History of NWR

NWR has over fifty years of history behind it. It has been run by a variety of active and committed women. They were originally all volunteers but two paid Co-ordinators were appointed in 1999 as the pool of willing volunteers was running dry. The Board of Trustees continues to be made up of volunteers.


The theme for 2013 was Women of the 21st Century - Different and Making a Difference. Ireland was the chosen country for the annual Themed Evening event.

Following on from the success of 2012’s first one-day National Conference, the second was held in Liverpool in July with the theme “Ebb and Flow – The Pool of Life”. Speakers were Gemma Bodinetz, Gail Naylor and June Davies.

In July the Communications Coordinator Mary Dodkins retired after working for NWR for 14 years and volunteering as National Organiser before that.

The Telephone Treasure Trail in November was set by the Bridge of Don Group and Whitstable NWR was the overall winning Group.

Trustee Kathleen Tanner retired at the end of the year after serving five years on the Board and Josephine Burt was co-opted onto the Board.


2012 saw the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and London hosting the Olympics so the NWR theme was Taking the Challenge and the Themed Evening's chosen country was Greece.

The first one-day National Conference was held in July in Birmingham with Inspired as the Theme. Speakers were Lucinda Hawksley, Guy Pringle and Lesley Smith (in the guise of Nell Gwynn).

The members' area on the website was rebuilt to be more secure, attractive, and useful. Forums for discussion became a new interactive feature.

The Telephone Treasure Trail in November was set by Kilbarchan NWR Group with a female theme and Goostrey NWR Group was the overall winner.

A Short Story Competition, organised by a member and judged by Postal Book Group members, attracted 56 entries and the NWR Big Read was another national event and engaged over 50% of the membership.

Trustee, Liz Valette, pioneered NWR's foray into Facebook and by the end of the year we had a Facebook page and several discussion groups.

A Photograph Competition was held as part of a collaboration with the Canal and River Trust. 'Women and Water' was the theme and prizes were kindly donated by the Trust.

The winter edition of The Register was guest edited by the Sheffield Fulwood Group.


The theme for 2011 was Around the World and the Themed Evening's chosen country was Sweden.

Conference was held in September at the de Havilland Campus Hatfield and the Theme was 'Space to be You'

Amongst the speakers were Dr Peter Lovatt who runs the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire; Prof. Ian Wright who took us into the world of virtual reality; Sue Nelson, Radio 4's science presenter who unveiled the story behind the forgotten female astronauts - 'The Mercury 13'. On Sunday after workshops and trips Dr Margaret Knight talked on Women Photojournalists. Finally Dr Stu Clarke outlined the history of Science and its contribution to our understanding.

The Mary Stott Award was presented at the Conference dinner to Penny O'Bee.

The Telephone Treasure Trail on 14-17 November was set by Rossendale NWR Group and Bookham NWR Group was the overall winner.

At the end of 2011 Postal Book Group organiser Muriel Lloyd retired after 18 years. Her work was much appreciated and Catharine Woodliffe has volunteered to take over.

Marjorie Briggs retired from the Board of Trustees after more than five years service and Gill Chivers (Basingstoke NWR) and Liz Valette (Southsea NWR) were elected as new Trustees

In 2011 the Trentham Group was the first group to offer to Guest Edit the NWR magazine - The Register... and working closely with editor Mary Dodkins made an excellent job of it with an innovative and professional approach.


It was NWR's fiftieth and Golden year! Members gathered for a variety of Golden events countrywide and two 'Golden Gatherings, one in York and the other in Reading, gave past Trustees and past members of the National Group (volunteer committees that used to run NWR up to 1999) the chance to meet up. A special Gold logo was designed and used throughout the year and an NWR Golden hemp bag was also designed and sold very well.

The themed evening was a Sixties evening and the Themed year was naturally Gold. The National Conference - Golden Opportunities - was held at Warwick University and featured our founder Maureen Nicol OBE as an honoured guest. She was presented with a Collection of Thoughts and Thanks from many members of NWR as well as a golden rose and a citrus tree.

The conference started with an animated Armchair Treasure Hunt. Speakers on Saturday included Jo Cameron, Beverley Graham, Head of the Alyssa School and Dr Michael Leach an internationally acclaimed wildlife photographer. The magnificent after-dinner speaker on Saturday evening was Elizabeth 1(aka Lesley Smith, curator of Tutbury Castle)! On Sunday, following the history theme and on the topic of where th'as muck tha's brass, was David Barby - a well known antiques expert - and to round off a golden weekend the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard was described by Ian Wykes.

NWR's photo competition attracted 200 plus entries of a high standard. These were on display at the Conference and the winning entries were chosen by a members' vote.

Many Groups held Golden Evenings, tea parties and reunions and invited past members, some of whom rejoined their group. As there were so many events throughout the celebratory year the Area Organisers' Workshop was not held this year.


Membership numbers remained steady, Thailand was the country for the Themed Evening and the theme for the year was the Industrial Revolution. The focus of the National Conference in Leeds was 'Leading the Way' and inspirational speakers included Vanessa Lawrence - first female Director General and Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey, Ann Daniels - Polar Explorer and Liz Burnley the Chief Guide. The Conference culminated with a display by the Northern Theatre Ballet. The Mary Stott NWR Woman of the Year Award was presented to Liz Waite of the Twickenham and St Margaret's Group in Middlesex for the national recognition of her dedication and achievement of her personal goal as a committed fund raiser. The website continued to grow and generated an increasing number of enquiries. Eight new Groups formed. Trustees Gaynel Munn and Johanna Maidment retired after serving four years as Trustees. Irene Hughes, Pamela McKee and Kathleen Tanner were elected as new Trustees.


Membership remained steady at around 7300. The National Conference took place in September at the University of Bath, and posed the question 'Is the Past our Future'. The Mary Stott Award was awarded to Rosemary Lavies of New Milton NWR who set herself the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. In February the themed evening was on Mexico and the theme for the year was 'Third World Women'. A 'members only' section is created on the website. In March the Membership Coordinator, Eilis Thorn, retired after working for NWR for almost nine years. Kathryn Buckman became the new Membership Coordinator in June.


The annual National Conference - first and possibly only one in the summer, was held at Keele University. The theme was Midsummer Medley and it included a Murder Mystery event for Friday evening, written for NWR by local author Priscilla Masters. The Mary Stott Award was presented to Barbara Lang for participating in the Tall Ships programme. The themed evening was France - which gave rise to great deal of interesting responses to the survey of French likes and dislikes. It was NWR's year of Gardens and Gardening: many groups availed themselves of the chance to go out and about or discuss the effects of climate change. The results of the Programme Competition were both interesting and inspiring. The Telephone Treasure Trail highlighted the new website by adding a compulsory question.


Manchester hosted the National Conference with the theme of Making a Difference. Mary Coslett of Horrabidge NWR won the Mary Stott Award for her voluntary work with pregnant women in Tibet. It was NWR's Travel Year and the themed evening was China.


This was NWR's 45th (Sapphire) Anniversary. Groups were given a list of 45 blue themes and a 45 Pack of ideas and quizzes for meetings. Reading held the National Conference on Nothing to Declare but our Genius. The second presentation of the Mary Stott NWR Woman of the Year went to Margaret Lavelle, Area Organiser for the South West Region and member of the Kingsbridge and District group. The themed evening was The United States of America.


Swansea held the National Conference on Women of the World. The first presentation of The Mary Stott Award for the NWR Woman of the Year was awarded to Ann Scarborough, MBE, of the Bradford-on-Avon group. The National Themed Evening was India. The Co-ordinators held NWR's first Themed Year: a Literary Year. 175 groups took part in a national debate on The Best Woman Writer of the Twentieth Century.


York hosted the National Conference on Exploring Diversity. The NWR Archive was professionally catalogued and to be viewed on request at the Women's Library. The annual NWR Woman of the Year Mary Stott Award was instituted in memory of one of NWR's founders, the editor of the Guardian Women's page in the 1950s and 60s. 250 Groups took part in the first national Themed Evening on Italy and 150 groups joined in NWR's Great British Women debate.


Mary Stott, NWR's first Honorary Life Member died aged 95. Guildford held the National Conference on Colours. The Norwich Employment Tribunal, on hearing ex-NWR Administrator Lesley Appel's claim for constructive dismissal, found in favour of NWR. Members from English and European groups met up in Luxembourg for a weekend Space to be EU. The New Neighbours project distributed NWR publicity to new homeowners in the Home Counties.


Membership held steady around 7,800. The year of Area Meetings - 18 in all attended by the Co-ordinators. Target to start 20 New Groups. Enquiries averaged 100 per month up till present. Nottingham had second National Conference. Gill Vine and Jean Stirk resigned after ten years as Trustees. 5 Trustees, 3 new - Julie Baker, Karen Redner and Janet Reynolds, joined Vivienne Eardley and Judy Ross on The Board.


Ruby anniversary, many groups celebrated throughout the year. Millennium quiz in January involved over 300 UK groups and some overseas groups participated. Tea towel/wall hanging produced by Beverley Group from group's squares of 'What NWR meant to them'. 8 Consolidation days were held for groups to review new structure with Co-ordinators and Trustees. Article in The Guardian to commemorate our origins. Founder, Maureen Nicol, OBE, attended Durham Conference and cut celebratory Ruby cake. Nearly 1200 enquiries and increasing interest in NWR. First full colour magazine and Annual Report. Telephone Treasure Trail attracted 380 entries.


Members voted to decide future of the running of NWR as insufficient volunteers came forward to maintain the National Group. Members voted for 2 paid staff (Co-ordinators). The Board of Trustees interviewed applicants. The National Group was dissolved at the AGM was held at the National Conference in Exeter on -Transition. Last National Organiser Mary Dodkins continued until two Co-ordinators were selected. In July Membership Co-ordinator Eilis Thorn and Marketing Co-ordinator Mary Dodkins were in post. Liz Williamson and Betty Jerman retired as Trustees. Vivienne Eardley and Beverly Purvis became new Trustees.


Consultation Days - 7 were arranged nationally to discuss The Way Forward. 24% of groups attended. 3 final options were settled on and voting papers mailed to all members. The choice was between (a) winding down, (b) appointing a professional Executive Officer or (c) a board of 5 Trustee Directors and 2/3 National Co-ordinators, with larger honoraria and the buying-in of expertise. Option (c) was chosen by the 39% of members who returned their voting slips. Nominations were being sought for new Trustee Directors. National Conference in Chester, Other Worlds.


Trustees' letter was sent to all members expressing their concern about the lack of volunteers to run the organisation and the declining membership. Working Party of five was set up to look at The Way Forward. National Group of five. NWR went on the Internet with a website set up by member, Jackie Harber. National Conference was in Edinburgh, To see ourselves as others see us.


First Telephone Treasure Trail success was followed up with second and plans were to repeat annually due to great response from groups. National Conference in Reading, Winning Through.


Founder Maureen Nicol was awarded OBE in Queen's Birthday honours for her 'services to women in founding NWR in 1960'. 35th Birthday celebrated. 231 groups took part in the 1st National Telephone Treasure Trail organised by Abbots Langley, thanks to Caroline Bloomer. National Conference was in Leicester, Power.


Sponsorship allowed us to send the Annual Report to every member. Trustees and National Group meeting with Strategic Plan Adviser was followed by simpler 3 year plan to halt membership decline.


Maureen Nicol retired as Trustee at the National Conference in Southampton and was given Honorary Membership. The Magazine - renamed 'The Register'- was mailed directly to members. The LO Handbook was completed and given to all Local Organisers.


The National Group was restructured in phase 2 of regionalisation. Several Community Service Announcements were broadcast, resulting in hundreds of enquiries.


NWR's Strategic Plan was published. The New Image was launched at the National Conference. Mary Stott retired as Trustee and was made the first Honorary Life Member. Jean Stirk, former National Group Chairman, and Gill Vine, former National Organiser, were elected Trustees. Regionalisation began. The first Annual Report was produced. There were approximately 900 groups.


30th birthday. Widespread publicity brought many enquiries. Members decided that NWR should build on its original aims, update its image and investigate a regional structure. The National Office moved to Norwich. Lesley Moreland retired as Trustee. Subscription was £4.00.


Falling membership (17,600) lead to the appointment of management consultants to analyse NWR and identify possible future directions.


Liz Williamson, former Treasurer, was appointed fifth Trustee. Community Service Announcements were made in several ITV regions.


Following a postal ballot of all members, a resolution was passed at the AGM to change the name to National Women's Register. Subscription was £3.50.


NHR became a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee. Strictly controlled advertising appeared in the Newsletter. The Research Bank and the subsidised workshop scheme were established.


25th birthday. Widespread publicity lead to 2,500 enquiries and the formation of over 50 new groups. A record 540 members attended the Silver Jubilee National Conference in Southampton. Past members organised a celebratory luncheon at the House of Commons.


Lesley Moreland, former National Organiser, was appointed fourth Trustee. The first full-time Office Administrator was employed.


Office premises were acquired to cope with an ever-increasing workload. Membership reached 24,000. There were affiliated groups in 28 countries overseas. Subscription was now £2.00.


21st birthday. The Lively-Minded Women, a history of the first 20 years of NHR by Betty Jerman, was published by Heinemann. The Register was computerised. A European conference was held in Brussels.


Charitable Status was granted and three Trustees were appointed: Maureen Nicol (founder), Betty Jerman (journalist and author) and Mary Stott (past Women's Page editor, The Guardian). The 1,000th group was formed. Membership was 22,000. An International Conference was held in Buckinghamshire. Affiliation was introduced for Overseas groups.


18th birthday. National and international publicity produced an overwhelming number of enquiries and both membership and the number of groups increased.


The first overseas Newsletter, Register Worldwide, was produced and sent to groups in 13 countries. Annual subscription was £1.00. A postal ballot for National Group elections was introduced.


The first National Group was elected at the Bristol Conference. The number of one-day local conferences increased dramatically. There were now 800 groups and 19,000 members.


A special business meeting at Crewe discussed the results of the research, culminating in the basis of the present organisation.


Research began into how other organisations dealt with policy making.


The by now National Newsletter was the accepted forum for discussion of Register matters and included informative and controversial articles written by members.


10th birthday. Membership rose from 10,000 to 15,000 as a result of widespread publicity. NHR's increasing size made it imperative that joint National Organisers were appointed and paid a small honorarium in recognition of the responsibility. A standard national subscription of 5/-(five shillings) was introduced.


The first overseas groups were formed in Australia and Canada. Standardised publicity was used for the first time.


300 members attended the first National Conference in Buxton.


The organisation became known as the National Housewives' Register.


The first printed Newsletter. Membership reaches 6,000.


The Register was no longer an experiment, but income was uncertain and the next National Organiser, Brenda Prys-Jones, inherited a "bankrupt, disorganised success".

July 1960

Groups began to form and were encouraged to make their own decisions about activities. Enthusiastic members helped answer letters and made introductions on a local or regional basis. Enquirers were asked to pay a registration fee to their area organiser. The first national Newsletter, a duplicated sheet, was produced, giving news of group activities, spread of membership and profiles of members. Some areas produced local newsletters. 2,000 members were asked for a subscription of 1/- (one shilling).

February 1960

In response to Betty Jerman's article in The Guardian, Maureen Nicol wrote: 'Perhaps housebound wives with liberal interests and a desire to remain individuals could form a national register so that whenever one moves one can contact like-minded friends?' She was overwhelmed by requests from women wanting to join 'her' register and the Housebound Wives' Register was born.