The Women's Library Printed Collections

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 PC/01
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
      English , French , German , Italian , Spanish , Welsh
  • Physical Description
      60,000 + items

Scope and Content


The Library has over 60,000 books and pamphlets. In addition to scholarly works on women's history, there are biographies, popular works, government publications, and some works of literature. It also contains several special collections of published materials: The Cavendish-Bentinck Collection contains primarily pre-1850 items, such as conduct books from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and first editions of works by Wollstonecraft, Woolf, and the Brontës. The Josephine Butler Society Library features works on subjects including prostitution, slavery, trafficking of women, and attitudes to sexuality. The Sadd Brown Library comprises books and periodicals by and about women in the various Commonwealth countries.


Over 2,500 titles are held, some in single issues, but many in complete or representative runs. Titles range from popular magazines (Vogue, Cosmopolitan), to academic quarterlies (Gender & History, Feminist Review), special interest publications (One Parent Families, Executive Black Woman, National Association of Women Pharmacists), and older titles such as the English Woman's Journal and Votes for Women. The zine collection, dating from 2002, includes zines which reflect women's lives in the UK today.


The ephemera collection consists of thousands of mostly contemporary leaflets, flyers, handbills, etc. on topics of interest to women. A primarily retrospective collection of press cuttings is available; it is particularly useful for biographical material and obituaries on women


A range of electronic resources are available for consultation at The Women's Library to complement the printed, archive and museum collections. These cover all aspects of women's lives and include periodical indexes and statistical data, as well as full text databases.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Women's Library was founded in 1926 as the Library of the London Society for Women's Service, later known as the Fawcett Society. They ran the Library until 1977, when it moved to City Polytechnic, later known as London Guildhall University, and is now part of London Metropolitan University. The Women's Library moved to new premises in 2002, comprising a reading room, exhibition hall, lecture theatre, office and activity spaces. By 2008 The Women's Library was an Accredited Museum and the Archive Museum and Library collections were awarded Designated Status by the Department of Culture Media & Sport, as being of national and international importance.

For detailed corporate histories and biographies for the following see The Women's Library Archive and Museum Catalogue

* The Women's Library; 1926-fl.2008

* Friends of The Women's Library; 1978-fl.2008

See the biography for

* Douie; Vera (1894-1979); Librarian, The Fawcett Library

* Pankhurst; Rita Jacqueline [née Eldon] (1927-); academic, librarian and campaigner

Access Information


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

Acquisition Information

The Library has traditionally had a small acquisitions budget for Printed Collections - significant parts of the collections have been donated by members and friends of the Library. Donations have included single items or entire libraries that relate to women.

Other Finding Aids

The Printed Collections can be consulted via an online catalogue available at Additional guides in the form of Source Notes are available online.

Alternative Form Available

A high proportion of this collection is comprised of rare or unique copies.

Custodial History

See the corporate history for The Women's Library