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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

 

Online exhibition on Isabel Fry

JessicaWomack25 July 2017

A few months ago a group of students from the MA Archives and Records Management course used the Isabel Fry collection at the IOE archives to create an online exhibition. The exhibition, which is a fantastic resource on Fry, can be found here.

Isabel Fry (1869-1958) was an educationist and social activist. She founded, and was headmistress of, two experimental schools: The Farmhouse School, Mayortorne Manor, Wendover, and later, Church Farm, Buckland, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. She came from a famous reforming Quaker background and was the daughter of Sir Edward Fry (1827-1918), jurist, and sister of (Sara) Margery Fry (1874-1958), penal reformer, and Roger Eliot Fry (1866-1934), artist and critic.

I hope this sensitive interpretation of Fry’s archive continues to be available so people can enjoy a snapshot of the collection.

 

Room to breathe

Helen FBiggs3 May 2017

The next time you visit the UCL Institute of Education Reading Room you may notice it’s looking a little roomier than usual. As part of our commitment to meeting the changing needs of our users, the IOE archives team have moved into an office of their own, allowing the Reading Room to accommodate more visitors.

As well as continuing to welcome individual researchers into the Reading Room, more space means that we will more easily be able to support students using archives and special collections for group projects. Having a little more elbow room also gives the Special Collections, Archives and Records team more opportunities for teaching and community education work.

The IOE Reading Room continues to be open from 9.30am-5pm weekdays – appointments to view material can be made by contacting the team at IOE Archives Enquiries for archives and IOE Library Enquiries for special collections, although you can always drop by if you have any questions.

UCL Libraries is lucky to have not one, but two, reading rooms for our rare and unique materials – if you’re consulting items from our centrally held Special Collections and Archives, you’ll get to use our South Junction Reading Room, which opened late last year. Appointments to view these materials can be made by emailing UCL Special Collections – or check out our website for more information.

Reading London

Helen FBiggs31 March 2017

This post originally appeared at Newsam News, and is reproduced here courtesy of Sally Perry.

What: A London-themed celebration of reading aloud, and being read to, for World Book Night

Where: UCL IOE Library

When: Monday 24 April 2017 5.30-7.00pm

To celebrate World Book Night 2017 and to coincide with UCL Libraries’ East Side Stories: Londoners in Transition exhibition we are holding our third read aloud event on Monday 24 April. Come and listen to fellow audience members read poems, stories or passages from their favourite books. Readings will include extracts from George Orwell’s Down and out in Paris and London which is included in the exhibition. If you would like to read aloud yourself in any language (for approximately 5 mins) you would be very welcome. A London theme for your reading is optional!

Sam Duncan (IOE Dept of Education, Practice and Society) and Rebecca Webster (Head of Archives, UCL Library Services) will introduce the session.

If you would like to come along (to read or to be read to) please use the link below to book a place. If you would like to read please email Sam Duncan (sam.duncan@ucl.ac.uk)

To book please click here.

A typical school? Introducing undergraduates to the archive

Helen FBiggs26 January 2017

What was a typical school in 1914?

In a two-hour “Introduction to Archives” session earlier this term, first year students from the Education Studies BA at UCL Institute of Education studied a range of documents from the IOE Archives, to see what they could discover about schools in Britain before and after World War One.

Which archival materials best represent the education system during this time? Photographs from Regent’s Park Open Air School, showing students and teachers learning and teaching strictly outside the classroom? The Newcastle Upon Tyne Boys’ Industrial School dietary schedule, offering delectable meals like bread and dripping? Or a Girls Day School Trust admission register, carefully noting the occupations of pupils’ fathers – diplomats, doctors, and gentlemen?

These examples lead to just one inevitable deduction – that there was no such thing as a “typical” school – and that it’s very important to consult a range of archive resources before leaping to a conclusion!

The need for this “triangulation” of resources was again emphasised with in-depth look at the Baines Archive, which charts the work of George and Judith Baines at the very progressive Eynsham County Primary School from the 1960s to the 1980s. Students were asked not just to consider what is in the archive, but what isn’t there. Does the material that survives tell a particular story? Who decided that this was the story that should be told – and why?

The archivist-led “Introduction to Archives” tutorial runs annually as part of the Education Studies BA programme, and is integral to students learning how and why they should be using archival resources in their own work. Since the class’s inception in 2013, the number of IOE students using the IOE library’s archives and special collections has more than doubled, showing that these students do see real value in using original historical documents in their research and assignments.