Records of the Association of Women Clerks & Secretaries

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of minutes of the Reorganisation Committees (1920-1922); correspondence and papers related to members' claims and of the Post Office Departmental Whitley Council Clerical Committee (1919-1931); rules (1917); circular letter (1918); annual reports (1935-1936).

AWCS Association of Women Clerks & Secretaries

Administrative / Biographical History

Association of Women Clerks & Secretaries (1903-c.1921) was founded in 1903 as women became employed in this sector. At the end of the nineteenth century, there was great opposition to women's employment amongst male employees, in contrast to employers' acceptance of a new workforce who worked for lower wages and was less inclined to industrial agitation. This hostility also affected the male-dominated trades unions of the period, especially those concerned with the Civil Service. This meant that women civil servants of the time continued to occupy separate and lower grades than those of men, and a marriage bar prevented them continuing to work after they became wives. It was not until the turn of the century that female trade union agitation for equal pay and conditions with the male workforce began. The Association of Shorthand Writers was established in 1903 and was subsequently renamed the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries. Unlike the Federation of Women Civil Servants at this stage, which represented only permanent and established female public servants, the Association dealt with staff that had been recruited on a temporary basis. The Association, along with most of the civil service trades unions, were involved in efforts to introduce arbitration and militated for what would become Whitley Councils. After the end of the First World War such action helped bring about a major restructuring of the service. Grades that had been unique to each of the departments were now merged across the entire service to form four basic bands. This resulted in the merger of unions that had previously been structured around specific departments. When women were finally assimilated into the general grading system in 1920 as part of the restructuring, the Association found itself weakened as members left for larger mixed unions that were better represented on the Whitley Councils and this was one of the reason why, in 1921, it joined with several mixed trades unions, as well as the Civil Service Typists Association to form the Civil Service Clerical Association. However, membership later became a problem when the Federation of Women Civil Servants changed its rules to allow temporary workers to join. This was exacerbated in 1930 when many of traditionally temporary contracts were made permanent and abortive moves were made to amalgamate with the National Union of Clerks. Later, in 1932 it went on to merge with the Federation to create the National Association of Women Civil servants. In Mar 1940, the Association finally joined the National Union of Clerks and Administrative Workers under the new title of The Clerical and Administrative Workers Union.

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

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds the papers of the Federation of Women Civil Servants (6FCS ), and the National Association of Women Civil Servants (6NCS). The British Postal Museum & Archive also holds material on women clerks.

The Women's Library Printed Collection also holds 'The woman clerk: the organ of the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries' bound in 'Waverley. The woman clerk. The woman teacher' available on microfilm. 'Opportunity: the organ of the Women Civil Servants Joint Committee (Federation of Women Civil Servants and AWCS Civil Service Section)' available on microfilm. 'Why women clerks should organise' by Edith Crohn 1918, class number 331.4816510941 CRO. Some additional Annual reports and leaflets are held in the Printed Collections UDC Pamphlet Collection, such as leaflets 'The Need for Combination Among Women Clerical Workers' 1915, class 331.88:651:396 and 'The Woman Clerk and her Rights...' 1929 class 351.83:653.