Records of the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 1SOS
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      32 A boxes, 1 OS box (1 uncatalogued A box)

Scope and Content

The archive consists of minute books of the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women (SOSBW) Council, executive, finance and various committees and of Junior branch, training centre, Africa, Rhodesia, Canada Australia and New Zealand and schoolgirl tours subcommittees; minutes of the Overseas Settlement Committee and War Services Committee; duplicate minutes for meetings of Joint Council for Women's Emigration Societies; annual reports; title deeds and legal documents; Legal, finance and hostel correspondence files; general correspondence files; pamphlets; Overseas Settlement Committee annual reports and Overseas Settlement Board reports.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women (SOSBW) (1919-1962) was established as a direct response to the economic and social position of British women after the end of the First World War. Many women who had been trained for jobs vacated by enlisted men found themselves unemployed after 1918 and in financial hardship. Emigration to parts of the Empire was regarded as a solution to this problem. At this point, the British Government established its Overseas Settlement Committee to deal with general emigration, but when dealing with women emigrants, it was decided the its Overseas Settlement Committee would work through the existing voluntary body, the Joint Council of Women's Emigration Societies (1917-1919). The Joint Council comprised the Colonial Intelligence League, the British Women's Emigration Association and the South African Colonisation Society.

In Dec 1919, aiming to respond to the governments needs more closely, the three amalgamated to form the Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women. On the new council were representatives from the Girls' Friendly Society, the World's Young Women's Christian Association (YMCA), the ex-Servicewomen's Association and the Women's Labour Organisation, the Women's Catholic Emigration Society, the National Federation of General Workers, the Joint Committee of the Industrial Women's Organisation, the National Amalgamated Society of Women Workers, the Ministry of Labour and the Overseas Settlement Committee. The new organisation advised the Overseas Settlement Committee on government policy regarding emigrating women, as well as assessing an individual's suitability for emigration and overseeing the passage, safety and employment of those chosen.

With the increase of emigration in the 1920s, the organisation grew, creating a junior branch in Jul 1925. It additionally organised tours for schoolgirls of Canada (1928 and 1936) and Australia (1934). These tours ceased upon the outbreak of World War Two when the Council assisted the evacuation of children.

The new Companies Act of 1948 led to a reorganisation and in 1949 the new advisory council, comprised of representatives from: the Ministry of Labour and National service, the Women's Land Services, the Women's Land Army, the Headmistresses' Association, the British Council and the Standing Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations, also representatives of voluntary societies such as the Family Welfare Association, Girls' Friendly Society, Girl Guides Association, the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), the Mother's Union, the National Association of Girls' Clubs and Mixed Clubs, the National Council of Social Service, the Victoria League and the National Council of Women. Its remit expanded to include helping women who wished to spend only short periods abroad and assisting with arrangements before and after the voyage. With this in mind, the society was renamed the Women's Migration & Overseas Appointments Society in 1962. However, withdrawal of funding by the Treasury resulted in the end of the society in 1964.


Note re arrangement of SOSBW correspondence files, see series 1SOS/07-1/SOS/10. 1SOS/01-1/SOS/06 comprise the minute books .

A number of the SOSBW files were originally given a reference number prefixed by an 'S'. It appears that this prefix was given and the files numbered sequentially irrespective of subject matter. As few files from the 'S' series survived and any arrangement would have been meaningless the files were grouped into subject groups as can be seen in 1SOS/07-1SOS/10. The 'S' reference is given in the AltRefNo field.

Some files of the British Women's Emigration Association were incorporated into certain files of SOSBW after the amalgamation of 1919. These can be recognised easily from the date limits of the files, being those whose starting date is prior to 1920.

Access Information

This collection is partially available for research. The catalogued portion of the collection is available for research, uncatalogued material remains unavailable. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

All the records in Strand 1 were offered to The Fawcett Library by the Women's Migration & Overseas Appointments Society when it was being wound up in 1964. Miss Vera Douie, Librarian of The Fawcett Library, appraised the records, selecting minute books, annual reports and a number of old journals. The few files selected for retention were concerned with the Companies Acts and the Society's overseas

properties. The Commonwealth Relations Office arranged for HM Stationery Office to dispose of confidential files. Other files not deemed of historical significance were destroyed through the same agency.

The records came to The Fawcett Library in Dec 1964 and were catalogued c. Apr 1973.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Fragile: please handle with care

Related Material

The Women's Library holds the following records in Strand 1:

1BWE British Women's Emigration Association

1CIL Colonial Intelligence League

1FME Female Middle Class Emigration Society

1SAX South African Colonisation Society

1SOS Society for the Overseas Settlement of British Women

Also of relevance at The Women's Library are:

4TAS Travellers Aid Society

5GFS Girls Friendly Society

See also:

The Imperial Colonist 'Official Organ of the SOSBW', TWL Printed Collections class number 325.24109171241

Dec 1919 - Mar 1927, Vol 17 no. 213 - Vol 25 no.3 (last issue)


Margaret Amherst (Oct 1915- Jan 1921)

Grace Lefroy (Jan 1921-Mar 1923)

Dame Meriel Talbet (Mar 1923-Mar 1927)

Amalgamated with the 'Oversea Settler' from Apr 1927.

Oversea Settler 1927-1930, TWL Printed Collections class number 325.24109171241

Geographical Names