Women and Education - resources in the IOE Archive
Equal suffrage demonstration in Lowestoft, Suffolk, 1914. NUWT Collection ref UWT/G/2/54. © Institute of Education Archives.
The Institute of Education Archives (IOE) have just finished a project to catalogue the Collection of the National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT), which is now accessible via the online catalogue. The NUWT collection is a fascinating archive of examples of pioneering women involved in the shaping of education and improving the rights and status of women working in education. Whilst cataloguing it I noticed lots of links, direct and indirect, between the NUWT and other collections we have relating to women in education. The education of women and girls remains, in many parts of the world, a divisive issue. With regards to the UK, historically middle and upper class girls were largely educated in the home to become good wives. Working class girls, if they had access to education, were taught the basics of reading, writing and domestic skills in schools set up by charities or religious institutions. Despite this, women have played a large part in the history of British education and many of the collections we hold reflect that. We hold collections created by female educationalists and by organisations concerned with women and education. My aim is to provide some examples of the rich variety of material we hold on this subject, some of these women are well known, others are sadly neglected - it’s part of our responsibility as archivists to try and ensure the voices of these women involved in education are heard.
We hold a number of collections relating to the history of the teaching profession including the training of teachers, school inspections and teaching unions. Female teachers were paid significantly less than male teachers and were subject to many other inequalities including the ‘marriage bar’, which enforced the resignation of women teachers upon marriage. The NUWT was started by women teachers to campaign against these inequalities, primarily to fight for equal pay for women teachers but from the beginning encompassing a much broader fight for equality for women. The collection contains correspondence discussing all aspects of educational policy and experience as well as representing the varied interests of the members of the union. It contains photographs, campaign materials, minute books, reports, and publications documenting the fight for equal franchise as well as campaigns for equal educational opportunities, equal career opportunities, peace and disarmament, and other issues around the status and rights of women and children.
I found references to members of the NUWT in the staff and student records of the London Day Training College (the precursor to the IOE). These give an insight into the experiences of women training to be teachers in the first half of the 20th century and although not yet online these are catalogued and available for use.
We have so many collections of individual women involved in education that it was hard to pick just a few as examples. Katherine Bathurst was a supporter of the NUWT and in 1897 was the third female school sub inspector to be appointed by the Board of Education. Her papers cover her career at the Board of Education, her interests in nursery education, and the position of women within the Inspectorate. She was never afraid to stand up for her principles and this led to a number of disputes with the Board of Education. One of her reports on the education of 3 – 5 year olds in elementary schools was highly critical of current conditions. Her submission of this report led to her resignation but many of the ideas she proposed were later taken up with regards to the education of young children.
The NUWT published reports on the education and rights of children with learning and physical disabilities and this links to our Amelia Fysh collection. Amelia Fysh (1922 – 2010) was a teacher renowned for her pioneering work in educational inclusion for children with special physical or learning needs. As Head teacher of Beech Green Nursery School in Aylesbury from 1956 – 1972 she implemented a learning environment that fostered creativity, outdoor play and inclusive education for children with learning and physical disabilities. Her collection contains research reports on her work, art work created by children at the school and correspondence relating to her studies and work.
The records in the IOE archive reflect education in its broadest application and contain collections of a range of types of schools and teaching methods. This includes the papers of Isabel Fry (1869-1958), an educationist and social activist. She founded, and headed, two experimental schools: The Farmhouse School, Wendover, and Church Farm, Aylesbury. The Papers of Isabel Fry consist mainly of Fry’s diaries written over a period of almost 80 years. They are deeply personal and reflect her life and career including her teaching and educational ideas. The volumes cover her involvement in political and social affairs, including political reform and emancipation in the East Turkey (which she journeyed to alone) and Persia [Iran], and with anti-militarist movements, slum clearance, socialism, and suffrage.
The Papers of the White family covers three generations of one family, all involved in education. One of the daughters, Lucy Winifred Nicholls, or Winnie as she was known, founded and headed The Garden School, an establishment based on principles of love, freedom, brotherhood, cooperation and service. The school advocated open air and contact with nature as important in educational development. The collection contains her personal diaries, notebooks on education and photographs of the Garden School.
This is just a small sample of the large number of collections we have regarding the role of women in education. For a more comprehensive list please see our ‘Women and Education’ subject guide.
Kathryn Hannan, Institute of Education
Teaching outside at the Garden School, 1930s, White Family Collection Ref WF/4/251. © Institute of Education Archives.
NUWT members with banners, 1930s, NUWT Collection Ref UWT/G/2/54. © Institute of Education Archives.
Children playing at South Parade School, Grimsby, C1950s, Amelia Fysh Collection Ref AF/2/4. © Institute of Education Archives.
- IOE Archive catalogue
- Women and Education – subject guide to resources in the IOE Archives relating to women and education
- NUWT project blog – blog set up to chart the progress of the 14 month project to catalogue the records of the National Union of Women Teachers
- Newsam News – blog of the Institute of Education Library, Archives and Special Collections team