This week our chair of trustees, Josephine Burt, along with National Organiser Natalie Punter and Mary Stott Award winner (and former National Organiser) Antoinette Ferraro visited the Women's Library at the London School of Economics (LSE). This library holds records of the women’s’ movement in 19th and 20th centuries including the NHR/NWR archives. Here's what she had to say.
Antoinette, Natalie and I recently spent a wonderfully interesting day at The Women’s Library (part of the British Library and currently housed at the London School Of Economics, LSE, in Central London) looking at 60 years of NWR heritage.
The Women's Library houses England’s primary library and museum resource on women, women’s issues and history, and the women’s movement from, primarily, the 19th and 20th centuries. The main collection dates back to the mid-1920s, though the core collection was formed from a library established by Ruth Cavendish Bentinck in 1909. These archives moved to LSE, as part of the British Library collection, in 2013.
We had the opportunity to view photos and marketing materials dating back to the early 60s even the official annual reports and financial returns, though we decided to leave those for another day!
It was lovely to see photos of the women who set up and ran the organisation from 1980 - having read the book that details our first twenty years 1960-1980 (“The Lively-Minded Women” by Betty Jerman published in 1980) and it was great to see the original materials upon which it was based. Antoinette was delighted to find some photos of the National Group in the 1980's which included her.
Some of the publicity materials looked very dated, as they would, but the Golden Anniversary literature (from 2010) looked fresh and vibrant. We also found a hidden gem – a poster from the 1960s – which we are thinking of rejuvenating for our anniversary! (watch this space). It was sobering and yet reassuring to find that the problems and issues we have today have been there over the years and are really a feature of informal organisations such as ours.
I felt very nostalgic when I found some local press cuttings from Leighton Buzzard from the 1980's and recognised the names of friends I met through NWR. I’d like to thank our members and LOs for keeping such excellent records of our history and I think we owe it to the next generation of NWR to ensure we continue to send in materials from the last 10 years and onwards.
For those of you (individually or as a group) who would like to see the archives for yourselves NWR members are welcome to visit by appointment - see http://www.lse.ac.uk/library/collection-highlights/the-womens-library or call LSE Library 020 7955 7229
Josephine Burt, Chair of Trustees