Records of the Joint Committee on Women in the Civil Service

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of minutes of the Joint Committee on Women in the Civil Service (JCWCS) (1919-1936, 1943-1954) and of the Parliamentary Committee on Equal Pay (1935-6); reports and publications (1919-1944); leaflets (1935-1936); correspondence (1919-1928, 1944-1945).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Joint Committee for Women in the Civil Service (JCWCS) (1920-1954) was created in 1920 after a major reorganisation of the Civil Service had taken place. Grading systems that had been structured around each individual department were now merged across the entire service to form four basic bands. Additionally, efforts to introduce arbitration and militated for what would become Whitley Councils for the negotiation of pay and conditions had taken place in which most of the women's civil service trades unions had been involved. However, despite the statement of the Sex Disqualification Act of 1920 that 'women should have equal opportunity with men in all branches of the Civil Service and Local Authorities', the report presented by the official Joint Reorganisation Committee maintained there should be a separate selection process for women which did not involve the traditional examination, lower wages for women working in the same grades as men and the bar against married women should remain. The London & National Society for Women's Service LNSWS were aware that the introduction of equal pay in the Civil Service would have a great impact on the debate in other areas of work. With this in mind, they established the Joint Committee of Women in the Civil Service as a response to the report. It was chaired by Ray Strachey, the LNSWS's president, and was composed of members of the London Society's Employment Committee along with representatives of other women's organisations. It campaigned for financial equality between male and female civil servants as well as the removal of the marriage bar throughout the 1920s but was faced with the backlash regarding equal pay that occurred at the end of the decade when the Depression occurred. However, by the early thirties, it was considered appropriate by several women's organisations to launch a new Equal Pay Campaign, which the JCWCS initiated. In this, they co-operated closely with the National Association of Women Civil Servants and the Council of Women Civil Servants. Public meetings were staged and the group set up a Parliamentary Committee on Equal Pay chaired by the Conservative MP Colonel Clifton Brown. In 1936 they helped introduce a private members bill into the Commons on equal pay which was presented by Ellen Wilkinson and passed with a slim majority before being defeated on its second reading. After the Second World War, activities in the field passed to the Equal Pay Campaign Committee to which it sent representatives. No meetings of the JCWCS were held between 1947 and 1954. It was in this year that the last meeting to wind up its affairs appears to have occurred in the wake of the granting of equal pay in government services.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Custodial History

These records were found amongst the papers of Philippa Strachey in the records of London Society for Women's Service (2LSW). P Strachey was the Secretary of the Joint Committee which was composed of LSWS Employment Committee members and representatives of various women's organisations (many from the civil service) and campaigned for the principal equal pay throughout the civil service.

Its first chair was Ray Strachey, succeeded in 1940s by Ethel Watts. Meetings were held at the offices of the London Society. It was established in response to the Report of the Joint Committee on the Organisation of the Civil Service in 1920.

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds the records of the London and National Society for Women's Service (2LSW), the National Association of Women Civil Servants (6NCS), the Council of Women Civil Servants (6CCS) and of the Equal Pay Campaign Committee (6EPC) are also held by the Women's Library.