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Women's Cooperative Guild

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0097 COLL MISC 0268
Held at: British Library of Political and Economic Science
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Full title: Women's Cooperative Guild
Date(s): 1890-1938
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 11 volumes
Name of creator(s): Women's Cooperative Guild


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Co-operative Women's Guild was formed in 1883 following the first inclusion of a women's page in 'Co-operative News'. Its aim was to spread the knowledge of the benefits of co-operation and improve the conditions of women with the slogan "co-operation in poor neighbourhoods". In 1885 the organisation changed its name to the Women's Co-operative Guild. In 1889 Miss Margaret Llewelyn Davies (1861-1943) became General Secretary on a voluntary basis and Miss Lilian Harris was appointed Cashier to the Guild. Under the direction of these two women the organisation expanded rapidly from 51 branches and a membership of 1700 in 1889 to a peak of 1500 branches and a membership of 72,000 in 1933. By this time the organisation had again been changed to the Co-operative Women's Guild. Margaret Llewelyn Davies was the daughter of Reverend John Llewelyn Davies, a Christian Socialist and supporter of women's rights. She ran the Guild's affairs from her father's vicarage at Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumbria. Under her leadership the Guild became a campaigning body. After carrying out an investigation into the working conditions of the 2000 women employed in co-operative stores, the Guild advocated the introduction of a minimum wage. By 1912 the Co-operative Wholesale Society and 200 other retail stores had complied with the Guild's policy on wages.

Llewelyn Davies was a member of the National Union of Suffrage Societies, and she took part in several peaceful demonstrations, including a sandwich-board picket of the House of Commons in 1912. She also gave evidence to the Royal Commission on divorce reform and the Guild created great controversy by urging that divorce by mutual consent after two years separation should be legalised. Other campaigns instigated by Llewelyn Davies included an attempt to reduce the high infant-mortality rates by the introduction of improved ante-natal, natal, and post-natal care. Her publications include: 'Maternity' (1915); 'Life as We Have Known It' (1931).


Scope and content/abstract:

This collection consists of 11 volumes covering activities connected with the Guild, propaganda work, photographs, correspondence, material relating to the "Sheffield Enquiry", promotion of "peoples stores", speeches and leaflets. Includes:
Volume 2: Printed and manuscript material connected with the propaganda work organised by the Coronation Street branch of the Sunderland Co-operative Society, 1902-1904.
Volume 3: Album of photographs relating to the activities at Sunderland documented in volume 2. Includes image of central Guild banner, Guild chain of office and 1906 Guild Congress.
Volume 4: Manuscript, printed material and photographs relating to the activities documented in volume 2, 1902-1903.
Volume 5: Manuscript and printed material, drawings, paintings and photographs relating to the activities documented in volume 2, 1903-1904.
Volume 6: Manuscript and typed material relating to a Guild enquiry on co-operation among the poor in Sheffield, 1902. Arranged in order of each investigator' who participated in the enquiry. The volume also contains manuscript and printed material documenting the propaganda work organised by the Guild which related to the Kingsland Road store of the Bristol Co-operative Society, 1905-1906. Some of the letters, now merged into the chronological sequence, were originally clipped together and marked, in the hand of Miss Mary Spooner, whose reports on conditions figure among them, "Interesting experiment with an 'Out of Debt' Fund".
Volume 8: Press material and correspondence connected with the resignation of the General Secretaryship and Assistant Secretaryship, respectively, on 1 Oct 1921, of Margaret Llewelyn Davies and Lilian Harris.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The collection has been arranged into 11 bound volumes.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:


Finding aids:

Printed handlist available.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Output from CAIRS using template 14 and checked by hand on May 8, 2002

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
May 8, 2002

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