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Ladies Committee of Bedford College

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0505 BC GB121
Held at: Royal Holloway, University of London
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Full title: Ladies Committee of Bedford College
Date(s): 1849-1893
Level of description: Subfonds of Bedford College
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Extent: 1 box or 0.01 cubic metres
Name of creator(s): Bedford College | Ladies Committee
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

The early management structure of Bedford College was decided upon in 1849 by several provisional committees set up for the purpose, and, despite the original wish of Mrs Reid and her friends to keep the management of the College in the hands of women, relegated the executive authority over the propriety and comfort of the pupils to the four women who sat on the Council. Owing to the lack of Committee experience of the women involved in the venture, made clear in the provisional stages of the project, a decision was made that the Ladies Committee should retain no executive function, but merely be an advisory body.

The Ladies Committee was active as an advisory force, giving the Council its opinion on developments in the College and educational questions, but it faced a constant struggle to maintain adequate Committee procedures, only drawing up the requested by-laws in 1850-1851. These provided for the title of President for the Chairman of the Committee, but the office of Chair was not appointed systematically, and the meetings were often disorderly. Revised by-laws and Rules were drawn up in 1855, in which systems for electing representatives to the Council were outlined. The Committee also undertook yearly appointment of a salaried Lady Resident who was responsible for fees, household supervision and discipline in the College, until tenure of the office became permanent in 1854.

A group of Lady Visitors was formed from the original members of the Ladies Committee (which was often known as the 'Committee of Lady Visitors'), mainly for the purpose of chaperonage and discipline of the young ladies attending lectures. At a meeting of the provisional Ladies Committee in Aug 1849, rules for the conduct of students were drawn up, as was a timetable of supervision. No Professor's wife was permitted to be a Lady Visitor, and no Professor could reprimand a pupil except in the presence of a Lady Visitor. Twenty-one Lady Visitors were appointed in Oct 1849, though the draft constitution allowed for a maximum of forty, and numbers soon increased to thirty-nine. A locked book was kept for the Lady Visitors to enter remarks and suggestions. As the years went on, numbers became more and more difficult to maintain due to the expenditure of time required from the role. Despite the introduction of auxiliaries and chaperonage fees, numbers continued to decline until chaperonage was dispensed with in 1893.

Already on the wane due to the emergence of the Reid Trustees and the prominence of the ladies on the Council, the powers of the Ladies Committee were further reduced upon the Incorporation of the College in 1869, when it failed to be given an important place in the constitution and had its numbers limited to 14. The last meeting was held in April 1893, though it had ceased to exert any real power for the preceding twenty-four years.


Scope and content/abstract:

Minutes of the Ladies Committee, 1849-1893, including the provisional Ladies Committee set up in 1849 and containing a list of the original Lady Visitors and a draft of the rules concerning the conduct of the young ladies; locked book containing notes by the Lady Visitors, 1850-1851, and lists of members of the House Committee, Library Committee, Education Committee and the Council, 1882-1893.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

2 volumes

Conditions governing access:

Open to all registered users of the Royal Holloway, University of London Archives.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies may be supplied, subject to the condition of the original. Requests to publish original material should be directed to the College Archivist.

Finding aids:

'A catalogue of the Archives of Bedford College (University of London), 1849-1985' by Claire Gobbi Daunton and Elizabeth Bennett, 1987.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The papers were transferred from the Bedford College Archives when the College merged with Royal Holloway in 1985.

Immediate source of acquisition:

See Archival history.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Royal Holloway, University of London Archives contain photographs of various members of the Ladies Committee and Lady Visitors (BC PH1).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

A history of Bedford College for Women, 1849-1937 (Oxford University Press, London, 1939), by Dame Margaret Jansen Tuke; Educating women: a pictorial history of Bedford College, University of London, 1849-1985 (Alma Publishers, Surrey, 1991), by Dr Linna Bentley.

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Sarah Aitchison as part of the AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with general International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Mar 2000

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