Papers of Louisa Twining

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 7LOT
  • Former Reference
      GB 106 LT;
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      1 OS box (207 items)

Scope and Content

The archive consists of one letterbook including correspondence with Thomas Henry Estcourt, Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, Anna Brownell Jameson, Sir Walter Crofton, Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie, Sir William Hood, Elizabeth Rayner Parkes and Florence Nightingale.

Administrative / Biographical History

Louisa Twining (1820-1912) was born in 1820, the grandchild of Richard Twining, the head of the firm of tea and coffee merchants. She was educated at home and later attended lectures at the Royal Institute. She was a talented artist and her first publication, in 1852, was the book 'Symbols and Emblems of Early and Mediaeval Art'. It was the year after this that she became aware of the problems presented by the workhouse when she visited a former nurse in one such establishment. She organised a workhouse-visiting scheme amongst her friends but attempts to implement it were rejected by the local Poor Law Board. Attempts to sway the board through personal interventions, letters to the press and lectures met with little success until 1855, when the Rev. JS Brewer published one of Twining's lectures in 'Practical Lectures to Ladies'. A further pamphlet entitled 'A Few Words about the Inmates of Our Union Workhouses' followed this, while a petition was also circulated. The effect of this was that the first visiting committee was set up in 1857 and the following year she established a campaigning organisation under the title of the Workhouse Visiting Society that published its journal from Jan 1859 until 1865 and was active in workhouse reform. It's stated aim was 'the promotion of the moral and spiritual improvement of Workhouse inmates' and the organisation was especially concerned with the care of children and the ill, work which would lead her to take an interest in the question of nursing in later life. This work over a period of five years had equipped Twining with a significant knowledge of the Workhouse system and consequently she was asked to give a paper to a meeting of the Social Science Association that took place in 1857. Two years later, she undertook several interviews with the Poor Law Boards and was subsequently asked to give evidence on Poor Schools the following year. Her statement called for women poor law inspectors and for girls to receive training in a suitable trade, a call that resulted in the appointment of Mrs Nassau Senior as the first female Poor Law Inspector in 1872. She went on to try to have measures adopted to improve the standard of workhouse nursing and in 1870 set up the Workhouse Infirmary Nursing Association. Her interest in training for girls had been evident for a number of years. Since 1850 she had given classes for women at the Working Men's College as well as attending lectures herself at Queen's College and she would later become involved with the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women. She was elected as one of the first female poor law guardians in 1884 (she was a guardian for Kensington and Tunbridge Wells) and remained in this post until 1890. In 1900 she retired from work and died in Tunbridge Wells in 1912.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Deposited Jul 1980 through Winifred Myers.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Letters have been guarded and filed.

Related Material

Twining's correspondence with Henry Bonham Carter (1865) is held by London Metropolitan Archives (Ref. H/ST/NC18/5) while her notebooks and papers kept as a student at Queen's College, London are in the Queen's College Library.