Autograph Letter Collection: Suffrage and Women in Industry

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence of Edith Palliser, Pippa Strachey, Eva Gore-Booth, Eileen Hughes and Edith Dimmock amongst others, notes on various professions such as journalism, bookbinding and fashion designing, and materials issued by the Women's Industrial Council, the Women's Labour League and the London Society for Women's Suffrage.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the 1860s, a number of individuals such as Bessie Rayner Parkes and Barbara Bodichon, who were involved in creating employment agencies for women and opening up a variety of professions, became involved in the campaign for women's suffrage. The two movements came to be closely connected through shared membership. Many saw votes for women as the only means by which the professions could be opened up to both sexes and the conditions of working women improved through appropriate legislation. The connection between the two campaigns continued into the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Individual members of suffrage societies were involved in the work of the Women's Industrial Council, which was established in 1886 to campaign for 'equal pay for equal work'. The London Society for Women's Suffrage established a Women's Service department and a bee toymakers' scheme during the First World War, which later became the Women's Employment Department in the post-war period.

Philippa Strachey (1872-1968), known as Pippa, was born in 1872 to Lady Jane Maria Strachey and Major Richard Strachey. She was brought up first in India, where her father was a leading figure in the administration, and then in London, where the family moved in 1879. Her mother was active in the movement for women's suffrage and both Philippa and her siblings were encouraged to contribute to this work. In 1906 she became a member of the executive committee of the Central Society for Women's Suffrage and the following year she was elected the secretary of its successor the London Society for Women's Suffrage. In 1906 she joined the London Society for Women's Suffrage, succeeding Edith Palliser as secretary the following year. It was also in 1907 that she joined her mother Lady Jane Maria Strachey in organising what became known as the 'Mud March' at the instigation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies and which went from Hyde Park to the Exeter Hall to demand the vote. During the First World War she was deeply involved in various war works, from being the secretary of the Women's Service Bureau for War Workers to participating as a member of the Committee for the London units of the Scottish Women's Hospital from 1914-1919. This war work began her lasting involvement with the issue of women's employment and she remained the secretary of the Women's Service Bureau after 1918 when it became concerned with helping women thrown out of jobs on the return of men from the Front. She remained there until its dissolution, which came in 1922, caused by a financial crisis in the parent organisation. However, subsequently Strachey helped to found a new group to fill the gap, becoming the secretary and then honorary secretary of the Women's Employment Federation. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, family problems took up much of her time as she nursed both her mother and her brother Lytton until their deaths. However, all through this time she remained active in the London Society for Women's Service and when it was renamed the Fawcett Society in 1951, she was asked to be its honorary secretary. It was that year that she was awarded the CBE for her work for women. She subsequently was made a governor of Bedford College. Increasing ill-health slowed the pace of her work and blindness finally forced her to enter a nursing home at the end of her life. She died in 1968.

The London [National] Society for Women's Suffrage (1867-1871) was founded in 1867. On 5 Jul 1867 the Women's Suffrage Provisional Committee in London dissolved itself and reformed as the 'National Society for obtaining Political Rights for Women' (1867), but was re-named within a short time as the 'London National Society for Women's Suffrage'. There is a tradition that Mill was responsible for the change of name. (The Executive Committee comprised:- Miss Frances Power Cobbe, Mrs Fawcett, Miss Hampson, Miss Lloyd, Mrs Lucas, Mrs Stansfeld and Mrs PA Taylor who acted as Treasurer. Mrs Smith the Honorary Secretary died soon after the Committee was formed and Caroline Biggs took over, Mrs Taylor having acted until Miss Biggs' appointment.) In 1871 there was an organisational split into two separate bodies: 1) The London National Society for Women's Suffrage (1871-1877); 2) The Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage (1871-1877). The former appears to have been subsumed into the Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage in 1877.

Arrangement

Chronological

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. Available on microfiche only.

Other Finding Aids

Abstracts of individual letters in the autograph letters collection were written and held alongside the letters. This work was done from the 1960s by volunteers including Nan Taylor. In 2004 Jean Holder completed a 3 year project to list the letters, copy-type the abstracts, and repackage the letters to meet preservation needs. In 2005 Vicky Wylde and Teresa Doherty proof read and imported the entries to the Special Collections Catalogue.

The original card index of all correspondents, including date of letter & volume reference, is available on the microfiche.

Alternative Form Available

A copy of this archive is available on microfilm held at The Women's Library.

Related Material

All collections within The Women's Library Strand 2 relate to women’s suffrage; collections within Strand 6 relate to women's employment organisations. Also held at The Women's Library are the personal papers of Philippa Strachey (7PHS). Other Collections within Strand 9 which may be of interest include 9/01 Women's Suffrage, 9/02 General Women’s Movement, 9/03 Emancipation of Women, 9/20 Militant Suffragettes.