Society for Promoting the Training of Women

Scope and Content

The collection includes minute and report books, including those of named funds such as Caroline Ashurst Biggs, Mrs Haweis, and Helen Blackburn. There are also correspondence files with the Freedom of Labour Defence League, and organisations with similar aims. There are files on the history of the Society (including details of association with the Central Bureau for Employment of Women and Mrs Constance Hoster's secretarial training - for example, the Queen Anne's Typewriting, Shorthand and Translating Office), as well as those relating to specific memorial funds such as Pfeiffer and Gertrude King. In addition there are financial records, ledgers and account books, records of subscribers, legacies, scholarships and loans, as well as transactions with banks, auditors and accountants.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women (later renamed the Society for Promoting the Training of Women) (SPEW later SPTW) was founded in 1859 by Jessie Boucherett. Its aims were to open up new areas of employment for women and to improve the very low standards of education prevailing at the time. In its early years SPEW was affiliated with the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science (NAPSS), but it was run and largely funded by women. Connections with NAPSS were severed finally in 1889, although formal links between the two societies virtually ceased after 1879. The English Woman's Journal, founded the previous year became its official organ. The society kept the first register of employment for women. It founded the first printing press to employ women exclusively, the first book-keeping class for women, classes in shorthand, law copying and photography, and a commercial school, these being only a few of the areas in which the society pioneered improvements in women's employment and education. The society became a limited liability company in 1879. By the early part of the twentieth century, the idea of training schools and courses was well established and it was considered that the society's work in that direction had achieved its end. The society began to phase out their vocational training programmes in favour of providing women with interest-free loans to enable them to undertake suitable training for employment. The Board of Trade and Charity Commission required that the society show that it existed to 'train' rather than 'employ' women in order to conform with charity rules. Thus, in April 1926, the organisation voted to change the word 'Employment' in its title to 'Training'. The society remains active to the present day.

Access Information

Priority access to members of the Society for Promoting the Training of Women.

Acquisition Information

9697/66 - The papers of The Society for Promoting the Training of Women were deposited in the Archive by The Reverend Brian Harris, Honorary Secretary of the Society on 30 January 1997. The custom was for the Society's papers to reside with the secretary and they had been stored for some years by Brian Harris. However, on his removal to a smaller vicarage, he and the Society were anxious to find a permanent home for its archive and first approached Girton College in 1995. On arrival the papers were contained in three tea chests and two cartons. The were labelled as follows 'Minute and report books' (1 tea chest & 1 carton containing bound volumes); 'Correspondence', 'Gertrude King Scholarship', 'Articles of Association' [not found], 'Early History', 'Subscribers', 'Legacies' (1 tea chest comprising 4 boxes of loose material and files); 'Financial Records: Ledgers and account books, Correspondence with banks, auditors and accountants' (1 tea chest & 1 carton comprising bound volumes and files). The papers were listed in April 1997.

A further deposit was made in June 2001 (0001/41) of Record cards of loans and files on individuals 1970-1983.

Other Finding Aids

As at Sep 2008 an online catalogue was available at

Archivist's Note

Collection Description taken from JANUS in Sep 2008 as part of Genesis 2008 Project

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright lies with The Society for Promoting the Training of Women.

Please cite as Girton College Archive, Cambridge, Society for Promoting the Training of Women, GCIP SPTW

Related Material

GCRF 8/3/2 Letter from Bishop Tait to Jane Lewin about SPEW.


See Michelle Tuson, '"Not the Ordinary Victorian Charity": The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women Archive', in 'History Workshop Journal', Issue 49, Spring 2000. Anne Bridger, 'A Century of Women's Employment in Clerical Occupations: 1850-1950, with particular reference to the role of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women', PhD thesis submitted to the University of Gloucestershire, December 2003 (degree awarded 2004). Also Ellen Jordan and Anne Bridger, '"An Unexpected Recruit to Feminism": Jessie Boucherett's "Feminist Life" and the importance of being wealthy', in 'Women's History Review', Vol.15, No.3, July 2006. The archive is also mentioned in Ellen Jordan, 'The First Women Members of the British Pharmaceutical Society' in 'Pharmaceutical Historian', Volume 31 No. 2, June 2001.