Fifty years before the suffragettes fought to have the parliamentary vote, women in England were able to elect and be elected to local district councils, school boards and Poor Law boards. This pioneering study explores the world of those women who held office on behalf of other women,children, the old and the sick. They faced widespread hostility, but such was their success that in many cities and counties they were a stronger presence in 1900 than in 1975. Local government offered that conjunction of "compulsory philanthropy", "municipal housekeeping" and local responsibilitywhich made it a sphere suitable for women. Based on the records of some 20 towns and 10 rural districts, Ladies Elect describes and assesses their work in local government before 1914, and places it in the context of the general movement towards woman's emancipation.