Records of the Federation of Women Civil Servants

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of minutes of the Executive Committee and Council of the Federation of Women Civil Servants (1915-1931) and of the subcommittee (1921-1929); Southborough Committee files (1919-1926); payments and receipt books (1929-1934); annual reports (1920-1931); correspondence and papers related to the Civil Service Alliance (1919-1920), the National Whitley Council (1917-1920), Joint Committee of the Organisation of the Civil Service (1920-1921) and on the Equal Pay Campaign (1910-1935); publications (1917-1919); minutes of the National Council for the Administrative and Legal Departments of the Civil Service (1919-1920); minutes and papers of the National Whitley Council (1919-1920).

ABBREVIATIONS

NWC National Whitley Council.

FWCS Federation of Women Civil Servants

Administrative / Biographical History

The Federation of Women Civil Servants (1916-1932) was founded in 1916 as women became employed in this sector. At the end of the nineteenth century, there was great opposition to women's employment amongst male employees, in contrast to employers' acceptance of a new workforce who worked for lower wages and was less inclined to industrial agitation. This hostility also affected the male-dominated trade unions of the period, especially those concerned with the Civil Service. This meant that women civil servants of the time continued to occupy separate and lower grades than those of men, and a marriage bar prevented them continuing to work after they became wives. It was not until the turn of the century that female trade unions agitation for equal pay and conditions with the male workforce began. The Federation of Women Civil Servants was established in 1916 as an amalgamation of the Federation of Women Clerks and the Civil Service Typists Association. The Federation of Women Civil Servants represented all permanent and established female public servants other then writing assistants. Along with most of the civil service trades unions, was involved in efforts to introduce arbitration and militated for what would become Whitley Councils. After the end of the First World War such action helped bring about a major restructuring of the service. Grades that had been unique to each of the departments were now merged across the entire service to form four basic bands. However, the Federation was vocal in its opposition to the report presented by the official Joint Reorganisation Committee. Despite the statement of the Sex Disqualification Act of 1920 that 'women should have equal opportunity with men in all branches of the Civil Service and Local Authorities', it maintained there should be a separate selection process for women that did not involve the traditional examination and supported lower wages for women working in the same grades as men. When the mixed unions failed to support their position, the Federation withdrew from the staff side of the Council as well as from the Civil Service Alliance, losing its seat on the National Whitley Council in the process. The changes to the organisation of the Civil Service grades resulted in the merger of trade unions that had previously been structured around specific departments. When women were finally assimilated into the general grading system in 1920 as part of the restructuring, the Federation found itself weakened as members left for larger mixed unions that were better represented on the Whitley Councils. In 1928, the rules of membership were changes to allow them to affiliate temporary workers previously covered by the Association of Women Clerks & Secretaries. The resulting situation led to the eventual amalgamation of the two in 1932 and the creation of the National Association of Women Civil Servants.

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

The records were probably received c.1970 via the National Association of Women Civil Servants which for a time shared offices with the Fawcett Society.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds the records of the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries (6AWC) and the National Association of Women Civil Servants (6NCS) are also held by the Women's Library.

The Women's Library Printed Collections also hold 'Equal pay for equal work in the civil service' by the Federation of Women Civil Servants (1925) class number 331.428135441001 FED. 'Opportunity' the organ of the Federation of Women Civil Servants Vol. 1, no. 1 (Jan 1921)-vol. 11,no. 9 (Sep 1931) available on microfiche.

The British Postal Museum & Archive also holds material on women clerks.