Miscellaneous – the most dreaded of terms!

I wasn’t really looking forward to cataloguing a folder called ‘Miscellaneous correspondence’ as this could mean a number of things – a huge range of subjects covered, material of not much interest thereby classed as the dreaded ‘misc’, correspondence all mixed-up and out of sequence.  However I have been very pleasantly surprised, and also slightly baffled as to why someone classed it as miscellaneous.   It all relates to equal pay and equal opportunities for women and dates from 1917 – 1918 so I’d say it’s pretty subject and time-frame specific really!  The letter shown below really piqued my interest – NUWT (at that time NFWT) support for the application of a women, Miss H. Normanton, to be admitted as a law student in the Society of the Inner Temple. 

NUWT Collection ref UWT/D/381/2 ©Institute of Education Archives

There are a two letters from Helena Normanton to Ethel Froud from 1918 where she talks about her application for admission to the Middle Temple.  She wrote to Ethel Froud on February 11 asking if the NFWT could write to various national newspapers in support of her application (the letter shown above will probably have been a standard letter the NFWT then sent to various newspapers).  In the second later, dated February 13, she writes that ‘so far – everything is going swimmingly… The Press have been most courteous and helpful in every way’. Well, I’m glad to say her optimism was not unfounded as on 24 Dec 1919 Helena was admitted as a student at the Middle Temple, the day after the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act received Royal Assent. According to the biography from the Women’s Library catalogue (where her archive is held) she was the first woman to be briefed at High Court (successful divorce petition) in 1922, the first woman to be briefed at the North London Sessions (1926) and the first woman to prosecute in a murder trial (1948).

Interestingly she was also a qualified teacher so maybe she knew Ethel Froud through the teaching profession as well as through their common cause of equal rights for women.  Helena Normanton worked as a teacher in my hometown of Glasgow, at Glasgow High School for Girls and at Glasgow University. As she worked in Scotland though it is unlikely she was ever a member of the NUWT as there was a separate organisation for Scotland the ‘Women’s Educational Union’.

So, no more shall I automatically dread ‘Miscellaneous’ instead I’ll be optimistic about what treasures may lie within!


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