AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area

Abortion Law Reform Association

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0120 SA/ALR
Held at: Wellcome Library
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Abortion Law Reform Association
Date(s): 1930s-1980s
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 111 archive boxes, 55 transfer boxes, 1 box of videos, 1 o/s box and 1 folder
Name of creator(s): Abortion Law Reform Association


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) was founded in 1935 for the legalisation of abortion in certain circumstances. This was achieved by the 1967 Abortion Act: the Association continues to combat attempts to restrict the availability of legal abortions and to ensure that the intentions of the Act are being carried out.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Abortion Law Reform Association, its officers, and individuals connected with the attempt to reform the abortion laws, plus various associated materials. The administrative records of the ALRA c 1935-1978, include papers of Chairman Janet Chance, and, following the passing of 1967 Act making abortion legal, papers of the 'Lane' Committee on Working of the Aberdeen Act and Abortion Amendment Bills.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The collection is divided into sections as follows:
A. Records of the Abortion Law Reform Association, 1930-1970
B. Further papers of the Abortion Law Reform Association and its officers, 1934-1980
C. Papers of the Committee on the Working of the Abortion Act (The Lane Committee), 1971-1974
D. Reprints, articles, lectures, etc, 1935-1979
E. Press cuttings, 1930-1979
F. Reports of the Brook Advisory Centres, 1965-1981
G. Madeleine Simms' papers 1950s-1980s
H. Supplementary papers of the Abortion Law Reform Association 1961 - 1981

There are some inconsistencies in the numbering of individual sheets in Section A: gaps in the numbering do not signify missing items.

Conditions governing access:

The majority of the material is available subject to the usual conditions of access to Archives and Manuscripts material, after the completion of a Reader's Undertaking.

Some files in Sections A and C contain sensitive personal information and are subject to Restricted Access for 100 years from the last date on the file. Readers must complete a Restricted Access application form to apply for access to this material. File G.5 is also subject to a likewise 100 year restriction.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopies/photographs/microfilm are supplied for private research only at the Archivist's discretion. Please note that material may be unsuitable for copying on conservation grounds, and that photographs cannot be photocopied in any circumstances. Readers are restricted to 100 photocopies in twelve months. Researchers who wish to publish material must seek copyright permission from the copyright owner.

Finding aids:

The catalogue to this collection has not yet been fully converted to electronic form: for detail, and to order material, see hard-copy list available in the Wellcome Library. Copies of the catalogue are available on request.

Collection level description available on-line on the Wellcome Library website

Archival Information

Archival history:

In 1971 the Abortion Law Reform Association, having achieved a major reform of the law on abortion in 1967 with the passing of David Steel's Abortion Act, turned its activities to making sure the Act was implemented and countering moves to restrict it. In 1971 therefore, ALRA offered the records of its activities leading to the passing of the Act to Professor Raymond Illsley of the Institute of Medical Sociology, Aberdeen, for safekeeping and eventual cataloguing and indexing. Certain restrictions on access to the material were imposed. Further records were sent to Aberdeen in 1974. These two lots consisted of the records of ALRA, 1930-1970 (now listed in Section A of this list), and the major part of the presscuttings collection (now in Section E). Work was done on the collection by Jill Taylor and Jean Aitken Swan of the Institute of Medical Sociology, and the list of the records by Jean Aitken Swan forms the basis for Section A. Her description of the records and of the principles of arrangement will be found in the introduction to that Section.

In 1980 further papers were sent to Aberdeen by Mrs Eva Learner, Mrs Madeleine Simms and Mrs Vera Houghton, the main bulk of which consisted of the papers of the Lane Committee on the Working of the Abortion Act accumulated by Mrs Learner in her capacity as a member of the Committee. These papers were listed in the Index to Lane Committee and Other Papers received in Aberdeen 1980, compiled by Jean Aitken Swan. This list has been superseded by the rearrangement of the papers into sections B to F of the current list.

Immediate source of acquisition:

In 1982 it was decided that the long-term safekeeping and easier access to researchers of the records sent by ALRA to Aberdeen would be best served by transferring them to the Wellcome Library, which already held a number of collections on related topics (papers of Marie Stopes, the Eugenics Society, etc). The records were therefore sent to the Library in December 1982 (accession 123) and a certain amount of re-arrangement took place. Since then, additional accessions have been received: in 1983, Madeleine Simms' papers (acc.148); additional administrative records of ALRA in 1984 (acc.156), 1990 (acc.356) 1993 (acc.477) and 2000 (acc.837); Dame Josephine Barnes' papers from the Lane Committee, those which filled gaps in existing holdings being taken in 1990 (acc.348); additional Lane committee papers and Diane Munday's letters to the press, received in 1998 (acc.783); and press cuttings, received in 1985 (acc.224) and 1996 (acc.626). Accessions 224, 477, 626, 783 and 837 are not yet catalogued.

Allied Materials

Related material:

In the Wellcome Library: Readers interested in the subject of abortion will also find relevant material in the following collections: Family Planning Association archives (SA/FPA), records of the Joint Committee of Midwifery abortion survey in the archives of the National Birthday Trust Fund (SA/NBT/S), records of the Birth Control Campaign and Birth Control Trust (SA/BCC, SA/BCT), and of the National Abortion Campaign (SA/NAC). Letters received by Marie Stopes (PP/MCS) include requests for abortion, and there is also some material in this collection on abortifacients. There are also some pertinent files among the "Groups" files of the British Medical Association (SA/BMA) and the archives of the Eugenics Society (SA/EUG).

Elsewhere: The papers of Alistair Service are at the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

Publication note:

See the 'Birth Control and Eugenics Bibliography' on the Wellcome Library website.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Copied from the Wellcome Library catalogue 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:
Jan 2009

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"