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National Women Citizens Association

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 106 5NWC
Held at: Women's Library
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Full title: National Women Citizens Association
Date(s): 1913-1975
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 33 boxes, 1 OS box, plus objects
Name of creator(s): National Women Citizens Association
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The National Women Citizens Association (1917-1975) was founded in 1917 at a time of concern in how women could be active citizens. 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 Jun 1917, 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 Nov 1917 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 Dec 1917, 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 NWCA 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.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the National Women Citizens Association including agendas, papers and minutes of the Executive Committee (1949-1974), the Council (1968-1970), organisational working party (1962-1965) and Parliamentary (1949-1955, 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.1920-1973); 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. The majority of the papers date from 1945-1974.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

This list is a re-structured list created in 1990, and a version of lists compiled in the 1960s-1970s. As at 1990 some lists only existed in manuscript. Other records included in the 1990 list were additional accessions that came to the Library in 1983 (Accessions 1983/04 and 1983/05). These additional accessions included national and federation minutes and records of the Crawley and Beddington branches.

Some correspondence files (see section 5NWC/1/H) have been removed from this archive, as they mainly contained copies of published material sent to the NWCA by other organisations, as follows: The files mostly consisted of publications, which were placed in TWL Printed Collections (periodicals and pamphlet collections): Abortion Law Reform Association; Age Concern; Business & Professional Women (periodical); Consumer Council; Council of Europe (bulletin); Disablement Income Group; Family Planning Association; Income Tax Payers Society; International Alliance of Women; International Planned Parenthood Federation; National Campaign for Nursery Education; National Council for Civil Liberties; South Eastern Gas Consultative Council; Women's Advisory Council on Solid Fuel. The following files, again, mostly containing publications, were placed with the originating organisation's archive: Josephine Butler Society; Equal Pay Campaign Committee; Fawcett Society and Library; National Council of Social Service (including Women's Group on Public Welfare); Six Point Group; Women's Freedom League (bulletins only).

In Oct 2005 the list was further edited in order to enable it to be made available online. Detailed lists that had been included as appendices in the 1990 were incorporated into the body of the catalogue. The list was divided into two parts, and these were numbered 5NWC/1 and NWC/2. Part 2 was re-numbered, from 5NWC/AA-5NWC/NN to NWC/2/A-NWC/2/N. At some stage the archive needs to be physically sorted and as a whole, and reference numbers checked.

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.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:


Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by the organisation in three accessions between 1982 and 1983.

Allied Materials

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).

The Women's Library Printed Collections holds the following related material by the National Women Citizens' Association :The constitution of the National Women Citizens' Associations : as finally passed at a Special General Meeting of representatives of the local Women Citizens' Associations on 8 Nov 1918, revised at the Annual General Meeting 26 May 1936; Biennial report : for the year ending ... 1936; Women Citizens' Associations and what they are, 1933; Conference of women members of local Government authorities in England and Wales. Reports for 1948-1971; Handbook - for the use of branches and groups 1973 (oversize pamphlet). These, and additional NWCA publications can be seen at class number 323.3406041 NAT. Additional material in the printed collections includes a Guide to local government in England and Wales 1950 (class number 362.10941).

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
This document was generated by Javascript from an HTML form which structured the input according to the elements of ISAD(G) Version 2. Collection description by the Archives Hub, Nov 2001, amended by Genesis Project Manager, Apr 2002. Fawcett Library Catalogue by Penny Baker 24 May 1990 (with assistance from Dorothy Green, an archivist from Smith College Massachusetts who worked on this collection as a volunteer in the winter of 1988-1989). Edited for AIM25 by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Dec 2008

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