The archive consists of 30 volumes of news cuttings relating to the social and political position of women and all aspects of the suffrage campaign between 1910 and 1914. Volumes 1 to 4 include a number of pamphlets, some of which were published before the compilation of the volumes, at least as early as 1908 and possibly earlier.
The period 1910-1914 was a period of considerable women's suffrage activity and this is reflected in the news cuttings. The most significant parliamentary activity centred around:
- - the "Conciliation" Bills of 1910, 1911 and 1912 which were introduced by members of an all-party Conciliation Committee, established in 1910, who worked to promote an Act for the (limited) enfranchisement of women
- - the Prisoners' Temporary Discharge for Ill Health [Cat and Mouse] Act, 1913, which allowed suffragettes on hunger-strike to be released from prison until their health had recovered, and then be rearrested
- - the Franchise and Registration Bill of 1913 which was supposed to be open to a women's suffrage amendment until the Speaker ruled that it would change the nature of the Bill and could not therefore be accepted
- - the Plural Voting Bills of 1913 and 1914
- - Dickinson's Representation of the People Bill of 1913
- - Selborne's Women's Enfranchisement Bill (Lords) of 1914.
There was also a lot of women's interest in the provisions of the Insurance Act, 1912.
During this period the suffragettes were best known for their "militant" activities and, although the N.U.W.S.S. did not endorse violent methods, reports of such protests are prominent in the volumes. There are numerous reports relating to Emmeline Pankhurst (1857-1928) and Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958), founders of the W.S.P.U. Militant activity included window- smashing, pillar-box raids and, on occasion, bomb attacks. More constitutional demonstrations were seen in the census evasion in 1911, tax resistance and the so-called "Women's Suffrage Pilgrimage".
Notable events include the George Lansbury (1859-1940) by- election at Bow and Bromley in November 1912, fought on the women's suffrage issue, and the death of Emily Wilding Davison (1872-1913) from injuries sustained as she fell under the King's Horse at the Derby.
Matters of overwhelming interest for both men and women of the period included the nature of "woman" and her role in society, the range and duration of careers for women and the kind of pay and conditions in operation. The volumes show the N.U.W.S.S. to have been taking a keen interest in the professions and actions of the Labour Party and in labour strikes in Dublin and South Africa.
Other reform movements of the period were concerned with: the "white slave trade"; Divorce Law; Venereal Disease; Temperance; Welsh Disestablishment; Police Courts and Prisons; and Poor Law. Of these reform movements the Women's Suffrage Movement was most closely allied with the movement against the "white slave trade", a term which refers to the procurement of "innocent girls" to lead a "life of infamy" and prostitution in brothels in Britain and abroad. Articles relating to the "white slave trade" and the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1912, which gave police increased powers of arrest against men suspected of procuring girls for the trade, feature prominently throughout the volumes; references to the other reform movements can be found occasionally.
The tone of the final 2 volumes changes as the encroaching First World War made issues of national defence and maintenance of the country of more pressing urgency than the demand for the vote and the women's suffrage network used its administration for this new purpose. The movement was dormant rather than dead and would, in fact, gain new strength and force as a result of the war.