Records of the National Council of One Parent Families

Scope and Content

Proof of status and policy documents; minutes of committees and working parties, 1918-1995; annual reports, 1918-1989, ledgers and associated accounts; case books and related papers, 1918-1947; fundraising and appeals, 1925-1993; correspondence, including with government and associated bodies (1918-1995); publications, draft bills, acts and legislation, details of Friends and Members

Administrative / Biographical History

The National Council of One Parent Families was originally established in February 1918, following the aftermath of World War I, under the name of the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child. Its primary concern at that time was infant mortality and the welfare of unmarried mothers and their illegitimate children. The organisation was formed following a National Conference, organised by the Child Welfare Council of the Social Welfare Association for London, which was held at Mansion House on February 14th 1918. The conference was the result of a Child Welfare Inquiry, which had been established by the Social Welfare Association in London in 1914.

The first council meeting in April 1918 saw the appointment of a Chairman, Hon. Secretaries and an Executive Committee. The original functions were:

  • To obtain reform of the existing Bastardy Acts and Affiliation Acts.
  • To secure the provision of adequate accommodation to meet the varying needs of mothers and babies throughout the country, with the special aim of keeping mother and child together.
  • To deal with individual enquiries from, or on behalf of, unmarried mothers.

Funds were acquired via public funding and voluntary donations.

World War II saw a huge increase in the number of women turning to the Council for assistance. The election of a Labour government, after the war, saw the creation of the Welfare State following the findings of the Beveridge Report. This changed the focus of the Council from providing direct aid to explaining the complexities of the benefit system.

The sixties and seventies saw the Council return to its original function as a pressure group. The change of name to the National Council of One Parent Families occurred in 1973. It had been proposed by Mr Jessel in February 1972 and the new name reflected the council catering for all lone parents. Professor O R McGregor sat on the Finer Committee and became President of NCOPF in 1975.

The election of a Conservative government in the 1980's saw the Council's priorities changing to promote employment for lone parents by launching a Back to Work strategy.

The work of the Council is ongoing, its current aims being to promote the welfare of lone parents and their children by helping to overcome the poverty, isolation and social exclusion faced by many.

The National Council of One Parent Families has been fortunate in employing dedicated people to help it in its work.Lettice Fisher served as chairman from 1918-1955.Lady Prudence Loudon, served as chairperson from 1958.Miss Chapman served as General Secretary : [192?] - 1946. Isabelle Grainger served as General Secretary : 1946-1961. Margaret Bramall served as General Secretary : 1962-1978, given title of director in 1968.Jane Streather served as director between 1979-1984 followed by Carol Smart from 1984-1986.Sue Slipman became director in 1986 and served until 1995, she was replaced by Karin Pappenheim. Karin Pappenheim remained in post until Aug 1997 when she was replaced by Maeve Sherlock.

The current director is Kate Green.


The records have been arranged to reflect the function of the organisation. Original order has been maintained where appropriate

Access Information

This collection is open for consultation. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. Access restrictions have been imposed on sensitive material

Acquisition Information

Papers were donated by the organisation in January 2001, Accession reference 2001/1


The records were arranged and described by Maxine Willett, Assistant Archivist.November 2003.ISAD(G) and NCA rules were followed.

Related Material

An interview recorded with Mary Bennett, daughter of Lettice Fisher, Tape 6, 8/SUF:Oral evidence on the suffragette and suffragist movements held at The Women's Library