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!


National Union of Women Teachers – exhibition in Institute of Education foyer

If you’re visiting the Institute of Education, London, anytime soon you’ll get to see the exhibition I’ve put up in the foyer space outside the library. The exhibition is to highlight my work cataloguing the records of the National Union of Women Teachers and to highlight some of the main themes and subjects which run through the collection.  Of course I knew that equal pay had to feature in there as it was the original reason for the founding of the union, and indeed, they disbanded when equal pay for women teachers was achieved.  However it was really hard to choose which other subject areas to focus on as there were so many to choose from. I’ve tried to give a brief overview in the exhibition in the hope that it entices people enough to want to learn more!

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What is it about display cases? – they always looks so much bigger when they’re empty than when you start filling them!   A colleague suggested measuring the display case and laying it out on a table first to work out where I would put everything (the brown tape denotes the edges of the case).  This was a great idea as I quickly realised I had too much stuff for the space – better to realise this in the office than deliberating over material in the foyer!

Already I’m thinking ‘oh I wish I’d put … in’ but I thought it was better to focus on a few areas rather than try to cover everything – I’d have needed a much bigger space for that!  If anyone has any comments or suggestions on what I’ve done – either seeing it here on the blog or in person – then please do drop me an e-mail at k.hannan [at]

not just some more ‘old papers’

This morning started with a folder called, unassumingly, ‘Old Papers’.  The past few boxes have been a bit of a disorganised mix of documents, possibly all collected together from the office of a Central Council member prior to the union disbanding.  These have contained a lot of duplication and Ministry of Education printed reports rather than NUWT produced reports or correspondence so I wasn’t expecting much from this folder. However I was surprised and delighted to find lots of photographs inside! 

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My favourite being these photos of a celebration to mark Agnes Dawson’s year in office as Deputy Chairman of London County Council, and to celebrate her 60th birthday.  Handily enough the letter (also shown in the slide show above) was attached to the photos and gives us all the information on the event depicted and one of the photos shows her being presented with the album referred to in the letter.

If there’s time at the end of the project I’ll scan them all but for now I thought I’d scan a few which are different to the usual photographs in the collection.  Photographs of demonstrations, marches and NUWT meetings are the most common themes, with portrait photographs of individual members also making up a significant number.  This folder is different in that it contains more photographs of social events. 

I’ve yet to find any clues regarding the whereabouts of Agnes Dawson’s papers so I’m particularly happy to find these less formal photographs of her to complement what we already have in the NUWT collection.  Hopefully at some point her papers will turn up somewhere as she was a very important figure, not just in the history of the NUWT, but also in the wider women’s movement. A great example of this is in regards to the marriage bar – it was Agnes Dawson who moved a resolution on London County Council in 1935 which meant that women teachers and women doctors were from then on allowed to keep their jobs after marriage.  I’ve put some information, and another photograph of Agnes Dawson in my current exhibition in the foyer of the library.  Tomorrow I’ll remember to bring my camera in and take some photos of the exhibition to post here.

‘The Tortoise.. and the Hare?’

This afternoon’s cataloguing involved an exciting late-afternoon – a letter from Winifred Holtby, journalist and author. I’m currently enjoying reading her novel South Riding about a fictional rural community in Yorkshire.  The main characters include some strong females such as Sarah Burton, the idealistic young Headteacher of the local school, and Mrs Beddows, the sole female voice on the local County Council.  This novel discusses so many of the issues which have come up in my cataloguing of the NUWT archive – the marriage bar, inequalities in status and pay of women teachers, feminism, social justice, rural education, the list goes on – needless to say I’m really enjoying this book and will definitely be going on to find out more about the author.

So far I know that she was a lifelong friend of Vera Brittain, that she was involved in the Six Point Group and the League of Nations Union, and now I know she was also a friend and supporter of the NUWT.

©Institute of Education Archives

Dear Miss Froud,
I send you this Speakers Bell with gratitude and affection for all the fine work of the NUWT.
The Tortoise, symbolic of the NUT, speaks for itself.
Yours ever, Winifred Holtby

In her reply Ethel Froud refers to it as a Chairman’s Bell so I assume it would be used to announce each speaker at a meeting. I’m not sure what the Tortoise is in reference to, maybe there was an inscription or drawing on the bell or maybe the design of the bell itself – the correspondence itself shows that maybe the meaning was quite illusive. Ethel Froud writes ‘whilst agreeing that the tortoise is indeed symbolic of the NUT, we will bear in mind the fable of the hare and the tortoise and will hope that this aspect was far from your mind when you chose the design’.  Very intriguing!  I wonder what happened to the bell?

Happy Valentine!?

Yes, I know Valentine’s Day was over two months ago but I’ve only just found this in an archive box this so I’m going to post it anyway, better late than never!

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I knew that the NUWT had a Valentine Card appeal as I’d come across references to it in correspondence and there’s even a black and white image of the Valentine card in The story of the NUWT, Muriel Pierotti.  However until now I hadn’t come across an actual card. The idea behind the campaign was that members would fill these out and send them to their local MP urging them to support equal pay.

It includes a number of quotes on equal pay and then the greetings page

From _ _ _ to remind _ _ _ that women teachers expect the Government to implement, without further delay, their declared policy of Equal Pay for Equal Work.

Now why couldn’t i have found this in a box at the start of February?!

‘Sauce… and the Gander!’

I just love the surprises that can come out of the most uniform looking boxes of material. Just the other day I was cataloguing a box filled with minutes books from the London Unit of the NUWT. Down at the bottom of the box was this innocuous looking brown paper parcel –

NUWT Collection reference UWT/D/400/4 ©Institute of Education Archive

The label on the front states ”Sauce… and the Gander!’, a one-act propaganda play, written by a member and given to the Union for the benefit of the Old Guard Fund’.

‘Propaganda play’ immediately made me suspect it might be very worthy but more than slightly dull, however I really enjoyed reading it! And read it I did, yes I know, that in terms of the volume of cataloguing I should have just skimmed it, but I’m a very fast reader and once I’d started I just had to find out what happened!

NUWT Collection reference UWT/D/400/4 ©Institute of Education Archive

The play is about the Bull family and the family help Mrs Higgins. It sets out the family relations through a series of funny chats and encounters. We hear about the problems Mrs Higgins had with her husband spending all the wages on alcohol, until she stopped feeding him and he got into line!  The unequal family power relations are made clear and we find out that Mr Bull is a bit of a bully and thinks he is in charge.  Mrs Bull is very non-confrontational and a bit of a doormat really.. or so we think! The premise is that Mr Bull received a letter from his lawyer stating he was sole inheritor of his Aunt Priscilla’s estate.  She was very rich so he is expecting to inherit a lot, he uses this expectation to lord it over everyone else, dictating what his children will be able to do and planning a trip to America, on his own, leaving his wife and children behind. The lawyer comes to the house, asks the whole family to gather in the living room and tells them it’s all a mistake.  Aunt Priscilla had changed her will and mistakenly the wrong one has been read b the clerk sending out the letter.  In actual fact she left everything to Mrs Bull (with a generous bequest to Mrs Higgins) as she felt the women more worthy of the money – Aunt Priscilla had been a feminist and member of the suffrage movement.  So Mrs Bull puts Mr Bull in his place and decides to head off to America herself, with her children, leaving Mr Bull at home in the care of Mrs Higgins.  The implication is that Mrs Higgins will get Mr Bull into line and treating his wife as an equal, even if he still doesn’t believe in it. 

 The play was written by a Miss R. Aldred, an NUWT member from the East Ham branch.  She donated the play to the NUWT to be used by local NUWT drama groups to promote the cause of equality.  The parcel also contains the correspondence regarding this arrangements.

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!