Primary Sources: Women in the National Archives (UK)

Women in the National Archives includes original documents related to the suffrage question in Britain, the Empire, and the colonial territories, along with a finding aid to women’s studies resources located in the National Archives at Kew.

The focus of the collection is on the campaign for women’s suffrage in Britain, 1903-1928, and the granting of women’s suffrage in colonial territories, 1930-1962. They include papers on government and police handling of the suffrage question, photographs and descriptions of leading suffragettes, police reports on suffrage meetings and disturbances, petitions, newspaper clippings, extracts from Parliamentary debates, Cabinet opinion and Committee reports on franchise bills, including the work of the Equal Franchise Committee of 1927-1928. There are also various sources relating to the arrest of suffragettes, their transit in police vans and treatment in prison. Accounts from suffragettes and their supporters, and reports from prison authorities provide details of hunger strikes, the ‘Cat and Mouse’ campaign and forced feeding. Prominent suffragettes include Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, the Pankhursts, Emily Wilding Davison, Clara Giveen and Rachel Peace (alias Jane Short).

The finding aid brings together the results of a five year project by staff at Kew and enables researchers to quickly locate details of any document relating to women in the National Archives at Kew. It is far more detailed and extensive than anything available elsewhere on the web and has the benefit of ranging across all of the classes of material held at the National Archives. The main topics include abortion, contraception, conditions of employment for women, divorce, domestic service, education, teaching and training, employment of women, equal opportunities and pay, health, marriage, maternity and child welfare, munitions work by women, nursing and midwifery, prostitution, single parent mothers, widows, women’s organizations and women’s suffrage.