Records of the Association of Post Office Women Clerks and its Successors

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of minutes of the Annual General Meeting (1902-1915) of committee meetings (1906-1932); registers of members (1901-1906); subject files including salary claims, correspondence and papers (1907-1931) and printed materials.

APOWC - Association of Post Office Women Clerks

Administrative / Biographical History

The Association of Post Office Women Clerks (1903-c.1913) was founded as women became employed in this sector. Women were first employed in the British Civil Service in Feb 1870, after the responsibility for Britain's telegraph service came under the remit of the Controller of the Post Office under the Telegraph Act of 1869. At the end of the nineteenth century, there was great opposition to women's employment amongst male employees, in contrast to employers' acceptance of a new workforce who worked for lower wages and was less inclined to industrial agitation. This hostility also affected the male-dominated trade unions of the period, especially those concerned with the Civil Service. This meant that women civil servants of the time continued to occupy separate and lower grades than those of men, and a marriage bar prevented them continuing to work after they became wives. It was not until the turn of the century that female trade union agitation for equal pay and conditions with the male workforce began. Women workers continued to be employed in larger numbers by the Post Office than in other departments. However, conditions continued to be poor. The Association of Post Office Women Clerks was formed in 1903 as a result of a dispute which began in 1897 when women's starting pay and annual increments were suddenly further reduced. By 1904 the union had over 1,300 members. In 1913 the organisation joined the Federation of Women Clerks to further these aims. In 1916 they merged with the Civil Service Typists Association to become the Federation of Women Civil Servants. This represented all clerical women in the Civil Service with the exception of Writing Assistants, had the objective of securing equal pay with male employees and co-operated with male trade unions to attain this end. The Association, along with most of the civil service trades unions were involved in efforts to introduce arbitration and militated for what would become Whitley Councils. After the end of the First World War such action helped bring about a major restructuring of the service. Grades that had been unique to each of the departments were now merged across the entire service to form four basic bands. When women's posts were finally assimilated into the general grading system in 1920, the group found itself weakened as members left for larger mixed unions. As a result of this, the union amalgamated with the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries in 1932 and continued as the National Association of Women Civil Servants. The organisation was affiliated to the Federation of Women Civil Servants, and later merged with the National Association of Women Civil Servants.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

The records were probably received via the National Association of Women Civil Servants which for a time shared offices with the Fawcett Society.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds : 6FCS Federation of Women Civil Servants and 6NCS National Association of Women Civil Servants. The Women's Library Printed Collections hold 'Association notes' the APOWC journal: No. 1 (Dec 1906)-no. 22 (Sep 1913); vol. 2; no. 1 (Oct 1913)-vol. 4; no. 13 (Oct/Dec 1920); special issue 'Equality' (Mar/Apr 1920?); special issue (Oct 1920). 'Precis of Case presented before the Royal Commission on the Civil Service / Association of Post Office Women Clerks' by ML Cale (1912) class number 331.4813834941 CAL.

The British Postal Museum & Archive also holds material on women clerks.