Reminiscence Workshop: Told & Untold Stories

This space has far too quiet lately!  We’ve been busy delivering workshops as well as preparing for several new exciting projects, including a new exhibition, upcoming walking tours, and gearing up for new community-led projects.  I’ll update more on that later, but for now, a recent reminiscence workshop we held…

We all know that archives are a necessary stop for many historical researchers and family historians, looking to gather information.

At the same time, archives (with their many stories, both familiar and unfamiliar) are also catalysts for hearing, sharing, and gathering the experiences of others. With this in mind, we held a reminiscence workshop, Told & Untold Stories: Protecting London’s Children During the Second World War, here in the IOE Archives during May.

Evacuees  Girls Day School Trust Archive Collection

Girls Day School Trust Archive Collection

The event, offered in conjunction with the Raphael Samuel History Centre’s month-long heritage festival, London at War, explored the experiences of London ‘s children, along with the adults working to keep them safe. We uncovered untold stories from our
archive collections, and heard from participants’ own histories, while lecturers and PhD candidates shared their research.

Discussion often revolved around the theme of evacuation: those who stayed in London and the UK, and those who went abroad. Attendee Margaret described the ‘mutual envy between the people who stayed and the people who went… My parents were a bit smug about not sending us to America or Canada’.

Reminiscence Session

Reminiscence Session

Meg, who was evacuated to America, described her time abroad as a ‘huge educational experience’, having discovered other views. Margaret echoed those sentiments, recalling a friend who returned with surprise that England was a monarchy. Mary
described her childhood in Wimbledon, and the amount of bombing she and her family experienced.

We had our own collections on display: from the bomb damage of schools and the implementation of air raid precautions found in the Girls Day School Trust
collection, to the National Union of Women Teachers and their support of teachers sent to teach evacuated children. Teachers wrote to the NUWT, frustrated at being separated from their former pupils, others wrote to express how enjoyable the experience had been. Upon returning to a crowded London school following the war, one teacher complained of the ’44 hooligans’ she had in her class.

More than anything, the NUWT and its members were concerned about the impact of war on their students.

The shadow of war has darkened our personal and professional outlook; its effect on the education of our children is one of the gravest of its menaces. Whoever made this war it was not the children, and it is our part to see that they suffer no more than can be helped from its horrors and deprivations
Ellen Hamlyn, London Unit President, NUWT
September 1940

A huge thank you to everyone who made the trip to the IOE to attend this session.  The only request from attendees was for a longer session, as everyone had so many compelling stories to share; so, we will definitely offer similar workshops in the future.  Also, a big thanks to the Girls Day School Trust alumnae network for sharing this event with their members!  While we have GDST archives in our collections, it was great to hear the experiences of GDST alum, firsthand.

These reminiscences are in the process of being made available as audio oral histories online, so keep your eyes peeled! If you know of a group that would be interested in a reminiscence workshop using the IOE archives, please send me an email at, or call 020 7911 5483.

Dating photographs

… or not dating them as the case may be! Recently I’ve been trying to identify the individual members of the NUWT in the photographs in the Collection.

Identifying the women has been a lot tougher than I’d originally thought it would be so I’m hoping some of my you might be able to help!  Many of the group photographs contain large numbers of women, often wearing hats which partially obscure their face, and some of these photographs are a bit faded with age. Ah the age – there’s another problem, many of these photos are not dated!  As these are often more casual shots the women are not always looking directly at the camera, making it more difficult to identify.  For some women, generally members of the Central Council, we have official portraits.  However even these are problematic as they do not always give the name of the individual or the date.

So here’s two photographs/one individual I’ve been puzzling over – let’s see what you think.

UWT_G_1_13 Miss Cutten web

Photo 1 ©Institute of Education Archive

UWT_G_2_33 miss Cutten and unidentified woman

Photo 2 ©Institute of Education Archive

  • Is the women in photo 1 the same as the women on the left in photo 2?
  • What date would you give these photos?

Unlike most of the collection the photograph section was already on the catalogue system when I started this project.  Some are catalogued individually, others in groups.  Photo 1 is dated 1918/1919 on the catalogue but has no date on the photo and photo 2 is dated 1920s on the catalogue entry, again with no date on the photo itself.  On the back of photo 1 it says Miss [Cutten] – I’m pretty sure it’s Cutten but the writing is quite hard to make out.  I’m sure the women on the left in photo 2 is the same as photo 1 but the problem here is that if photo 1 is Miss Lizzie Cutten she died in 1920.  So either the name is wrong, one or both of the dates are wrong, or I have two different women. [Are you confused yet? I'm confusing myself here with trying to work this out so please bear with me!] Lizzie Cutten was born in 1888 so it could be that photo 1 was taken  much earlier than 1918 but I don’t know enough about historic fashion and hairstyles to even take an educated guess. Can anyone help me out here with dating these based on the fashion and hair styles?

And I’ve not even started trying to figure out who the women on the right is in photo 2!

Women’s Educational Union, Scotland

I couldn’t let St Andrews day pass without a blog post! Last year I talked about ‘The Word’ - the  journal of the United Socialist Movement which was edited and published by Guy Aldred in Glasgow. This year I’m going to stick to women teachers as I found a folder of material on the Women’s Educational Union.  They were the nearest equivalent to the NUWT in Scotland, fighting for equal pay for women teachers, and from the looks of their journal Pass It On they similarly campaigned on a range of feminist and equal rights issues.

©Institute of Education Archive

©Institute of Education Archive

The comment from the NUWT member reads

Just [received] from Scotland.  Good isn’t it. What do you think of a monthly sheet of [pass] like this! Beginning of paper.

From this you can see that it met with the approval of the NUWT! It might even have been part of the inspiration behind the NUWT starting The Woman Teacher just one year later in 1919.

This is just a quick post and the real purpose of it, asides from it being St Andrews Day, is that I can’t locate any archive collection of the Womens’ Education Union. So if anyone knows where their papers are held I’d love to know.  I can’t find any clues to where they’re held online – I do so hope they have survived!

Some other awesome archives

One of my favourite archive blogs for surprises is Awesome Archives. Here’s the blog synopsis -

A celebration of archives, archival material, and the amazing history that they protect.

I’d highly recommend adding it to your blog feed.  Guaranteed every time I check this blog there’s something new to catch my interest.  Today it was a colourful map from Beringer Bros Winery in California, which led me to the original blog ‘Quick Kills’.  The aim of the ‘Quick Kills’ project at Bancroft Library, California is to increase access to ‘legacy’ collections by speedy processing of about 160 priority collections.  The blog provides short insights into collections, usually one or two images with a nice, concise description.

While browsing their posts I noticed some familiar looking documents – suffrage material including a Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) poster for a demonstration in Hyde Park.  The material is from the McLean family papers, a family from California. This includes the papers of a daughter Fannie McLean, a suffragist and teacher.  The papers shown here even include a leaflet she wrote ‘Why the Teacher should be a Suffragist’ - sounds like she would have been a kindred spirit to NUWT members!

Image re-blogged from ‘Quick Kills’ at Bancroft Library tumblr

There is a finding aid to the collection, which can be accessed via the Online Archive of California.

Married Women and the right to work in Canada 1945 – 1970 – seminar at the Institute of Historical Research

I was just browsing the seminar series’ run by the Institute for Historical Research at the University of London and spotted a new series (well one I certainly hadn’t noticed before) – Gender and History in the Americas.  I thought the upcoming seminar Ladies, legislation and letters to Lester Pearson: policy and debates about married women’s right to work in Canada, 1945-1970 by Helen Glew (University of Westminster) sounded particularly interesting.

The National Union of Women Teachers campaigned vigorously on the issue of the marriage bar, calling for its removal for all women workers but campaigning particularly strongly for its removal for women teachers.  London County Council (LCC) rescinded the rule barring women teachers from working in 1935, with much of the credit for this decision going to NUWT and LCC member Agnes Dawson.  However this didn’t happen nationwide for women teachers until 1944 and even then the NUWT records record instances of dismissal of married women teachers into the late 1940s.  The NUWT collection does contain information on education and status of women in Canada but I couldn’t find anything particular to the marriage bar in Canada so I’ll be interested to here more about this at the seminar.

If you’re in London and would like to attend this seminar it is on Tuesday 3rd December at 5.30pm in Senate House. These seminars are free and open to all.  It says this seminar is at Stuart House, which is adjacent to Senate House – I found this map which shows the location.

If you’d like to know more on the NUWT campaign against the marriage bar you can find more by searching our catalogue for the term ‘marriage bar’