Records of the Status of Women Committee

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Minutes, conference papers, correspondence and publications

Administrative / Biographical History

Throughout the 1920s and the early part of the 1930s, international women's organisations were engaged in efforts to have an international equal rights treaty passed by the League of Nations. Although this was never passed before the League s Council, four governments signed a version of the accord at the Pan-American conference of 1933. The rest of the conference participants, however, were unable to do so and merely adopted a resolution requesting that governments implement equality so far as the peculiar circumstances of each country will conveniently permit'. The following year the Pan-American Commission of Women, which was an official body of the Pan American Union, persuaded ten Latin American members of the League's Council to request that the whole issue of women's status be examined. In response, the Council requested fifteen international women's organisations to present statements on the nationality and status of women. They reported back on contemporary restrictive legislation being passed that curtailed women's economic and social liberties in Europe. The evidence presented led the League in 1935 to invite governments to present them with further information on this question within their own borders. The League of Nations' Status of Women Committee was established in 1935 to examine this at the same time as an inquiry was conducted by the International Labour Organisation to examine equality under contemporary labour laws.

The British government undertook research in order to present the necessary findings to the League. However, the National Council of Women felt it necessary to set up an independent group to study and supplement these reports. Consequently, the Committee on the Status of Women was established. Its immediate was to co-ordinate the responses of women's groups to the request for information and forward them through the International Council of Women. However, this work came to a halt with the outbreak of the Second World War. When its activities resumed in 1945, the League of Nations had been dissolved and their task had changed dramatically. Now, under the first post-war chairperson, Thelma Cazalet-Keir, the organisation was not involved in reporting to the United Nations but acted as a national body for co-ordinating the work of organisations campaigning for women's rights. In this period, it monitored contemporary legislation for examples of discrimination and acted as a pressure group on the government, other law-makers, employers, those in education and the media. It was constituted by representatives of British women's institutions and groups which were affiliated to the Committee included the Association of Assistant Masters and Mistresses, the Commonwealth Centres League, the League of Jewish Women, the Married Women's Association, the St Joan's Alliance, the Six Point Group, the Suffragette Fellowship, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, the Josephine Butler Society, the United Kingdom Federation of Business and Professional Women, and the Women's Liberal Federation amongst others. Additionally, individuals and co-opted specialists in their fields also belonged to what remained a non-party organisation throughout its existence. From the end of the Second World War, the group continued to hold regular meetings and annual conferences. In 1968, they organised the jubilee of Votes for Women; in 1972, their annual conference revolved around women and property rights. In 1974, sex discrimination in the EEC was the central topic while in 1975 the conference discussed the future of women. They aimed for equality for women in all spheres of life. This aim centred around eight principles: equal pay for work of equal value; equal educational facilities; equal provision of training; equal opportunities in employment; equality on social security; equality in taxation; equal social standards and equal standards in marriage. However by the late 1970s, the number of groups that continued to subscribe dropped back as some were dissolved and others failed to renew their membership. In 1978, their activities had fallen way to such an extent that organisers of the official celebrations for fifty years of suffrage initially omitted to include them in the events. By 1980, members themselves were questioning the continued existence of the group since most of their demands for legal equality had been achieved and constituent groups were now referring few matters to them. Consequently, the group was officially wound up in January 1985, when the balance of their funds was transferred to the accounts of the Society for Promoting the Training of Women.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Other Finding Aids

Handlist.

Related Material

The minutes, correspondence and financial records of the group (1942-78) can also be found in the papers of A Muriel Pierotti which are also held by The Women's Library (See GB 106 7/AMP).