The Papers of Kathleen Halpin

Scope and Content

Minutes, correspondence, accounts, papers, mostly relating to Miss Halpin's trusteeship of The Fawcett Library; Memorial file.

Administrative / Biographical History

Kathleen Mary Halpin was born in November 1903, the eldest of four children in the family. She was educated at Sydenham High School but decided against attending university in order not deprive her siblings of the same opportunity. In 1922 she lived in France for a year before returning to complete a secretarial course and working as an editorial assistant to various publications. One of these was the 'Architect's Journal' and it was during this period that she became concerned with the issue of social housing. She was rapidly involved in the creation of the Soroptimist Housing Trust in Wandsworth and her experiences there widened her interest in social questions more generally. More particularly, she became involved with the question of women's status, becoming the Honorary Secretary of the Junior Council of the London National Society for Women's service in 1926. After it became the Fawcett Society, she became its chair from 1967 to 1971 and was both a Friend and a trustee of the Fawcett Library. In the early 1930s, she became the private secretary of Sir John Simon, the Foreign Secretary of the time, and subsequently was asked to be the Organising Secretary of the Women's Gas Council. At the same time, from 1935, she took responsibility for the care of her mother after the death of her brother, sister and father in quick succession. Despite this, she was able to take on the responsibility in helping to organise the new Women's Voluntary Service when it was created in 1938. She administered the evacuation of children from London at the beginning of the Second World War and was subsequently given responsibility as Chief Administrator to the regions for the organisation until 1973, work for which she was awarded the OBE.

After the War, she was seconded to the Ministry of Health to assist with United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association for Refugees. She was later a member of the Women's Service Trust and as well as a governor of St Bartholomew's Hospital and president of Soroptimist International. At the end o her life she was a founding trustee of the charity Building Bridges which aimed to combat social exclusion amongst the young. She died in January 1999.

Access Information

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

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Related Material

The papers of the London and National Society for Women's Service are also held by the Women's Library (Ref. GB 106 2/LSW). The Records of the Women's Voluntary Service are still held by the Women's Royal Voluntary Service while the Women's Library hold the papers of its advisory council.