Papers of Elizabeth Wilson and Angela [Weir] Mason

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of campaign files for 'Feminists Against Censorship' and 'YBA Wife' [Why Be a Wife? Also known as the 'Women's Liberation Campaign for Legal and Financial Independence'].

There are subject files relating to: lesbian and gay parenting; women's employment; sex discrimination; abortion and birth control; campaigning in the Women's Liberation Movement; women in Ireland; socialist feminism; and the welfare state.

There are also files relating to specific projects or events: Women's Liberation Movement conferences; Sexuality Conference at Barnard College; Angry Brigade; Islington Communist Party; the Rights of Women Unit's Illegitimacy conference and Indirect Discrimination project; and Case Con.

In these papers Angela Mason is generally referred to throughout by her former name, Angela Weir.

Administrative / Biographical History

Elizabeth Wilson was educated at St Paul's Girls' School, London, St Anne's College, Oxford and the London School of Economics where she trained as a psychiatric social worker. She worked as a social worker for 10 years before moving on to a career in academia. Elizabeth Wilson and her partner Angela [Weir] Mason were both active women's liberation movement figures in the UK. They were members of the Communist Party 1974-1990 and were campaigners for YBA Wife [Why Be a Wife?] - the Women's Liberation Movement Campaign for Legal and Financial Independence, Rights of Women, the National Abortion Campaign, and the women's refuge movement - Women's Aid. Together with Angela [Weir] Mason she wrote Hidden Agendas: Theory, Politics, and Experience in the Women's Movement', published in 1986. Wilson was a prominent member of the campaign group Feminists Against Censorship. Wilson wrote for 'underground' papers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, eg., Frendz, Come Together and Red Rag. She was a founder member of the editorial group of Feminist Review 1979-1985 and a member of the editorial board of the New Left Review 1990-1992. In 1984, Angela [Weir] Mason gave birth to their daughter, conceived via artificial insemination. From 1987 to 2001 Elizabeth taught cultural studies at the University of North London (now London Metropolitan University). From 1990-1993 she was a member of the Executive Committee of Liberty (the National Council for Civil Liberties). As at 2009 she was working as an independent researcher and writer. As at 2009 Elizabeth Wilson was the author of 4 works of fiction and the co-author or co-editor of 16 works of non-fiction (see Published Works below). Elizabeth also wrote for the Guardian, London, the New Statesman and New Left Review as well as broadcasting extensively for television and radio.

Angela Mason was born Angela Weir in High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire in 1944. She grew up on the Isle of Sheppey and was educated at Basingstoke High School and Bedford College, University of London where she studied History, before completing a postgraduate degree in Sociology at the London School of Economics.For four years she taught in secondary modern schools and at teacher training colleges. She helped to form Blackboard, a radical teachers' group, and Case Con, a radical social workers' group.In 1971, she married scriptwriter William Randolph Mason whom she divorced in 1980. In 1971, Angela also met writer and academic Elizabeth Wilson, a co-activist in the Gay Liberation Front, who was to become her life partner. Elizabeth Wilson and her partner Angela [Weir] Mason were both active women's liberation movement figures in the UK. They were members of the Communist Party 1974-1990 and were campaigners for YBA Wife [Why Be a Wife?] - the Women's Liberation Movement Campaign for Legal and Financial Independence, Rights of Women, the National Abortion Campaign, and the women's refuge movement - Women's Aid. Together with Elizabeth Wilson she wrote Hidden Agendas: Theory, Politics, and Experience in the Women's Movement', published in 1986. In Aug 1971, she was working as a telephonist when she was arrested on conspiracy charges relating to the Angry Brigade bombings. She was later acquitted in 1972. She changed her name to Angela Mason [in 1980?]. Mason went on to become a lecturer at the London School of Economics then the Principal Solicitor for the London Borough of Camden, during which time she was an activist in the law centre movement. In 1984, she gave birth to a daughter conceived via artificial insemination. She joined gay rights organisation Stonewall in 1989, becoming its director in 1992. Angela Mason received an OBE in 1999 for services to homosexual rights. From 2003 to 2007 she was the director of the UK government's Women and Equality Unit, now the Government Equalities Office. As at 2009, Angela Mason was the National Advisor for Equalities and Cohesion at the Improvement and Development Agency and Chair of the Fawcett Society Board of Trustees (since 2007).

Feminists Against Censorship (1989-fl.2009); feminist campaign group

YBA Wife (1975-fl.1984); feminist campaign group

Arrangement

Series A and B consisted of loose papers which have been arranged into artificial files where appropriate.

Series A and B consisted of loose papers which have been arranged into artificial files.

Series C was originally grouped into files, although the order of this series does not follow the original sequence. Where the original files covered more than one subject, these files have been divided for ease of use. The following artificial files have been created where papers were filed miscellaneously:7EAW/C/07 Rights of Women: Indirect Discrimination Project7EAW/C/09 Child Development7EAW/C/11 Women's Liberation Movement: Campaigning7EAW/C/17 Socialist Feminism7EAW/C/20 Case Con

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 collection was deposited in 2001 as an outright gift.

Other Finding Aids

The Women's Library Catalogue.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

This collection has been stripped, cleaned and repackaged as at May 2009. The papers are in reasonably good physical condition although much of the paper is of poor quality.

Appraisal Information

Duplicate material has been disposed of, as have records that contain published information that is readily available elsewhere (pay slips). Publications duplicated in the Library's printed collections have been removed, but have been listed in the scope and content section of the catalogue. One flyer filed with the Archive but not pertinent to its contents has been transferred to the Library collections, but the majority of printed ephemera has been retained.

Custodial History

7EAW/A, 7EAW/B, 7EAW/C/19 and part of 7EAW/C/09 originate from the papers of Elizabeth Wilson. All other papers are from Angela [Weir] Mason. The files were kept together and arrived at The Women's Library as a single deposit.

Accruals

Possible accruals from individuals

Related Material

The Women's Library has extensive collections on the women's liberation movement of the 1970s. Of particular interest to those using 7EAW are: 5ERC the Records of Essex Road Women’s Centre; 5CAP Campaign Against Pornography; 6WIM Women in Media.

London School of Economics holds the Papers of Mary McIntosh who was involved in the YBA Wife campaign and the Feminists Against Censorship Campaign. The British Library of Political and Economic Science holds the papers of the Gay Liberation Front (Ref: HCA/Gay Liberation Front) and John Chesterman (Ref: HCA/Chesterman).

Bibliography

The Printed Collections have copies of the majority of Elizabeth Wilson's published works. For lists of publications see authority records:Wilson; Elizabeth (1936-fl.2009); feministFeminists Against Censorship (1989-fl.2009); feminist campaign group

Geographical Names