Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, British Section

Scope and Content

The archive includes: WILPF constitutions and rules; British section committee records; Annual reports; Circular letters; WILPF correspondence, reports and papers of Catherine Marshall; Press cuttings, publications and publicity material; International, British section and local branch records; WILPF publications; Women's National Commission papers; United Nations papers; WILPF campaigns and projects; WILPF correspondence with the UK and international governments; General correspondence; Seminar and conference papers; Mary Nuttall papers; Edith Ineson papers; Minutes; International congresses; Papers relating to individual members; International executive committee papers; Photographs; Audio visual recordings; Elisabeth Goffe papers; Margot Miller papers; Other peace organisations records.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was formed in 1915, when a group of women met for an International Women's Congress in The Hague, Holland when most of Europe was engaged in the First World War. The organisers of the Congress were prominent women in the International Suffrage Alliance from both belligerent and neutral countries. Despite the difficulties of travel during war time approximately 1200 women from 12 countries attended the congress, several women were also prevented from attending. This included 180 British women who the British government either denied a passport or prevented those that did hold one from attending by closing the North Sea to shipping. The congress acted as a protest against World War I and the women discussed the principles on which the war could be stopped and a permanent peace constructed. The Congress established an International Committee of Women for Permanent Peace, which four years later became the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.

Following the end of the war WILPF held their second International Congress in Zurich, Switzerland in 1919 (with several members of the British section attending) and shortly afterwards WILPF established an office in Geneva, Switzerland which would be the organisation's headquarters. They have since then regularly held International Congresses roughly every three years. During the 1920s and 1930s WILPF campaigned heavily for peace and disarmament, organising peace marches in Great Britain in 1926 and collecting signatures for a world disarmament petition in the early 1930s. On the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 communication between the different sections across the world proved difficult, part of the WILPF office moved to New York, USA with the remainder staying in Geneva. The British section remained active throughout the war.

The post war campaigning activities of WILPF have largely been concerned with nuclear disarmament, social and economic justice and the protection of individual human rights. The British section were active in Greenham Common and supported the anti - apartheid campaign in South Africa. WILPF continues to be active today, although many sections across the world are struggling with falling membership figures and financial difficulties. There are currently sections in 32 countries and WILPF is recognised as an NGO.


The original order has been lost and an artificial order imposed. As the archive has been subject to accruals and box list cataloguing this has resulted in some inconsistencies in the arrangement which are explained in detail below.

The papers found in series 1 - 23 were received in several accessions.

Series 1 - 19 of these papers were arranged, numbered, re-housed and the majority of them described at an unknown point of time, however not all had been given series titles or descriptions and sometimes material which covered similar functions or events had been listed in separate series from one another (it is suspected that the series 1 - 19 mirrors the order material was catalogued as it came out of boxes and no attempt to identify the original order of the archive was made). As these files and descriptions had been made available to the public for a number of years it was decided to keep them in the order they were already in when further detailed cataloguing of the collection commenced.

Series 20 - 23 had not been described previously and these have been arranged according to the type of records they contain.

WILPF/2009, WILPF/2011, and WILPF 2012 have been catalogued as sub collections to take into account that the material was received separately. The same series titles and structure have been used in all three sub collections where appropriate.

WILPF/BRAN is a distinct set of branch minutes which formed part of WILPF/2009 and WILPF/2011, it was decided to catalogue these together as they were originally created by the same branch of WILPF.

For all parts of the archive the related material field has been used to point researchers to similar material located elsewhere in the WILPF archive where possible.

Catalogued with the generous support of the National Cataloguing Grants Programme for Archives, 2013.

Access Information

Open, available for consultation by appointment only in the LSE Library Reading Room. Further details on accessing the Reading Room can be found here.

Acquisition Information

The archive has been received in the following deposits:

WILPF/1 - 14, given by WILPF, c. 1971.

WILPF/15, given by Mary Nuttall, 1979.

WILPF/16, given by Edith Ineson, 1980.

WILPF/17 - 18, unknown.

WILPF/19 - 23, unknown.

WILPF/2009, given to The Women's Library in five accessions between 2000 - 2001. Transferred to LSE Library, 2009.

WILPF/2011, given by WILPF, 2011.

WILPF/2012, given by Margaret Turner, 2012.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed online catalogue is available here.

Archivist's Note

Catalogued as part of the Swords into Ploughshares project, August - December 2013.

Conditions Governing Use

No material may be published without the prior permission of both the copyright holder and the Library. All applications for publication must be made to the Archivist in the first instance, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user.

Appraisal Information

Duplicate materials have been securely destroyed where the depositor did not want them returned.


Further accruals are expected.

Related Material

Print collections:The LSE Library and Women's Library Printed Collections hold some publications by the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, including incomplete sets of newsletters and annual reports.

WILPF Archives in the UK:

Additional WILPF, British section records can be found at the University of Bradford.

WILPF: South Wales Branch - Glamorgan Record Office.

WILPF: Aberystwyth branch - National Library of Wales.

WILPF: Liverpool branch - Liverpool Record Office.

WILPF: North Wales branch - Bangor University, Archives and Special collections.

Local record offices should be checked for branch records which are not listed here.

WILPF Archives held internationally:

WILPF: International Headquarters - University of Colorado, Boulder.

WILPF: US section - Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

WILPF: Michigan Branch, University of Michigan.

WILPF: Essex County, New Jersey Branch, New Jersey Historical Society Library.

WILPF: Buffalo Branch, SUNY Buffalo.

WILPF: Seattle Branch, University of Washington.

WILPF: Springfield Branch, University of Illinois, Springfield.

WILPF: Chapel Hill Branch (North Carolina), Duke University.

WILPF: Canda section, University of British Columbia Rare Books and Special Collections.

WILPF: Australia section, Australian National Library, Canberra.

WILPF: Aotearoa (New Zealand) Section, Alexander Turnbull Library, part of the National Library of New Zealand.