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Feminism, Politics, and Social Change in Modern Britain

About the Modern Records Centre:

The Modern Records Centre (MRC) holds internationally important collections for the study of political, social and economic history. Just a small selection of documents relevant to the course 'Feminism, Politics, and Social Change in Modern Britain' have been digitised and are linked to below, many more sources are undigitised (particularly from the post-war period) and can be seen by researchers at the Centre - book an appointment with a member of staff if you would like advice on using archives in your work.

Most archive collections at the MRC come from trade unions, employers' organisations or individuals involved in the labour movement. They include the archives of major organisations such as the Trades Union Congress and Confederation of British Industry, and collections which belonged to trade union leaders and politicians. Many of the documents below therefore reflect the attitudes and opinions of the political left. Like many archives, the Modern Records Centre has only a few documents from the very recent past (e.g. past 20 years).


Looking at the documents:

The digitised documents for this and other courses are stored in our online archive vault. Click on the thumbnails and links in the sections below to see the whole document. Once you have opened the document, use the + and - sliding scale immediately above the image to zoom in and out. Click on the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons (above the 'Print' and 'Download' buttons) to move to the next and previous pages (when applicable).


Prayer Union Paper, 1 January 1879

Prayer Union Paper, 1 January 1879

Bulletin issued by the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society. It includes religious teaching and requests for prayer on behalf of individual Indian women connected with the schools.

[Included in a volume of annual and other reports, 1879, from the archives of the Young Women's Christian Association; document reference: 243/12/3]

Empire, religion.
The Indian Female Evangelist, 1880

Leaflet advertising the Indian Female Evangelist, 1880

The proposed journal was to be produced by the Indian Female Normal School and Instruction Society. It was written with the intention of promoting the work of the Society to a British audience.

[Included in a volume of annual and other reports, 1880, from the archives of the Young Women's Christian Association; document reference: 243/12/4]

Empire, religion.
Eighth monthly letter to young women, 1880

Eighth monthly letter to young women, 1880

Bulletin written by Margaret Jane Menzies, a leading member of the Young Women's Christian Association. In this monthly letter she talks of the need for women, once married, to surrended their will to their husbands (as advised by Christian teaching).

[Included in a volume of annual and other reports, 1880, from the archives of the Young Women's Christian Association; document reference: 243/12/4]

Religion, role of women in marriage.
Handbill warning women against kidnappings, 1880

Handbill warning women against kidnappings, 1880

Notice circulated by the publishers of the magazine The Christian, providing women with advice to avoid abduction, abuse and, by implication, the 'white slave trade'.

[Included in a volume of annual and other reports, 1880, from the archives of the Young Women's Christian Association; document reference: 243/12/4]

Personal safety, religion, travel.
Women in the world, 1895

Women in the World, July 1895

Article by Caroline E. D. Martyn, published in the July 1895 issue of the Labour Church journal The Labour Prophet. She argues that social inequality stems more from class ("false social and economic conditions"), rather than gender divisions, and that "the true interests of men and women [are] identical".

[Included in a bound volume of The Labour Prophet, 1895, from working papers on Rev. John Trevor; document reference: 143/5/1/2]

Class, domestic work, religion.
A word to the women, 1906

A word to the women, 1906

General election leaflet issued by the Liberal Party. It appeals to women to "urge [their] husbands and sons" to vote for Liberal candidates, on the basis that their policies will provide cheaper food and other domestic items.

[Included in a volume of Liberal Party election leaflets, 1906, from the archive of the National Union of Hosiery and Knitwear Workers; document reference: 597/95]

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Domestic work, suffrage.
A conversation on a subject of the day, February 1912

A conversation on a subject of the day, February 1912

Article from the monthly magazine of the Young Women's Christian Association, Our Outlook, on the arguments for and against women's suffrage. Representatives of both sides briefly present their arguments to "Mrs and Miss Elliott, impartial enquirers".

[From the archives of the Young Women's Christian Association; document reference: 243/8/6]

Domestic work, employment, religion, suffrage.
Womens Employment, 1912

Women's Employment, volume 12, number 21, 15 November 1912

A "paper dealing with the Professions and Employments of Educated Women", issued by the Central Bureau for the Employment of Women. This issue includes articles on openings for educated women in India and life as a social worker in the Women's University Settlement; a list of the women candidates elected in the Town and Metropolitan Borough Council elections; information about educational opportunities (including lists of courses); and advertisements for jobs deemed suitable for a woman with an education or of a certain social class.

[From the archives of the Institute of Personnel Management; document reference: 97/5/35]

Class, education, Empire, employment, social welfare.
Song sheet of the East London Federation of the Suffragettes, c1913

Song sheet of the East London Federation of the Suffragettes, c1913

The publication contains a mixture of feminist and socialist songs, including songs with strong links to the British and international labour movements (democratic and revolutionary) such as the Red Flag and the International.

[From the archives of Aaron Rapoport Rollin; document reference: 240/R/5/5/4]

Class, political idealogy, suffrage.
Womans Freedom, 1914

Woman's Freedom, 1914

The author, Lily Gair Wilkinson, looks at the movement for women's rights from an anarchist perspective. The pamphlet criticises the attempts to get votes for women as an irrelevance, and argues that class, not gender, is the cause of oppression.

[From the archives of Henry Sara and Frank Maitland; document reference: 15X/2/178/6]

Class, domestic work, employment, marriage, political ideology, prostitution, sex, suffrage.
Our Indian sisters, 1914

Our Indian sisters, 1914

Pamphlet by the feminist Frances Swiney, issued by The League of Isis. Swiney was born in India in 1847, the daughter of a British soldier, and married John Swiney, an Irish army officer, in 1871. She was a co-founder of the Cheltenham Women's Suffrage Society in 1896, and was involved with a range of other progressive societies.

This pamphlet attacks the role of the Imperial army in India, particularly the keeping of officially approved brothels, and accuses the Christian rulers of hypocrisy and the encouragement of vice and degradation of women. It also comments on the treatment of girls and women in India by Indians and the British authorities, and the portrayal of women in religion.

[From the archives of Henry Sara and Frank Maitland; document reference: 15X/2/274/1]

Empire, prostitution, religion, sex.
Womens suffrage, 1914-1915

Women's suffrage, 1914-1915

Article by J. Pearce, a member of the Bronx branch of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners (a British trade union), serialised in the monthly journal of the union. The author's sometimes rambling narrative includes a definition of women's suffrage, a profile of Emmeline Pankhurst, and studies of lawyers and politicians as a type. He links the suffragette movement to other historic movements for social change.

The sections with most direct relevance to women's suffrage are in the issues for October 1914, November 1914, and February 1915.

[Included in two volumes of printed reports, including annual reports and monthly journals, 1914-1915, from the archives of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners; document references: 78/ASCJ/4/1/16-17]

Class, suffrage.
The Catholic Suffragist, vol. 1, no. 1, January 1915

The Catholic Suffragist, volume 1, number 1, 15 January 1915

Journal of the Catholic Women's Suffrage Society, established to promote the suffrage movement within the Catholic Church. This first issue includes an article by Alice Meynell, explaining the aims of the suffrage movement in general and of the Christian suffragists in particular, and a report of the Society's canvassing of the National Catholic Congress in 1914.

[From the 'Miscellanous collection'; document reference: 21/1822]

Religion, suffrage.
Objections to womens suffrage stated and answered, 1916

Objections to women's suffrage stated and answered, 1916

Text of article or speech by Sir Leslie Scott, Conservative MP for Liverpool Exchange. It provides responses to some commonly stated objections to women having the right to vote in parliamentary elections.

[From the archives of Sir Leslie Scott; document reference: 119/3/S/LI/9]

Empire, mental stability, suffrage, war.
Women should be granted the parliamentary vote because…, 1916

Women should be granted the parliamentary vote because…, 1916

Text of article or speech by Sir Leslie Scott, Conservative MP for Liverpool Exchange. He puts forward twenty reasons why women should have the vote on the same basis as men.

[From the archives of Sir Leslie Scott; document reference: 119/3/S/LI/10]

Domestic work, employment, legal system, marriage, parenthood, social welfare, suffrage, war.
The position of women after the war

The position of women after the war, [c.1916]

Report by the Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women's Organisations, presented to the Joint Committee on Labour Problems After the War (formed by representatives of the trade unions, the Labour Party and the War Emergency Workers' National Committee). It looks at the effects of the First World War on women in industry and proposes policies to be followed in the post-war reconstruction of the country, including on social welfare, employment and political enfranchisement.

[From the 'Miscellanous collection'; document reference: 21/1546]

Additional documents relating to the experiences of women during the First World War are included in our online exhibition First World War 100: conflict and commemoration

Employment, social welfare, suffrage, war.
Draft circulars relating to hostels for girls, 1918

Draft circulars relating to hostels for girls, 1918

The hostels were run by the Young Women's Christian Association to provide a safe environment for young women in London and save them "from grave moral danger". The circulars comment on the changes in attitudes caused by the First World War.

[Included in the file 'Reception Hostels' (for prostitutes and girls rescued from the streets), 1918 - 1920, from the archives of the YWCA; document reference: 243/56]

Religion, sex, social welfare, war.
Labour Party leaflet, 1928

Party political leaflets aimed at women voters, 1918-1928

Six Labour Party and two Conservative Party leaflets.

[Included in a file on the Labour Party, from the archives of Iron and Steel Trades Confederation; file reference: 36/L41]

Domestic work, social welfare, suffrage.
Fathers and mothers of happy girls, [1919]

Fathers and mothers of happy girls, [1919]

Leaflet appealing for money to fund hostels for "the girls who have stumbled or the girls who walk in dangerous paths". It comments on the change in attitudes caused by the war and the rise of a new "flapper" type of woman.

[Included in the file 'Reception Hostels' (for prostitutes and girls rescued from the streets), 1918 - 1920, from the archives of the YWCA; document reference: 243/56]

Employment, religion, sex, social welfare, war.
Leaflets on the Bastardy Bill, 1920

Leaflets on the Bastardy Bill, 1920

These leaflets were issued by the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and Her Child. They include a summary of the main points of the proposed legislation, answers to some objections, and an appeal to support the Bill.

[Included in the file 'Reception Hostels' (for prostitutes and girls rescued from the streets), 1918 - 1920, from the archives of the YWCA; document reference: 243/56]

Parenthood, sex.
The state and sexual morality, 1920

The state and sexual morality, 1920

Report published by a Committee of Inquiry of the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene. The committee was formed in part to look at legislation and "remedial treatment" in regard to prostitution, venereal disease, and other issues of sexual morality. The First World War and the growth of the suffrage movement are cited as reasons for the increased interest in the state and sexual morality.

[From the archives of the Institute of Personnel Management; document reference: 97/5/24]

Birth control, prostitution, sex, war.
Report of deputation to the Minister of Health, 12 August 1924

Report of deputation to the Minister of Health, 12 August 1924

The deputation was formed by members of the Standing Joint Committee of Industrial Women's Organisations, and asked questions about the government's policy towards the Washington Convention on the employment of women immediately before and after childbirth (and related issues).

[Included in a file on Maternity and Child Welfare, 1924-1934, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: 292/824/1]

Abortion, birth control, childbirth, employment, social welfare.
To our men comrades, c1928

To our men comrades, c1928

Leaflet issued by the Workers' Birth Control Group. It uses the language of working class solidarity to appeal for men to help in their campaign to allow working women increased advice on and access to birth control, and compares the dangers of childbirth with those of mining.

[Included in a file on Maternity and Child Welfare, 1924-1934, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: 292/824/1]

Birth control, childbirth, class.
What the Conservative Government has done for women and children 1925-1928

What the Conservative Government has done for women and children 1925-1928

Pamphlet published by the National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations. It lists the policies and parliamentary measures that were considered to be of particular interest or benefit to women and children. Many relate to aspects of social welfare.

[From the archives of the Union of Post Office Workers; document reference: 148/UCW/6/13/41/15]

Parenthood, social welfare, suffrage.
Women on the march, 1930

Women on the march, 1930

In the 1920s and 1930s a series of 'hunger marches' were organised (often in connection with the National Unemployed Workers' Union and Communist Party) to highlight poverty and unemployment amongst the working classes. This pamphlet by S. Elias, published by the Communist Party of Great Britain, explains the reasons behind a protest march by women from the north of England, Scotland and Wales. It highlights the low wages paid to women and the subsequent replacement of men with female workers to save costs.

[From the archives of Henry Sara and Frank Maitland; document reference: 15X/2/103/106]

Class, employment, political ideology, social welfare.
Motherhood, 1931

Motherhood, 1931

Leaflet issued by the Maternal Mortality Committee, drafted with the assistance of the Ministry of Health. It was intended to be distributed to pregnant women, with the aim of encouraging them to seek qualified medical advice.

[Included in a file on Maternity and Child Welfare, 1924-1934, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: 292/824/1]

Childbirth, social welfare.
Report of conference on maternal mortality, 1932

Report of conference on maternal mortality, 1932

The meeting of 1,300 representatives of voluntary organisations was organised by the Maternal Mortality Committee. Speakers included the Minister of Health, Sir Hilton Young. As well as the death of mothers in childbirth, the conference also discussed related issues such as contraception and abortion.

[Included in a file on Maternity and Child Welfare, 1924-1934, from the archives of the Trades Union Congress; document reference: 292/824/1]

Abortion, birth control, childbirth, social welfare.
Report of conference of the Abortion Law Reform Association, 1936

Report of conference of the Abortion Law Reform Association, 1936

The Association believed that abortion was "a matter of health and well-being to be settled on scientific and commonsense grounds", rather than a moral wrong, and campaigned for changes in the law to allow women to have legal abortions performed by qualified medical practitioners.

[From the archives of Henry Sara and Frank Maitland; document reference: 15X/2/1/1]

Abortion, birth control, childbirth, social welfare.