Papers of Lady Simon of Wythenshawe

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 7SDS
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      2 A boxes

Scope and Content

The archive consists of correspondence, press cuttings, copies of speeches and articles by Shena Simon relating to education and her work as a local councillor in Manchester. It includes a biography of Lady Simon by her daughter-in-law Joan Simon, with background biographical notes.

Administrative / Biographical History

Shena Potter (1883-1972), later Lady Simon of Wythenshawe, was born 21 Oct 1883, to John Wilson Potter and Jane Boyd Potter. She was privately educated at Newnham College, Cambridge and graduated in Economics, gaining an MA. Later she became an Associate of Newnham College. Her post-graduate studies took her to the London School of Economics. In 1911 Shena Simon became an active secretary of a committee for safeguarding women's rights under Lloyd George's insurance bill. In 1912 Shena married Sir Ernest Darwin Simon with whom she had two sons. Shena Simon was responsible for founding 'The Women Citizens' Association' a local branch of the National Women Citizens' Association, whilst in 1921 she became Lady Mayoress of Manchester. It was during her tenure that she made mayoral history by refusing to grace a function at St Mary’s Hospital for Women because no women served on either the Board or with the medical staff. Her professional postings included Member of Manchester City Council 1924-1933, Member of the Royal Committee on Licensing 1929, Member of Estate Council 1931-1933. Shena Simon was the first woman to hold the office of Chair of Education Committee 1932-1933 and from 1933 she was actively involved in the Spens Report on aspects of secondary education. Also in 1933 Lady Simon was voted off the council by the Conservatives due to a disagreement. From 1935 onwards, Lady Simon became a member of the Labour Party and a member of the Departmental Committee on Valuation of Dwelling Houses in 1938. In the following year Lady Simon published 'A Hundred Years of City Government, Manchester 1838-1938' as well as various pamphlets on education. Lady Simon was prominent in proposing free secondary education, which was refused in 1939. However, her proposals were later used by RA Butler in preparation for his 1944 Act. Lady Simon then spent seven years as Chair of the Further Education Sub-Committee. She also stood as Chair of the Workers Educational Associations' Educational Advisory Committee in 1946 and became an Honorary Freeman of Manchester in 1964. She died 17 Jul 1972.


The archive largely consists of copies made by Joan Simon of original documents, probably created in the process of writing her biography of Lady Simon. The archive has been arranged following the order imposed on the documents by Joan Simon.

The following publication was removed as a duplicate and is held within The Women's Library Printed Collections:

Ernest Simon of Manchester / Mary Stocks (The Women's Library Reading Room Biographies: classmark as at May 2007: 941.0820924 STO)

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

Donated by Joan Simon, Lady Simon's daughter-in-law, Oct 1987

Other Finding Aids

The Women's Library Catalogue

Related Material

Further papers of Lady Simon of Wythenshawe (Shena Simon) are held at Manchester Archives and Local Studies Centre; at London School of Economics Library; and at University of Sussex: Special Collections.

Geographical Names