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Minute Books offer glimpses into the organisation of women teachers at the turn of the 20th Century

KathrynHannan21 August 2017

Volunteers’ week may be long over but that doesn’t mean we can’t say thank you to our volunteers throughout the rest of the year!  This time I would like to introduce some of the work done by one of our volunteers, Ashley Zuelke, who you may have come across before in one of the Volunteer Week posts. As well as volunteering in Special Collections we have been lucky enough to have Ashley volunteering with us in UCL IOE Archives.  Ashley has worked on catalogue enhancement of Minute Books of the London branch of the National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT).  The account which follows is a fascinating analysis of what she uncovered and gives an insight into the interesting stories that can be found in these unassuming looking volumes.

Minute Books Offer Glimpses into the Organisation of Women Teachers at the Turn of the 20th Century

By Ashley Zuelke
Summer Volunteer with Special Collections, Archives and Exhibitions studying for an MSc in Business Analytics and Management

In the early 1900s, British women teachers formed their own associations, branching out from the primary teaching organizations of the time to advocate for emerging issues including equal pay, pensions, and the management of “combined” boys and girls school departments. Reading the first minute books kept by the London Branch of the National Union of Women Teachers – then known as the National Federation of Women Teachers – is like sifting through snapshots of history taken every few months.

Entries from 1908 to 1922 reveal glimpses of the expansion of women’s rights and education in the U.K. before, during and after World War I. Discussions on proposed resolutions for national meetings reveal issues on which broad consensus prevailed, such as supporting aging women teachers, as well as points of disagreement, which included Parliament extending the vote to women. In history books, women’s suffrage seems like a natural course within a history punctuated with equal rights victories. The minute books, however, present a more nuanced picture with a spectrum of views and no certain results.

Demonstration by the London Unit against the allocation of the Fisher Grant, 1918

Demonstration by the London Unit against the allocation of the Fisher Grant, 1918

The year 1918 marked a watershed moment for the organisation: Parliament passed landmark education reform legislation and the group merged with the Women Teachers Franchise Union to create the London Unit of the National Federation of Women Teachers. The Franchise Union at the time was a politicised organisation, which prompted some members to urge that the group not advocate for political issues. The group did not accept those proposals, though the organisation unanimously postponed advocacy on political issues during the war. With the merger, the group codified its practices into a constitution and began to persistently advocate for equal rights and the implementation of the Education Act of 1918, which was designed to improve school conditions and to study the UK educational system – objectives for which public support increased dramatically after the war.

Within 10 years, the group grew from a handful of regular members to more than 50 subscribers in attendance at annual meetings representing nearly all parts of greater London. The organisation’s behaviour evolved as well. Initial notes that focused mostly on social gatherings and group administration became disciplined accounts of proposed resolutions and active correspondence. Early schisms dissolved as rules and procedures were finalised. By 1916, the group even published meeting minutes in newspapers as public record.  Members, some of whom participated in the group for more than a decade, built seniority. The group developed a clear, ringing voice on important issues. The women’s dedication is evident, with many lines commemorating achievements of group presidents and expressing condolences for members with illness or those who passed away.

The minute-book entries represent many hours of work for members outside the classroom, often on weekends. They offer readers a new perspective on events in the first two decades of the 20th Century. The books show how one organisation developed, enduring setbacks and victories on a path that many organisations today would likely recognise. And the books open windows into time as a group made changes and won rights for women and children that today many of us could not imagine doing without.

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Thanks so much Ashley for writing up such an interesting account of the early minute books of the NUWT and for all your work in expanding and enhancing the catalogue description for these.

For more information on the National Union of Women Teachers please refer to our libguide or our online catalogue.

 

All images ©UCL Institute of Education Archives

 

Volunteers’ Week – A Reflection

Vicky APrice7 June 2017

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Today is the final day of Volunteers’ Week, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to write the final blog post of the series.  All week we’ve been saying an emphatic THANK YOU to every single person who has offered their time and expertise over the past year to UCL’s SCAR department, and asking them to write a guest blog post to showcase some of the incredible skills and expertise they’ve offered to a range of different projects.

I’m not a volunteer with SCAR myself of course, so I can’t write my own ‘Day in the Life’ style post, but I can bring you some highlights from the week:

Volunteers making visitors welcome at our Treasures Day

As part of UCL’s Festival of Culture SCAR put on an annual event; Treasures of the Written Word.  UCL staff, students and members of the public were invited to view some of the department’s most intriguing and precious items and learn about them from the department’s experts.  Volunteers helped to welcome guests, keep record of numbers, explain details about some of our collection items (especially if they had been volunteering on projects with which the items related) and generally make the event run smoothly.

The Records department share stories from UCL's past.

UCL Records department share stories from UCL’s past.

We were a well oiled team and despite the abysmal weather the mood was upbeat and the event went without a single hitch.  Thank you so much to all that gave their time to help out, it was hugely appreciated.

Potential new volunteer recruits making contact with us

The Volunteers’ Week blogs were meant to be a way of saying thank you to volunteers rather than a way of finding new volunteers – but it looks like we might have found some new recruits from our readers as well!  This is wonderful and is a real testament to the power of volunteers’ enthusiasm for the roles they carry out at SCAR.

Looking to the Summer and the projects it brings

As the academic year comes to a close we will be saying goodbye to many of our student volunteers, who will be travelling home to families or simply taking a well earned break.  We hope as many as possible return to us in the Autumn to continue as volunteers, but for those who are moving on to new places of study or work (or new volunteer placements elsewhere) we’d like to say thank you.  It’s been a real pleasure having you spend time with the department and you can rest assured that the projects you’ve helped us with have benefited immeasurably from your involvement.

We will also be developing some new volunteer roles that will start over the Summer holidays, as this is also the season when some people have more time to offer.  UCL Records department, for example (pictured at the Treasures of the Written Word event above) will be looking for people to help with a project to better store and keep historic student records and there might be new opportunities to volunteer with our Poetry Store and Little Magazines collections (these are still in the pipeline!).

So watch this space for updates from new volunteers and projects – we can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Volunteers’ Week – A Day in the Life

Vicky APrice5 June 2017

Volunteers-Week-Logo_colour

Today is the penultimate day of Volunteers’ Week , during which we are saying an emphatic THANK YOU to every single person who has offered their time and expertise over the past year to UCL’s SCAR department, without whom many a project would have been difficult or even impossible to complete.

There is a wide range of roles that volunteers can take up within SCAR: helping with events, sorting through new collections, enhancing cataloguing, assisting in exhibition preparation, helping with our media and online communications.  Throughout Volunteers’ Week we intend to share a snapshot of some of these roles with you.  Each week day from 1st June to the 7th June, a guest volunteer writer will bring you a ‘day in their life’.

The third installment is from Marieta Pirc, who has given a great deal of time to helping with the Institute of Education’s archive:

Marieta Pirc – UCL IOE Archive Volunteer

I joined IOE (UCL) Archive team three years ago as a volunteer and never thought I would still be here enjoying myself.  Coming from a financial background (very monotonous), this is a different experience for me.  Each assignment is something new and interesting to digest.

Selected copies of 'The New Era', The World Education Fellowship's journal.

Selected copies of ‘The New Era’, The World Education Fellowship’s journal.

My current project is recording the contents of ‘The New Era – in Home and School’ journals, currently for the years 1925 to 1962 (the journal was founded in 1921 and we have issues up to 1994).  These publications gave teachers and other educational professionals from all over the world a way to communicate and exchange their ideas on helping with children’s education.  There are articles on how children learnt and played in schools in the UK, Europe and as far as Russia and Africa. Contributions are not only from teachers but also from child psychologists and other medical professionals.  The New Era also worked closely with UNESCO to help children around the world.

It is a great feeling knowing that these publications (now available via Explore and on the UCL IOE Archive catalogue) are available to be enjoyed by anyone all over the world. Volunteering at UCL, for me, it’s not about updating my CV but learning, discovery and working with a professional and knowledgeable archive team.

Volunteers’ Week – A Day in the Life

NazlinBhimani5 June 2017

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We continue with  Volunteers’ Week during which we are saying an emphatic THANK YOU to every single person who has offered their time and expertise over the past year to UCL’s SCAR department, without whom many a project would have been difficult or even impossible to complete.

There are a wide range of roles that volunteers can take up within SCAR: helping with events, sorting through new collections, enhancing cataloguing, assisting in exhibition preparation, helping with our media and online communications.  Throughout Volunteers’ Week we intend to share a snapshot of some of these roles with you. Each week day from 1st June to the 7th June, a guest volunteer writer will bring you a ‘day in their life’.

The third installment comes from the two volunteers, Ashley Zuelke and Teodora Lazar, working on the Lauwerys Collection at the Institute of Education Library.

Ashley Zuelke:

Ashley at the Stacks SmilingRalph Waldo Emerson once wrote: “If we encountered a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he read.” At UCL Institute of Education (IOE) Special Collections and Archives we are building a picture of Joseph A. Lauwerys and his life by listing all of the reading material in his personal library. I am one of two volunteers sifting through 28 double-stacked shelves full of books, academic journals, newsletters, meeting proceedings and more collected by Lauwerys, a Belgian-born scientist who became a leader in comparative education studies instrumental in the establishment of the (IOE) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Lauwerys’ life spanned 79 years, from 1902 to 1981, and the fraction of the books we have listed thus far illustrate how world wars and subsequent multinational collaboration and scientific advancements shaped his perspective. On a given day working with the collection, one comes across material published in more than eight languages on subjects ranging from chemistry theory, to morality, to educational systems in Chile.  We note the details of each piece and scan them for marginalia, to see what he found important.  Lauwerys’ collection considers all levels of education. Some of the earliest pieces appear to be his own textbooks. He also kept some publications of his speeches and journal articles, especially those published in multiple languages. In addition to writings on science and educational theory, he kept items like yearbooks from the USA and memorial programmes for colleagues.

Volunteering to work with this collection appealed to me because of my undergraduate degrees in journalism, international relations and comparative politics and the fact that my parents are retired educators. I am pursuing a Master’s of Science at UCL in business analytics and management to challenge myself in a more quantitative environment and to be prepared to help organisations make sense of large amounts of data and take action. Listing items in this collection has given me an affinity with Lauwerys, who was grounded in scientific thinking, but obviously honed qualitative and diplomatic skills as well throughout his life, embodying the spirit of what his contemporaries called “permanent education.”

Issues Lauwerys faced in his lifetime are not that different from conversations occurring today. His collection considers what technological change means for teaching; how education can advance shared democratic ideals and equality; and how to promote lifelong learning and job training. In international comparative fields like Lauwerys’, themes emerge that there may be clear distinctions among different countries, but ultimately, we all strive for similar values and ends; there is more that unites than divides. One item in the collection, a published keynote address given by Lauwerys, sums this up for teachers, ending with the words: “Similar ideals animate teachers everywhere, in every country and continent…We can learn much from one another because we are all trying sincerely to do the same kind of job and because we all believe that, through education, the world of the future can be made better than the world of today.”

Teodora Lazar:
Theodora at the Desk SmilingI am Teodora, one of the volunteers listing all of the reading material in Joseph A. Lauwerys’ personal library. I cannot tell which reason influenced me to work with the IOE’s Special Collections and Archives more: my studies in Art History and Material Studies which, by default, bring me closed to any piece of heritage and culture, or my passion for volunteering, which constantly challenges me to step beyond my comfort zone. But I know for sure that the mixture between these two reasons always manages to get me closer to who I want to be.

After all, it may seem that all we as volunteers at the IOE’s Special Collections and Archives is to work with books, but few words incorporate as much meaning and deep substance as a ‘book’ does. Taking a peek into Lauwerys’ personal collection I got to recognise multiple languages by just a few words written on the title, I discovered letters, newspaper pages and dedications from authors and, most of all, I now open every book with the hope and curiosity of finding something important.  They’re not just  books…

 

It goes without saying that the valuable work that Ashley and Teodora are doing will benefit future researchers.  So a BIG thank you, Ashley and Teodora! We hope that the experience you gain from this will help you too in the future.

 

Volunteers’ Week – A Day in the Life

Vicky APrice2 June 2017

Volunteers-Week-Logo_colour

Today is the second day of Volunteers’ Week , during which we are saying an emphatic THANK YOU to every single person who has offered their time and expertise over the past year to UCL’s SCAR department, without whom many a project would have been difficult or even impossible to complete.

There is a wide range of roles that volunteers can take up within SCAR: helping with events, sorting through new collections, enhancing cataloguing, assisting in exhibition preparation, helping with our media and online communications.  Throughout Volunteers’ Week we intend to share a snapshot of some of these roles with you.  Each week day from 1st June to the 7th June, a guest volunteer writer will bring you a ‘day in their life’.

The second installment comes from Chris Fripp, who has been volunteering with SCAR for about six months:

Chris Fripp – Research Volunteer

As a master’s student on the UCL Library and Information Studies programme, I’ve become really interested in scholarship associated with the history of the book. Following a workshop I attended with UCL Special Collections in the autumn of last year, I contacted Helen – Senior Library Assistant (Exhibitions and Outreach) – to ask about the possibility of undertaking some voluntary work with the department. I was looking to gain some practical experience in rare books handling, and thought I might be able to provide support in some way.

Since joining as a volunteer, I’ve been involved in an exciting new project to help create the forthcoming UCL Special Collections advent calendar for 2017. My task has been to conduct research on a series of rare nineteenth century dictionaries, looking specifically for seasonal words and definitions to present to an online audience during the Christmas countdown. When searching for the best definitions, the bigger the anachronism, the more interesting the former tends to be.

Webster, The people’s dictionary of the English language (London, [1869?])

Webster, The people’s dictionary of the English language (London, [1869?])

Normally I arrive at the Reading Room at the beginning of the day to collect the requested materials I wish to consult. The dictionaries are typically found in a fragile condition, so the use of book supports and snake weights help to prevent any further damage being done to the bindings and textblocks. One example, Webster’s The People’s Dictionary of the English Language, is illustrated with attractive copperplate engravings (figure 1), which adds a fun element to the project. I’ll be attending the forthcoming Treasures of the Written Word day on June 6th to answer any questions people might have about the dictionaries or volunteering in general. I hope to see you there!