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The Victorian City (HI371)

The Modern Records Centre holds nationally important collections for the study of political, social and economic history. Just a small selection of documents relevant to the course 'The Victorian City' are shown below, organised into six sections - 'Crime and punishment', 'Employment and trade unionism', 'Housing and welfare', 'Immigration and the Jewish community', 'Political revolt and reform', and 'Women'.

Most archive collections at the MRC come from trade unions, employers' organisations or individuals involved in the labour movement. Many of the documents below therefore reflect the attitudes and opinions of the political left.

How to find out more about the documents:

Click on the reference codes of the documents to go to their descriptions in our on-line catalogues. This can help you to put the documents in context and find similar items.

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Crime and punishment

Extract from judicial statistics of returns for the year 1856Extract from judicial statistics of returns for the year 1856

Extract from judicial statistics of returns for the year 1856

Statistics regarding sentences of death, which formed part of the evidence put before the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment.

[Included in a portfolio issued to John Bright MP, a member of the Royal Commission, from the archives of the Howard League for Penal Reform; document reference: MSS.16A/6/1]

 On the efficacy of the laws relating to capital punishmentOn the efficacy of the laws relating to capital punishment

On the efficacy of the laws relating to capital punishment, 1864

Examples of letters written in response to an enquiry from the Royal Commission on Capital Punishment. These examples give the opinions of Judges Martin and Willes, and the chief officers of Millbank prison, London.

[Included in a portfolio issued to John Bright MP, from the archives of the Howard League for Penal Reform; document reference: MSS.16A/6/1]

Sketches in the Clerkenwell House of Correction

'Sketches in the Clerkenwell House of Correction': The Oakum-Shed', 1874

Engraving from an unidentified magazine - it also includes an illustration of 'The needle-room'.

[Included in the archive of the Howard League for Penal Reform; document reference: MSS.16A/7/23/1]

The Social Science Congress

'The Social Science Congress', 1876

Reprint of an article from the 'Gloucestershire Chronicle'. The Congress debated issues including the Prisons Bill and its proposed increase in centralised power, and the appropriateness of flogging as a punishment for wife-beaters.

[Included in the archive of the Howard League for Penal Reform; document reference: MSS.16A/6/2/20]

 Annual report of the Nottinghamshire Discharged Prisoners Aid SocietyAnnual report of the Nottinghamshire Discharged Prisoners Aid Society

Annual report of the Nottinghamshire Discharged Prisoners Aid Society, 1890

The Society was founded to help discharged prisoners by finding accommodation, employment or providing temporary financial assistance - motto "Never too late to mend". The section reproduced here is a summary of some of the cases that the Society had dealt with during the past year.

[Included in the archive of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders; document reference: MSS.67/4/45]

Extract from notebook recording visits to English and Welsh prisons and reformatoriesExtract from notebook recording visits to English and Welsh prisons and reformatories

Extract from notebook recording visits to English and Welsh prisons and reformatories, 1897-8

Notes taken by William Tallack, secretary of the Howard Association (a pressure group in favour of prison reform). This extract records his discussions with Liverpool police officers about the issue of prostitution in the city.

[Included in the archive of the Howard League for Penal Reform; document reference: MSS.16A/7/3]

Extract from report of proceedings at the 11th conference of the Discharged Prisoners Aid SocietiesExtract from report of proceedings at the 11th conference of the Discharged Prisoners Aid Societies

Extract from report of proceedings at the 11th conference of the Discharged Prisoners' Aid Societies, 1900

The report includes a discussion on the best way to tackle vagrancy and "the disposal of tramps". The section reproduced here is part of a speech by Rev. J.L. Brooks of Lingfield Training Colony on the "criminal and pauper" types that he has encountered.

[Included in the archive of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders; document reference: MSS.67/2/1]

Photographs of Wormwood ScrubbsPhotographs of Wormwood Scrubbs

Photographs of Wormwood Scrubbs, undated [1890s / 1900s]

These examples show "prisoners going to dinner" and "taking finger prints". Building of the prison was completed in 1891.

[Included in the archive of the Howard League for Penal Reform; document reference: MSS.16A/7/23/1]

 

Employment and trade unionism

The stone masons on strike from the new Houses of Parliament, and Nelson

'The stone masons on strike from the new Houses of Parliament, and Nelson's monument, London, and the Woolwich dockyard', 1841

One of a series of addresses "to the trades of Great Britain and Ireland" from the Masons' Society on the progress of the strike. The strike was over the treatment of masons by Mr Allen, a foreman employed by Messrs Grissell and Peto.

[Included in the archive of the Operative Society of Masons, Quarrymen and Allied Trades of England and Wales; document reference: MSS.78/OS/4/1/5]

Apprenticeship indenture for John Byrnes

Apprenticeship indenture for John Byrnes, 30 May 1848

John Byrnes, an orphan of Lambs Buildings Asylum and a scholar in the London school of the Associated Catholic Charities, was bound apprentice to John Tulloch Fisher of Stepney, builder. He was obliged to serve three years as an apprentice rather than the usual seven.

[Included in the archives of the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers; document reference: MSS.78/ASW/9/2]


Hyde Park Bottle WorksHyde Park Bottle Works

'Hyde Park Bottle Works', 1859

Copy of article from 'Glasgow Post' on an industrial dispute at a bottle works after the employer, Mr McAdam, had altered the rules regulating the labour of his employees without consultation. It compares the circumstances of free-labourers to that of slaves [in the USA].

[Included in the archives of the National Glass Bottle Makers' Friendly Society of Great Britain and Ireland; document reference: MSS.126/YG/NG/4/1]

Information from Mr Ken McAdam, the great grandnephew of the employer:

"William McAdam came from a humble background and was a Glasgow city councillor involved in bringing safe drinking water from Loch Katrine to Glasgow.He was also part of the Chartist movement. After the City of Glasgow Bank collapse in 1878, the property syndicate he had invested in was ruined and he was made a bankrupt."

Trade UnionsTrade Unions

'Trade Unions', 1867

Report of a speech by Lord Derby to the South Lancashire Conservatives on the dangers of trade unionism, with part of a response by Ernest Jones, Barrister at Law. The speech was reported in the Fortnightly Return of the Operative Stone Masons' Friendly Society (17-31 Oct 1867) as evidence that "the trade unions of working men are becoming a recognised power in the realm, awakening alarm in the breasts of some, and enkindling hope in the hearts of others".

[Included in the archive of the Operative Society of Masons, Quarrymen and Allied Trades of England and Wales; document reference: MSS.78/OS/4/1/30]

Letter from a servant in search of employmentLetter from a servant in search of employment

Letter from a servant in search of employment, 1877

John Erry provides information about his previous employer and reason for leaving his position in her household, his current place of residence (with a former employer), and his annual wages. He emphasises that he has "an excelent carhacter". An additional letter includes information about his religion (Church of England), age (21) and height (5 foot, 8 inches).

[Included in the archive of the Young Women's Christian Association; document reference: MSS.243/14/22/23]

Leaflet promoting the Liberty and Property Defence League

Leaflet promoting the Liberty and Property Defence League, circa 1880

The LPDL was a lobby group for those opposed to socialism, trade unionism and regulation by government.

[Included in the records of the Chamber of Shipping, document reference: MSS.367/COS/3/5/8]

Trade union label

'Trade union label', 1895

Circular from the Felt Hatters and Trimmers Unions, promoting the 'trade union label'. The label was to be fixed to all hats produced "under recognised fair conditions" by trade union labour, rather than by 'sweated' workers, allowing the "middle and upper classes" to make an ethical choice.

[Included in the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: MSS.292/8.4/1]

The childrens labour questionThe childrens labour question

'The children's labour question', 1899

Book on the issue of child labour, containing articles originally printed in 'The Daily News'. It includes descriptions of visits to particular schools and factories, and interviews with interested parties, including children. The extract reproduced here relates to the mills in Farnworth, Lancashire.

[Included in the archives of the Transport and General Workers' Union; document reference: MSS.126/TG/RES/X/716]

Extract from a register of enquiries and complaints relating to the working conditions of girls and womenExtract from a register of enquiries and complaints relating to the working conditions of girls and women

Extract from a register of enquiries and complaints relating to the working conditions of girls and women (a few men are also included), 1898-1908

The examples shown here date from 1900 and are about firms in the London area. The complaints relate to problems such as long or late hours, minimal breaks, dangerous or unhygienic conditions, industrial injuries, and harassment from foremen or employers.

[Included in the archive of the Young Women's Christian Association; document reference: MSS.243/142/1]

 

Housing and welfare

Report of the Medical Officer to the Board of Guardians on District 4, LeedsReport of the Medical Officer to the Board of Guardians on District 4, Leeds

Report of the Medical Officer to the Board of Guardians on District 4, Leeds, 1865

Reproduced in a chapter on the housing situation in Leeds, included in the book 'The homes of the working classes with suggestions for their improvement' by James Hole. Hole's book was written following a conference held by the Society of Arts on the subject of "the dwellings of the working classes", the author was director of a building society and a member of the Model Cottage Association.

[Included in the archives of the Involvement and Participation Association; document reference: MSS.310/5/7/55]

Requests for financial aid made to the Executive Committee of the Amalgamated Society of EngineersRequests for financial aid made to the Executive Committee of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers

Requests for financial aid made to the Executive Committee of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, 1868, 1879

In return for a regular membership payment, trade unions or friendly societies provided financial support for members who were unemployed, unable to work through illness or industrial injury, or on strike. These are copies of applications for aid made on behalf of two members of the Drogheda union branch.

[Included in the archives of the ASE; document reference: MSS.259/ASE/6/DR/1]

Saltaire workmens cottages

'Saltaire workmens cottages', c1866

One of a series of illustrations showing examples of "improved dwellings" designed for the working classes in West Yorkshire, taken from the book 'The homes of the working classes...' by James Hole. This plan shows a row of cottages in Sir Titus Salt's model village (Saltaire) near Bradford, built to provide accomodation for workers in his textile mill.

[Included in the archives of the Involvement and Participation Association; document reference: MSS.310/5/7/55]

Whitechapel Charity Organisation CommitteeWhitechapel Charity Organisation Committee

'Whitechapel Charity Organisation Committee' (1886)

Mock application form for charitable relief, filled in on behalf of Jesus Christ by Father Charles Marson, a Catholic priest. Marson had served as a curate in the East End of London and is satirising the assessment of charitable cases according to their perceived worthiness.

[Included in the archives of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians; document reference: MSS.78/5/14/153a]

London street by street: Parker StreetLondon street by street: Parker Street

London street by street: Parker Street, 1891

Extract from 'Labour and life of the people: London', 1891, edited by Charles Booth. Parker Street, near Drury Lane, was classified as one of the 'streets coloured black' and therefore "the lowest grade", "inhabited principally by occasional labourers, loafers, and semi-criminals - the elements of disorder".

[Included in the archives of the Involvement and Participation Association; document reference: MSS.310/5/7/17]

Stories of Stepney pauperismStories of Stepney pauperism

'Stories of Stepney pauperism', 1892

Extract from 'Pauperism and the endowment of old age' by Charles Booth. The book includes anonymised case studies of families encountered by Booth in Stepney, London.

[Included in the archives of the Involvement and Participation Association; document reference: MSS.310/5/7/13]

ShantytownShantytown

'Shantytown' by Robert Blatchford, 1892

Article from 'The Labour Prophet', journal of the Labour Church, on a journey from "Villadom" to "Shantytown" and the conditions in the slums.

[Included in papers re Rev. John Trevor; document reference: MSS.143/5/1/1]

A Parochial Relief CommitteeA Parochial Relief Committee

'A Parochial Relief Committee', 1897

Extract from a paper read by Rev. E Gurdon, Rector of St Anne's, Limehouse, to a meeting of the Council of the London Charity Organisation Society. Rev. Gurdon complains that "careless and indisciminate relief" has resulted in the replacement of the independent East-Ender with a "professional whiner and loafing cadger", and praises the emphasis on careful distribution of relief by the Charity Organisation Society.

[Included in the archive of the National Institute for Social Work; document reference: MSS.463/box 98]

Great Northern Central Hospital, London: reports on applicants for treatmentGreat Northern Central Hospital, London: reports on applicants for treatment

Great Northern Central Hospital, London: reports on applicants for treatment, 1901

Notes on house visits made by F. Cornish, on behalf of the Charity Organisation Society. The enquirer went to the homes of patients to ask about their financial situation and assess whether they could be eligible for free treatment. In some cases the neighbours were also questioned about the family's finances and moral standing (including their drinking habits), to establish whether they were "deserving" cases for charity.

[Included in the records of the Institute of Medical Social Workers; document reference: MSS.378/IMSW/A/1/6/8]

Other similar documents are included in the module resources for 'Social Welfare in Britain'.

An index to the 'obituaries' of members of the Friendly Society of Operative Stonemasons of England, Ireland and Wales is also available. This contains information about individual members (and members' wives and children) who were members of the union funeral fund, and whose families received a payout at the time of their death. The information includes details of ages and causes of death. Entries included currently date from 1836-1880, and number over 11,800.

 

Immigration and the Jewish community

Sweating Song written by T. Maguire on the occasion of the strike of Jewish tailors at LeedsSweating Song written by T. Maguire on the occasion of the strike of Jewish tailors at Leeds

'Sweating Song written by T. Maguire on the occasion of the strike of Jewish tailors at Leeds', May 1888

This penny song sheet (with lyrics in both English and Yiddish) was published by the London-based Yiddish socialist newspaper 'Worker's Friend'. The song links the strike of the Jewish tailors with the wider exploitation and struggle of the working class in Britain. The name of the author suggests that the song was written by someone with an Irish immigrant background.

[Included in the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/4/6/11]

Influx of population: Foreign immigrationInflux of population: Foreign immigration

'Influx of population: Foreign immigration', 1889

Extract from 'Labour and Life of the People: East London', edited by Charles Booth. The volume includes a separate chapter on the Jewish community in the East End of London.

[Included in the archives of the Involvement and Participation Association; document reference: MSS.310/5/7/16]

Strike of London tailorsStrike of London tailors

Strike of London tailors, 1889

The papers of William Wess, a Jewish tailor and trade unionist, include documents relating to the organisation of the 1889 London tailors' strike. The examples shown here are a resolution listing the strikers' demands and a copy of a newspaper article on "Organised importation of Hebrew tailors: Strange disturbances in Whitechapel". Other relevant documents are included in the module resources for 'Making of the Modern World: Identities' (section on 'Race').

[Included in the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/3/4]

Correspondence regarding preparations for a mass meeting in protest against the persecution of Jews in RussiaCorrespondence regarding preparations for a mass meeting in protest against the persecution of Jews in Russia

Correspondence regarding preparations for a mass meeting in protest against the persecution of Jews in Russia, 1890

The open air meeting took place at Mile End waste, East London. These two letters are from proposed speakers - Eleanor Marx Aveling, a socialist activist and the youngest daughter of Karl Marx, and Peter Kropotkin, a leading Russian anarchist and political theorist, then living in exile in London.

[Included in the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/3/17]

Examples of advertisements included in Vallentine

Examples of advertisements included in Vallentine's Anglo-Jewish Almanac and Diary for 1892-4

The almanac includes information in English about religiously significant dates, lists of Jewish hotels, synagogues, charitable institutions and cemeteries, and information about hours of prayer in London synagogues.

[Included in the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/4/2/8]

Report of the Trades Union CongressReport of the Trades Union Congress

Report of the Trades Union Congress, 5 September 1895

Summary of a debate on immigration following the proposal of a resolution to "prohibit the landing of all pauper aliens who have no visible means of subsistence". The same resolution had also been debated at the previous year's Congress.

[Included in the archives of the TUC; document reference: MSS.292/PUB/4/1/1 (on open access in the searchroom)]

A voice from the aliensA voice from the aliens

'A voice from the aliens' by Joseph Finn, 1895

Leaflet protesting against the anti-alien resolution of the 1895 Trade Union Congress, issued by "the organised Jewish workers of England". It attacks the idea that immigrants in general, and Jewish workers in particular, are detrimental to British society and the conditions of its workers.

[Included in the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/4/2/9]

Subscription list

Subscription list "in aid of the Russian strikers in Bialystoke, who are standing in their noble fight against their employers", 1898

Donations were to be sent to J. Trushkowsky of 113 Brick Lane, London. The heading and signatures are in both English and Yiddish.

[Included in a file on Russian interest groups, from the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/3/24]

 

Political revolt and reform

Fortnightly return of the Stone Masons Friendly SocietyFortnightly return of the Stone Masons

Fortnightly return of the Stone Masons' Friendly Society, 4 July 1839

The return contains general information about the business of the trade union, but departs from the standard format with a concluding paragraph that apologises for the late production of the returns. The delay was caused by "an attack that was made on our Lodge-house [in Birmingham], on Thursday evening, by a body of Chartists in pursuit of some Policemen who had taken refuge in it, which compelled the Committee to suspend its proceedings".

[Included in the archive of the Operative Society of Masons, Quarrymen and Allied Trades of England and Wales; document reference: MSS.78/OS/4/1/2]

The English Chartist Circular and Temperance Record for England and Wales

'The English Chartist Circular and Temperance Record for England and Wales', vol.1, no.51, [1841]

The front page contains extracts from a speech by Henry Vincent on the campaign to repeal the Corn Laws and the need for universal male suffrage.

[Included in the papers of Henry Sara; document reference: MSS.15/5/7/3]

Great Reform Demonstration

'Great Reform Demonstration', Hyde Park, July 1884

Leaflet for a demonstration by the "unenfranchised classes" (organised by the London Trades' Council) in protest "against the rejection of the Representation of the People Bill by an irresponsible and unrepresentative House of Lords".

[Included in the archives of the London Society of Compositors; document reference: MSS.28/CO/4/1/12]

Alfred Linnell: A Death SongAlfred Linnell: A Death Song

'Alfred Linnell... A Death Song', 1887

Pamphlet sold for the benefit of the orphans of Alfred Linnell, who died from injuries received during a mounted police charge against political protesters in Trafalgar Square. The protest was held a week after 'Bloody Sunday', a demonstration on the issue of Ireland, at which at least 3 people died. The tribute includes an account of Linnell's death and the resulting attempt at a cover-up, together with a 'Death song' written by William Morris.

[Included in the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/4/2/6]

Leaflets relating to political meetings in South Place Chapel, Finsbury, LondonLeaflets relating to political meetings in South Place Chapel, Finsbury, London

Leaflets relating to political meetings in South Place Chapel, Finsbury, London, 1887

The examples reproduced here contain a resolution regarding the death sentence given to 7 Chicago anarchists, and an advertisement for "an international celebration of the Paris Commune", with speeches by leading socialists including Annie Besant, Peter Kropotkin, James Ramsay Macdonald and William Morris.

[Included in the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/3/6]

To the workers: Employed and unemployedTo the workers: Employed and unemployed

'To the workers: Employed and unemployed', undated [c1888]

Leaflet about the coming "Social Revolution" published by the Central Revolutionary Committee. It calls for a popular uprising against the "thieving master-class" and includes tips on building barricades. Three 'Songs for the Unemployed' are on the reverse, referencing the Bryant and May strike and the actions of the Metropolitan Police (under Sir Charles Warren) on 'Bloody Sunday' in 1887.

[Included in the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/3/29]

Letter of introduction

Letter of introduction, undated [late 1880s / early 1890s]

William Morris (of the Socialist League) is commending William Wess to John Hunter Watts (of the Social-Democratic Foundation). Wess "has gone to Manchester to try to form a club among the Jewish workers there".

[Included in the papers of William Wess; document reference: MSS.240/W/3/11]

Election leaflet for John BurnsElection leaflet for John Burns

Election leaflet for John Burns, socialist candidate in Battersea Parliamentary Division, 1892

John Burns was one of two socialist MPs elected in 1892 (the other was Keir Hardie). Unlike Hardie, who argued for the formation of a separate working class party, Burns worked closely with the Liberal Party and was offered the ministerial post of President of the Local Government Board in 1906 - the first member of the working class to become a government minister.

[Included in the papers of Dr Brian Weekes, Professor of Industrial Relations; document reference: MSS.227A/5/3]

 

Independent Labour Party membership card of F. KilkellyIndependent Labour Party membership card of F. Kilkelly

Independent Labour Party membership card of F. Kilkelly, 1897

Francis (Frank) Kilkelly was an Irish docker based in Bootle, near Liverpool. The ILP was founded in Bradford in 1893 as a national working class political party under the leadership of Keir Hardie MP. It contested parliamentary and local elections during the 1890s, and slowly gained seats on borough councils. In 1900 the ILP joined with the Social Democratic Federation, the Fabian Society and trade union leaders to form the Labour Representation Council (which later became the Labour Party).

[Included in the archives of the National Union of Dock, Riverside and General Workers in Great Britain and Ireland; document reference: MSS.126/NUDL/X/40]

Two other examples of 1890s socialist propaganda are included in the module resources for 'Making of the Modern World: Ideologies'.

 

 

Women

Extracts from letters sent by secretaries of Prayer UnionsExtracts from letters sent by secretaries of Prayer Unions

Extracts from letters sent by secretaries of Prayer Unions, [c.1867]

The secretaries report on the status of their prayer groups of young, often employed, women. The groups were set up to encourage young women to be active Christians (specifically Protestant, rather than "Popish"), and avoid the temptations of the wider world.

[Included in the archive of the Young Women's Christian Association; document reference: MSS.243/14/5/21]

 

Homes for Working Girls in LondonHomes for Working Girls in London

Homes for Working Girls in London, 1882

Information about the establishment of homes to "help the working girls of London" and keep them from "the terrible dangers to which a great number of them were exposed in their hours of need".

[Included in the archive of the YWCA; document reference: MSS.243/91/1]

Women we are, and women we wish to be, but

'Women we are, and women we wish to be, but -', 1884

Article by Miss Constance Maynard, Principal of the Ladies' College, Hampstead, from 'Our Own Gazette', the magazine of the Young Women's Christian Association. Miss Maynard writes on the need for education to broaden the outlooks of women.

[Included in the archive of the YWCA; document reference: MSS.243/5/1]

Photograph showing the residents of the Homes for Working Girls in London at Dollis Hill, Willesden

Photograph showing the residents of the Homes for Working Girls in London at Dollis Hill, Willesden, 1887

Illustration of August Bank Holiday outing included in annual report of the Homes for Working Girls.

[Included in the archive of the YWCA; document reference: MSS.243/91/3]

Silk workersSilk workers

'Silk workers', by Margaret McMillan, 1893

Account of the conditions of women and children working in the silk mills, included in 'The Labour Prophet', journal of the Labour Church.

[Included in papers re Rev. John Trevor; document reference: MSS.143/5/1/1]

First annual report of the Manchester, Salford and District WomenFirst annual report of the Manchester, Salford and District Women

First annual report of the Manchester, Salford and District Women's Trade Union Council, 1895-6

The extract reproduced here reports on the formation of the Council and the starting of a union amongst the umbrella coverers.

[Included in a collection of trades councils' publications; document reference: MSS.524/4/1/23]

To the members of the Young WomenTo the members of the Young Women

'To the members of the Young Women's Christian Association', undated [late 19th century]

Leaflet listing "the several divisions of the class" of young women, and asking "what can be done for them?".

[Included in the archive of the YWCA; document reference: MSS.243/13/1/32]

The Lady CyclistThe Lady Cyclist

'The Lady Cyclist', vol.1, no.14, 22 August 1896

This issue includes an article on 'The new woman', which identifies the bicycle as delivering "untold aid to the cause of equal suffrage, by dispelling the mistaken idea of women's dependence and helplessness".

[Included in the National Cycle Archive; document reference: MSS.328/N10/K/L/3]

The cycling diary of an unidentified young girl

The cycling diary of an unidentified young girl, 1893-1896

The diary is included at the back of the commonplace book and diary of Emily Sophia Coddington, written c.1850. The author records her thoughts and feelings about her cycling journeys and who she meets. The sense of the independence cycling gives to her emerges in the deliberate noting throughout the diary of "by myself" next to journeys she made alone.

[Included in the National Cycle Archive; document reference: MSS.328/N28/8/1]

Some relevant documents are also included in the module resources for 'Gender, History and Politics in Britain' and 'Birth of Feminisms'.