The Children's Union, a fundraising body supported almost entirely from the contributions of children, grew out of an idea by Helen Milman (later Mrs Caldwell Crofton) who became secretary for the Diocese of St David's in Wales in 1887. In that year she founded the Odd Minute Coterie which consisted of 44 school children who pledged to do some work for the Society - either 15mins daily or one and a half hours a week. If they failed to honour their pledge the members were required to donate a penny per quarter hour. This was followed by the Holiday Union in 1888-1889, the stated aim of which was to support a child in St Nicholas' in Tooting London for a whole year. By 1889 the Holiday Union had become the Children's Union with the expressed aim of supporting a child in St Nicholas's each year - a cost of £15.
In 1889 a Committee, officially titled "Committee of Cripples' homes and Children's Union" was formed; this was later renamed the Committee of the Children's Union. Over the next 80 years the Children's Union supported first disabled children and then, as the work of The Children's Society changed focus, babies and toddlers.
The Children's Union consisted of a Southern Province and a Northern Province, with the Northern Province focussing on supporting Bradstock Lockett, Southport. Alongside these provinces, at certain times, there were other local administrative units, including the Dioceses of Ripon and Wakefield, the Manchester Children's Union, and the Manchester and Blackburn Diocesan Children's Union, which focussed on supporting St Chad's Home, Far Headingley. All provinces and local administrative units had merged together by 1950.
As with the wider organisation, the members of the Children's Union were arranged in a branch structure, with children and young people acting as officers of the branches. At the outset a branch could be started with a public meeting or by personal effort amongst children. Six members or more and a secretary were required. This branch structure continued until the 1970s.
The Children's Union also ran two other fundraising initiatives: the Pet Animals' League (originally the Rover League), and the Happy Birthday League (later called the Birthday Fund).
The Children's Union operated with some independence from The Children's Society until the 1970s. On 8 March 1979 the Children's Union Committee was replaced by the Education Advisory Panel which had been formed in 1978. At this point the Children's Union effectively ceased to exist. Its work was continued by The Children's Society's Youth Department.
More information about the Children's Union can be found on the Hidden Lives Revealed website: http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/including_the_excluded/childrens_union.html