Records of the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC) Minutes: Executive (1920-1928), programme and co-ordination (1920), publicity (1920), equal moral standing (1919-1921) and general purposes (1924) committees; minutes of the widows' pensions and equal guardianship (1919-1921), status of wives and mothers (1921-1924), equal franchise (1926), economic independence of women (1920-1921), married women's drafting (1924) and parliamentary (1925-1931) sub-committees; annual council agendas and report (1927-1931); annual reports (1919-1932); programmes; correspondence; leaflets; booklets. National Council for Equal Citizenship (NCEC) Annual reports (1932-1939); programmes; meetings papers; addresses; pamphlets.

Administrative / Biographical History

National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC) (1918-1945) was formed out of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. After the 1918 Representation of the People Act which granted women limited suffrage, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) decided to revise its previous aims and become the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC), remaining a high-level organisation designed to allow the affiliation of autonomous local societies with this object. However, the body now not only promoted equality of franchise between men and women but also extended this to the social and economic fields, working family allowances and the political education of women. During the 1920s they concerned themselves with issues such as restrictive legislation, limiting working hours which applied only to women and with the aim of 'protecting' them against industrial exploitation. However, there was no consensus within the group regarding the appropriate response to, 'protective' legislation and an ideological split occurred at this time between those who supported ideas such as an 'Endowment of Motherhood' to women to allow their financial independence and those who adopted a more strictly equalist position. In the mid-1920s, the Labour government proposed a series of bills that would extend this protective legislation and NUSEC was pressurised to change its equalist policies on this issue. In response to this situation, a number of members left the group to form the Open Door Council in May 1926. The group also encountered consistent opposition from the Liberal government and it was only in 1927 that a deputation was permitted to meet with Prime Minister Baldwin. However, the passing of the People (Equal Franchise) Bill in Mar 1928 rewarded their efforts. The result of liberal hostility was that close co-operation developed with the Labour Party throughout the NUSEC's history. In 1932, it was decided that the organisation's campaigning and educational functions should be separated, the first being delegated to the National Council for Equal Citizenship, while education was passed on to the Townswomen's Guild. The National Council for Equal Citizenship continued its work until the end of the Second World War.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds papers of Eleanor Rathbone, the leader of NUSEC (ref. 7ELR).

In addition NUSEC and NUEC pamphlets, books and other printed materials can be found in The Women's Library printed collections, especially the UDC collection. See classmarks such as 323.3406041 NAT, 324.6230941 RAT and 324.620941 QUA.

Further materials (correspondence with the International Woman Suffrage Alliance) are held by The John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, Reference IWSA/2/23.