Records of the National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT)

Scope and Content

Extensive collection of records of the National Union of Women Teachers, 1904-1961, including minutes of the Council and various committees, conference reports, branch records, correspondence, press cuttings, handbills, pamphlets, posters and photographs. There is a large series of subject files on particular issues, individuals, organisations and campaigns documenting the wide range of the Union's interests. These include, for example, papers concerning women's organisations such as the Six Point Group, the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship, the Women's Freedom League, the Open Door Council, the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries and others and educational groups such as the English New Education Fellowship and the Workers Educational Association.

The collection contains a full run of the NUWT periodical "The Woman Teacher" from September 1919 until the Union was wound up in 1961. Most of these volumes are indexed. The periodical contained many articles on educational issues, detailed reports of conferences, news of branch activities and book reviews, as well as always keeping before members the issues of women teachers' pay and conditions and of women's employment in general. A recurring topic was the unfairness of the marriage bar which affected teachers in many areas. Advertising space which was sold to help with production costs attracted notices about accommodation, holiday hotels and guest houses, courses and various medical services. The NUWT produced a large number of publications and pamphlets on subjects such as Senior, Nursery and Infant Schools, education in rural areas, peace and the teaching of peace in education, and leaving examinations in Modern Schools. Two more substantial publications were Emily Phipps' "History of the NUWT" (1928) and a Science Scheme for Girls drawn up by Edith Cooper. Muriel Pierotti's detailed account of the organisation for which she had worked for over 35 years was apparently intended for private circulation only; the British Library does not hold a copy.

Note. There are a number of items pre-dating the formation of the union, the earliest being from 1862.

Administrative / Biographical History

The National Union of Women Teachers (NUWT) was founded within the National Union of Teachers in 1904 as the Equal Pay League, the organisation was renamed the National Federation of Women Teachers in 1906. Lack of progress in securing NUT support for the equal pay campaign led to its establishment as an independent body, the National Union of Women Teachers, in 1920. While the Union's primary aim remained the achievement of parity between men and women teachers' pay and conditions of service, the NUWT also interested itself in a wide range of social, professional and educational issues.

During the 1920s it campaigned, in conjunction with other feminist organisations for the extension of the franchise to all women on the same terms as men - this was achieved in 1929. Issues particularly affecting teachers on which the Union campaigned were: cuts in educational budgets in the early 1920s and again in the 1930s, restrictions on the employment of married women, the employment of unqualified teachers, and the practice of appointing men as Head Teachers in most cases where girls' and boys' schools were amalgamated. The NUWT championed the extension of educational opportunities for girls, and their access to the professions, the maintenance of separate Infant schools with their own Head Teachers, and the general establishment of nursery schools. The use of corporal punishment was opposed. Concern for the welfare of pupils was shown by support for the introduction of sex education in schools, provision of meals, and the making of educational and entertaining films for children.

In the 1930s links were developed with women's organisations in other countries, and many NUWT members became involved in the peace movement. During the Second World War the NUWT was concerned both to secure continuity of education for children evacuated from the cities, and to maintain services to its members. Its work was made more difficult when bomb damage to its London headquarters in 1944 necessitated dispersal of its activities for two years while repairs were undertaken.

In the post war years the fight for equal pay was vigorously renewed, while at the same time attention was given to the radical changes brought about by the 1944 Education Act, and their professional and educational impact. The NUWT favoured the raising of the school leaving age and the extension of teacher training to three years. It was concerned that girls should have the same access as boys to all technical subjects, and equal facilities for sports.

During the 1950s support for the Union declined, recruitment of younger teachers being insufficient to make up for the considerable number of retirements and deaths among older members. With the phased introduction of equal pay from 1955 the NUWT's primary aim had been achieved, and the decision was taken to close the Union at Easter 1961, when the final instalment would be paid.

Throughout its life the NUWT had, through its central office and its numerous branches, offered members not only services such as legal advice and support, and assistance with the cost of illness and other emergencies, but also many social activities and the opportunity to take part in concerts and theatrical productions. The NUWT published pamphlets on many educational issues, and kept in touch with members through its periodical "The Woman Teacher".

(Admin history compiled by Noreen Nicholson, volunteer)


Much of the material in this collection has been re-organised and a structure has been imposed to give a representation of the work and activities of the NUWT. The records relating to the administration and running of the organisation - centrally and regionally - have been divided up into sections reflecting the way in which the committees of the NUWT were organised. There is also a large run of subject files - these relate to subjects and campaigns with which the NUWT were involved. Indications from the organisation of the material when it arrived at the IOE suggest that the NUWT did organise this material by subject. We have also grouped all the publications produced by the NUWT, including their newspaper 'The Woman Teacher' together in one section, although there are also numerous publications to be found throughout the collection.

Access Information


Open, subject to signature of Reader Application Form.

Acquisition Information

Given by the NUWT in 1964.

Other Finding Aids

Collection catalogued online

Conditions Governing Use

A reader wishing to publish any quotation of information, including pictorial, derived from any archive material must apply in writing for prior permission from the Archivist or other appropriate person(s) as indicated by the Archivist. A limited number of photocopies may be supplied at the discretion of the Archivist.

Custodial History

In 1960, hearing of the imminent closure of the NUWT, the Librarian of the Institute of Education, Mr Foskett, wrote to the NUWT General Secretary, Miss Pierotti, to open enquiries about the possible disposal of the archives. The donation of the records to the IOE Library was agreed the same year with the proviso that the records would remain closed for 20 years. The prohibition did not extend to the "Woman Teacher", pamphlets and some printed material.

Transfer of the records began in December 1961, but legal points relating to the NUWT's closure prevented the transfer of the Minute Books and some other papers until 1964.


None expected

Related Material

IOE Archive:

Papers of Katherine Bathurst (reference KB), a school inspector and friend of the NUWT, and her Papers include a folder of correspondence with the NUWT (reference KB/22).

Papers of Brian Simon (reference BS) contains correspondence with Nan McMillan, a NUWT member (reference SIM/2/26), and a notebook (reference SIM/4/3/13) which contains notes on the NUWT.

Records of the Assistant Masters Association (reference AMA) - these are uncatalogued but may contain relevant material given that the NUWT collection contains correspondence with the AMA.

IOE library:

'A history of the NUWT', Emily Phipps, 1928

'The story of the national union of women teachers ', Muriel Pierotti, 1963

A number of NUWT produced leaflets

'Deeds not words - the lives of suffragette teachers', Hilda Kean, 1989 - this contains information on a number of the founding and pioneering members of the NUWT