914 – with special reference to Huddersfield’, Unpublished, PhD thesis, Huddersfield Polytechnic, 1985, p.476. [Accessed at: 2/4/17 http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/4598/1/D065033_1.pdf]

[12] Bowler, Peter. J. Reconciling Science and Religion: The Debate in Early-Twentieth-Century Britain (London: The University of Chicago Press, 2001), p.224.

[13] Campbell, J. R. New Theology, (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1907) p.250. [Accessed at: 2/4/17 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89097216683;view=1up;seq=7%5D

[14] Hancock, W. C. R. “Nonconformity and Politics 1893 -1914”, p.64.

[15] Campbell, J. R. New Theology, p.14.

[16] Vance, Norman. The Sinews of the Spirit: The ideal of Christian Manliness in Victorian. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p.180.

[17] Perks, Robert, ‘The New Liberalism and the challenge of Labour”, p.480.

[18] Campbell, J. R. New Theology, p.8.

[19] Robbins, Keith. “The Spiritual Pilgrimage of The Rev. R. J. Campbell”. The Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 30.02 (1979): 261-276, p.261.

[20] Campbell, J. R.“The New Theology and Socialism”, (Stockport: Socialist Publishing Company, 1908), p.5 [Accessed at: 2/4/17 https://archive.org/details/newtheologysocia590camp]

[21] Bowler, Peter. J. Reconciling Science and Religion, p. 226.

[22] Campbell, J. R. ‘Women’s Suffrage and the Social Evil’, a speech delivered at Queen’s Hall, 7 December 1907, London, Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage 1909, pp.3-6, p.3.

[23] Ibid., p.4

[24] Ibid.

[25] Goroncy, Jason. Hallowed Be They Name: The Sanctification of All in the Soteriology of P.T. Forsyth (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013), p.35.

[26] Campbell, J. R. ‘Women’s Suffrage and the Social Evil’, p.4.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Ibid., p.5.

[29] Garner, Les. Stepping Stones to Women’s Liberty, p.8

[30] Kingsley Kent, Susan. Sex and Suffrage in Britain, 1860-1914, p.208.

[31] Holton, Sandra Stanley. Feminism and Democracy: Women’s Suffrage and Reform Politics in Britain. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), p.21.

 

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