Records of the National Women Citizens Association

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Agendas, papers and minutes of the Executive Committee (1949-1974), the Council (1968-1970), organisational working party (1962-1965) and Parliamentary (1949-55, 1959, 1964-1973), development (1968-1971) and local government (1943-1959) subcommittees; Administrative papers including constitutions (1950-70), executive committee, branch secretary and speaker lists, agendas (1947-1974), minutes, files, correspondence and papers (1937-1974) of AGMs; annual reports (1934, 1938, 1946-1973); financial papers (1951-1974); conference papers, correspondence and files (1947-1974); general correspondence with other groups and branches (1948-1973); publications and leaflets (c.1920-73); papers of Southern and North Western federations (1949-1974) including minutes of executive committees and AGMs, reports and general files and similar papers of their local branches (1913-1974), with scrapbooks, financial papers and administrative correspondence.

Administrative / Biographical History

After decades of campaigning for women's suffrage, initiatives were established to lay the foundations of women's informed political participation in the early part of the twentieth century. From 1913, autonomous local Women Citizen's Associations were formed throughout the United Kingdom following Eleanor Rathbone's initiatives in Liverpool and Manchester. Their aim was to stimulate women's interest in social and political issues in order to prepare them for active citizenship. When it became evident in 1917 that women were about to be awarded the parliamentary vote, more of these organisations were established. In June of that year, the National Union of Women Workers called a meeting of British women s organisations at which the issues surrounding this were discussed. It was here that the NUWW drew up the Provisional Central Committee on the Citizenship of Women, with members drawn from interested societies, though acting in a private capacity. It was their intention to continue to stimulate interest through the work of the existing societies but also to help form local groups that would affiliate to this central body. At the November conference of the 42 affiliated societies of the National Union of Women Workers, the plans and procedures of the new body were accepted by the Executive Committee. The first election of the Central Committee took place that December, followed by a change of name to the National Women Citizen's Association. Helena Normanton was the first Secretary. In early 1918 the first of the local branches began to appear and when, in that year, the franchise was finally given to women, the numbers of affiliated organisations increased as suffrage groups changed their names and objectives to fit new circumstances. During the early 1920s a number of Women's Local Government Society branches affiliated, eventually becoming women's citizenship groups when the parent body dissolved in 1925. This saw the National Women Citizens Association assume greater responsibility for work in the area of local government through the second half of this decade and into the 1930s. Despite this, there was a decline in interest and activity in the group before the Second World War. However, this situation was reversed after the war. In 1947, the organisation amalgamated with the National Council for Equal Citizenship and then, in 1949, with Women for Westminster. There was a corresponding increase in activity leading up to the Festival of Britain in 1951, so that in the 1950s it was necessary to reorganise the local branches into five regional federations. Local branches continued to be established into the 1960s. However, there was a another decrease in activity and the NWCA disbanded in 1974 despite some local branches continuing and an attempt being made by some former officers to revive the group in 1975.

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

Related National Women Citizens Association artefacts are also held by the Women's Library, as well as the papers of Teresa Billington-Greig (see GB 106 7/TBG) and the papers of Helena Normanton (GB106 7/ HLN)