The Records of the Women's Forum and its Predecessors

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Minutes and minute books of the Executive Committee (1939-1980)and correspondence (1943-73), Meetings agendas, papers and minutes including those for annual general meetings(1963-74), annual reports (1946-79), administrative papers (1941-73), file lists (1965,1980) various news letters and magazines (1948-74), COSMITH minutes, correspondence and papers (1945-1977), publications, papers and reports by international organisations (1943-77), papers of committees and subcommittees on education and leisure, the under-fives, hygiene, working class credit, the organisation of women's clubs, women's work in the regions, air-raid shelters, planning, welfare in the Women's services, fuel, food education, the Beveridge Report, social insurance, shortages of craft and cookery teachers, home making, clean food, public questions, the social aspects of loneliness, advertisements and the situation of homeless families (1940-73), files on other organisations (1945-63), papers of the Standing Conferences Advisory Committee (1942-75 and joint conferences between the WGPW and SCWO (1944-76) as well as individual standing conferences.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Women's Forum grew out of organisations that came into existence during the Second World War. In 1939, the refugee situation prompted the National Council of Social Service to call a conference of concerned organisations. The group which emerged from this event was the Women's Group on Problems Arising from Evacuation, with Margaret Bondfield as Chairperson. The National Council of Social Service would continue to provide the new organisation with secretariat and accommodation throughout its existence. The following year the group changed its name to the Women's Group on Public Welfare in order to reflect its widened scope of interest into all aspects of the welfare of women and children. It was constituted solely by representatives all the major women's and female-voluntary organisations including the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds and the National Federation of Women's Institutes and action could only be undertaken by the constituent groups themselves. Strong links were formed with foreign, especially Eastern-European, organisations while the main work of the group was undertaken by subcommittees. During the war, these included those on education and leisure, the under-fives, hygiene, working class credit, the organisation of women's clubs, women's work in the regions, conditions on air-raid shelters, planning, welfare in the Women's services, fuel economy (later superseded by the Women's advisory Council on Solid Fuel), food education, and a sub-committee to examine the Beveridge Report. After the war, the focus of the work changed as other sub-committees were formed: one related to social insurance, another on the shortage of craft and cookery teachers, a committee on home making, clean food, and in the Sixties, a committee on public questions. Working groups were also set up to deal with the social aspects of loneliness, advertisements, education for girls as well as the situation of homeless families.

During the war, this work at the national level was complimented by the activities of purely local groups and the local branches of organisations. At the time, these were co-ordinated by regional Group Action Councils established by the Federation of Soroptimist Clubs in 1942. These local forums had to be linked to the national efforts, however, and the Women's Group on Public Welfare provided the gateway between individual Group Action Councils as well as between local groups and national organisations. When the Group Action Councils became Standing Conferences of Women's Organisations, the WGPW both held joint biannual conferences with them and sent representatives to sit with them on the SCWO advisory committee.

In the post-war period, the home making committee set up a sub-committee of scientific home management; in 1951 the committee and sub-committee merged to become the Council of Scientific Management in the Home (COSMITH). However, the major achievement of the group in the post-war period, however, was the publication of the report 'The Neglected Child and His Family' in 1946, which led to the establishment of a new child welfare service through the Children Act of 1948. By 1960, 850 clubs totalling 27,500 members had been set up through its efforts. These activities continued until 1975 when the National Council of Social Service was restructured in the wake of 1970's Social Services Act which had resulted in increasing confusion between the welfare activities of statutory and voluntary bodies. At this point the Women's Group on Public Welfare changed its name to The Women's Forum. When the NCSS became the National Council of Voluntary Organisations in 1980, it decided to end its secretarial and financial support of the Women's Forum. It was decided that the organisation could not continue to function and the group was wound up at the Annual General Meeting that took place in December of that year.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for consultation. Intending readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Other Finding Aids

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