Records of the Married Women's Association

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This archive consists of papers relating to legislation (1963-1982); Association Constitution (1962); minutes (1938-1983); working papers including re divorce and maintenance (1938-1983); correspondence including with members of the House of Lords (1943-1988); lobbying activities (1942-1983); finance details (1976-1979); various periodicals including editions of 'Bulletin' (1949-1983); printed materials including copies of official acts and bills and publications of other organisations, e.g. 'Women's Report' (1943-1983), press cuttings.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Married Women's Association (1938-1988) was formed in 1938 as a result of the failed attempts of the Equal Rights International Group, set up by members of the Six Point Group, to persuade the League of Nations to incorporate an Equal Rights Treaty in the Equal Rights International Group Constitution. Juanita Frances had been working in Geneva as part of the operative. After three unsuccessful meetings she drew up plans for a separate organisation to work chiefly for the rights of housewives and mothers and the Married Women's Association was born. It was to be a 'non - party and non - sectarian' association and its management was initially conducted at 20 Buckingham Street, London WC2. Prominent members included Edith (later Baroness) Summerskill, Vera Brittain, Helena Normanton and Lady Helen Nutting. Edith (later Baroness) Summerskill was the association's first president, other presidents included Vera Brittain and Juanita Frances. The aims of the Association were to: a) promote legislation to regulate the financial relations between husband and wife as between equal partners; b) secure for the mother and children a legal right to a share in the marital home; c) secure equal guardianship rights for both parents; d) extent the National Insurance Acts to include women on the same terms as men. The Association later included additional objectives, which were to: e) extend family allowances; f) establish equal pay; g) awaken women to their full political responsibilities. In order to achieve these goals members conducted deputations to ministers; held public meetings, debates and social activities and the Association published its own newsletters, namely: Wife and Citizen (1945-1951) and the Married Women's Association Newsletter [1966-1987]. In 1952 a significant disagreement between members led to a split within the Association. Helena Normanton had prepared evidence for submission to the Royal Commission on Marriage and Divorce and she had included proposals, which other members vehemently objected to. It was felt that the evidence was for the benefit of privileged women and as such, the position of ordinary women would remain at a disadvantage, which would be contrary to the Association's objectives. Helena Normanton and Mrs Gorsky (Chair) left to form the Council of Married Women and were joined by Lady Helen Nutting. The Married Women's Association continued up until the 1980s. A rough minute book entry of 6 Dec 1981 states that there will be no further meetings due to ill health and family commitments. However, the records contain Executive and AGM minutes to 1983 and correspondence to 1988. The extension of family allowances, establishment of equal pay and helping women to recognise their political responsibilities became later objectives. 'Wife and Citizen' (1945-1951) and the 'MWA Newsletter' were the official organs of the Association.

Arrangement

The records of the Married Women's Association have been arranged into 1 sub-fonds and 11 series. The sub-fonds (titled Legislation) contain 3 series: Acts of Parliament; Bills and Court Cases. The Bills series has been divided into 2 sub-series: Enacted and Draft. Original order was kept intact where it was evident. Where no original order was evident, which applied to most of the records, the series are arranged according to activity (e.g. Acts of Parliament, court cases) or form (e.g. periodicals, printed materials).

Conditions Governing Access

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

Acquisition Information

Donated in Aug 1984 by the son of Mrs Bodley (former Association member), following her death.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Custodial History

Two minute books were removed by the organisation in 1988 and as at Jun 1991 had not been returned.

Related Material

The Women's Library holds the records of the Council for Married Women (5CMW); the records of the Equal Rights International Group (5ERI); the papers of Helena Normanton (7HLN); the papers of Lady Helen Nutting (7LHN); the records of the Six Point Group (5SPG) and certain published materials of Baroness Summerskill.