Records of the St Joan's International Alliance

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 2SJA
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
      English , French , German
  • Physical Description
      42 A boxes; 1 album; 4 oversize items

Scope and Content

The archive consists of early Catholic Women's Suffrage Society material as well as more recent accessions from the St. Joan's International Alliance, both its own papers and those of Joan Morris, a prominent member.

St Joan's Social and Political Alliance: minutes of the committee and the annual general meeting (1911-1952, 1958-1976, 1984-2004); copy minutes with some agendas and papers (1971-1989); Annual General Meeting report (1912, 1913, 1915, 1946) and attendance sheets (1946), agendas and draft minutes (1966-1979), agendas and other papers (1980-1983, 1988-1989); Accounts: annual (1967-1983), cashbook (1958-1973), petty cashbook (1955-1973, 1980-1983), Miscellaneous accounts ([c.1945], 1981-1983); membership mailing lists c1950-1990; biographical notes on members (1940-1984); notices of meetings and circulars; reports of meetings including northern branch (1973-1983), minutes and agendas of Merseyside branch (1959-1961); notes of arrangements for the papal visit and press release; newsletters, publicity leaflets, booklets, sample stationery; newspapers, menus, ephemera. St Joan's International Alliance: Council meeting minutes, programmes, reports, papers, accounts, correspondence, resolutions (1968-1991, 1999); reports, correspondence and papers of committee and other meetings (1965-1966, 1978, 1981-1984, 1985, 1987-1989); copies of constitutions, by-laws and papers on amendments (c.1970-1982); newsletters, leaflets; correspondence files of officials (1969-1985); general correspondence; St Joan's Quincentenary appeal, booklet and autograph volumes; awards certificates; correspondence, papers and press cuttings regarding film 'The Tower and The Dove' and supporting tour of the Far East; biographical notes; research notes, drafts, typescripts and translations of 'The Hidden History of Women'; copies, drafts, notes, proofs, typescripts and illustrations for 'Pope John VIII. An English Woman', with lecture notes. Typescripts, research notes, copies of 'The Pentecost', 'Dual Cathedrals in the Middle Ages', 'History of the Role of Women in Church Government', 'Women Doctors of the Church' (with lecture notes), 'Eucharistic Celebration by Women', 'The True tradition of Women in the Church', 'Women in Male Disguise; texts of lectures and published articles; research papers and notes on sources; reports on meetings.

Subject files on ordination of women, women in the Church, revision of canon law, liturgical language, women's Action Day (1980), International Women's Day, sex equality, abortion; Bulletin of the Great Britain and Northern Ireland Section (1984-1986, 1989, 1990); accounts, mailing lists, correspondence, copies of articles sent for publication, paste-ups and editions (1987-1991) of The Catholic Citizen; publications of French, Belgian, Canadian and United States' sections. Papers and correspondence regarding St Joan's Alliance participation in United Nations Commissions and conferences including reports, leaflets, programmes, publicity materials and cuttings. Photographs of members and groups and illustrations; press cuttings, unmounted and in volumes. Newsletters, information sheets, papers, reports and conference reports, publications, periodicals and leaflets issued by other religious organisations and groups dealing with status of women.

Administrative / Biographical History

St Joan's Social & Political Alliance (1923-1954) was created in 1923, when the Catholic Women's Suffrage Society (1911-1923) changed its name as the society refocused its aims on a wider scale to consider social issues affecting women. From this time on, its international work expanded, from becoming a founder member of the liaison committee of international female organisations in 1924 to the presentation of a report to the League of Nations on the subject of female status in African and Asian states in 1937. This international work continued after the Second World War. Its areas of interest now included the slave trade, women's education and professional development, employment, divorce, prostitution and marital abuse, advising the United Nations on these matters and becoming recognised as an official consultative body by the UN, UNESCO and the World Labour Organisation since 1952. St Joan's Social & Political Alliance became known as the Great Britain & Northern Ireland Section of the St Joan's International Alliance in 1954.

The Catholic Women's Suffrage Society (1911-1923), predecessor of the St Joan's International Alliance was founded in 1911 by Gabrielle Jeffery and May Kendall. Their aim was to create an organisation which was constitutional (non-militant), non-party political and which would encourage support for women's suffrage within the Catholic Church. The first recorded meeting of a 'Committee' was held on 6 Jul 1911 at the home of Miss Kendall who acted at first as joint Hon Secretary with Miss Jeffery. An inaugural meeting of the organisation was organised in Kensington Town Hall in 10 Jun 1911 and attracted participants who became the core of its 200 members. Subsequently the first of many committee meetings took place on 14 Jul 1911. Miss Kathleen Fitzgerald was elected Chair and Miss Jeffery was the first Secretary. The specific object of the Society was: 'To band together Catholics of both sexes in order to secure for women the Parliamentary Vote on the same terms as it is or may be granted to men.' Men were encouraged to join but could not hold posts on the Executive Committee. The business of the early meetings was predictably concerned with steps to publicise the Committee, including articles for the press and Catholic journals, drawing room meetings and then the league held its first public meeting on 26 Oct 1911. On 4 Dec 1912 the Society decided to join the Council of Federated Suffrage Societies.

The first permanent office was established at 51 Blandford Street, near Baker Street, at first on a three months' tenancy with an option of extending the tenancy. The first Committee meeting was held there on 19 Dec 1911 and the tenancy was extended to mid-Jun 1912 when the committee moved to a new office at 55 Berners Street.

Branches were established in Liverpool, Brighton and Hastings by the end of 1912, with others to follow in Bristol and Edinburgh. In 1912, the society affiliated to the Federated Council of Suffrage Societies. From 1914, the CWSS published the newspaper the Catholic Suffragist, renamed the Catholic Citizen from early 1918, which continues to be published today. After the granting of limited franchise to women in Britain in 1918, a development that was mirrored in a large number of countries across the world, the society refocused its aims on a wider scale to consider social issues affecting women.

St Joan's Social & Political Alliance (1923-1954) was created in 1923, when the Catholic Women's Suffrage Society (1911-1923) changed its name as the society refocused its aims on a wider scale to consider social issues affecting women. St Joan was chosen as the patron saint of the new organisation.

Liverpool Branch (established 1912)

On 14 Oct 1911 the Committee discussed the possibility of establishing a Liverpool Branch but decided to defer it for the time being. It was further discussed on 19 Jan 1912 but again deferred until after the Reception which was held on 17 Feb 1912. The occasion of the reception was taken to prepare the ground for the Branch which was established in the Spring of 1912.

Brighton Branch

At the Committee meeting on 19 Jan 1912, Miss Fitzgerald undertook to establish a Sussex Branch at Brighton. Following a meeting the Branch was established but the attempt to cover the whole County failed.

Hastings and East Sussex Branch

On 9 May 1912 the Committee considered a letter from Miss Willis who reported that a meeting of the St Leonards and Bexhill members had decided not to join with those at Brighton to form a County Branch, but that they had established a separate Hastings and East Sussex Branch with Miss L Stevens at Hon Secretary.

Edinburgh and Bristol Branches

The Committee decided on 19 Nov 1912 to write to Mrs More Nisbett suggesting that the local members form an Edinburgh Branch; and to Mrs Groves of Bristol to the same effect. These Branches were duly formed.

Access Information

This collection is partially available for research. The catalogued portion of the collection is available for research, uncatalogued material remains unavailable. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information

This archive was deposited as several accessions. The initial accessions deposited with the Library were made prior to the archive accession register being created and therefore were not given accession numbers. Also one acquisition in 1993 appears to have been made without an accession number.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Related Material

See the St Joan's Alliance banner TWL.1998.39: the 2SJA archive accession 1984/03 includes a banner, which was probably removed to TWL Banner Collection and catalogued as TWL.1998.39.

See also St Joan's International Alliance (German Section) Records, 1952-1981 5SJG at the Women's Library. Records are also held by Notre Dame University, United States of America under the reference CMBL 3/11-13.


St. Joan's International Alliance, a short history 1911 - 1977, by Anne Marie Pelzer, Brussels 1977, published in The Journal of St. Joan's International Alliance, 1992, pp. 1-16, English translation by Françoise Awre, Bath (UK). As at 2004 the Australian Women's Archives Project had an entry for the TWL entry. Kennedy, Sally, Faith and feminism: Catholic women's struggles for self-expression, Sydney: Studies in the Christian Movement, 1985; Campbell, Ruth and Morgen, Margaret, ' Brennan, Anna Teresa (1879-1962)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol 7, Carlton, Vic: Melbourne University Press, 1979, pp 395-96.Kennedy, Sally, Faith and feminism: Catholic women's struggles for self-expression, Studies in the Christian Movement, Sydney, 1985, 301 pp.