‘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?

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Mystery NUWT film

I’ve just had an exciting find and thought I’d share it straight away! It’s a very intriguing run of letters from 1936 in the East Anglian County Association correspondence which refer to a film being made by the Association.  The letters are between a member, Eve Casseretto, and the General Secretary Ethel Froud, and they talk about this film that was made without really discussing what it was about or why it was made (I assumed as part of a membership drive).  It was evident that the film had been made by Eve Casseretto but I had to go back to early 1935 correspondence to discover what it was about (this often happen as most of the folders are ordered chronologically starting with most recent and ending with the earliest material, meaning that, to make sense of things, I have to start at the back and read forwards.)

NUWT Collection ref UWT/D/392/1, ©Institute of Education Archive

As you can see in the letter above from April 1935 the film showed a ‘brief history of the Association, outdoor activities in county and city schools, and members at work and play’. Another letter mentions that it was 9.5mm and more letters discuss the addition of an extra piece of film to show the membership trophy.  The membership trophy was given to the branch/County Association with the largest increase in membership figures for that year and in 1935 this was the East Anglian County Association.  On 4th July 1935 Eve Casseretto wrote to Ethel Froud ‘I am glad to hear that you have no objection to the East Anglian film. We had started work in this direction although I was in great fear & trepidation lest you disapproved of the idea’. Obviously not as the next day Ethel Froud writes back ‘I am delighted to hear that arrangements are in progress for the film to be taken and we shall hope to have an exhibition of it in some way later’.  So, maybe the film was only organised by, rather than made by, Miss Casseretto? I wonder why she thought Ethel Froud might disapprove as, even this early on, the NUWT were very supportive of innovations in the use of film in education. 

The correspondence continues right through to 1960 but after 1936 there is no more mention of the film.  What happened to it? Where did it go? There were no films received with the NUWT Archive here at the Institute of Education so chances are the film itself stayed with the branch, or with Eve Casseretto herself. How successful was it? I wonder if it helped increase membership/was popular with other NUWT branches and County Associations? If so, it might have been a factor in the strong NUWT support for the 1951 equal pay propaganda film made by Jill Craigie ‘To Be a Woman’.  I’ve contacted the East Anglian Film Archive and the Norfolk Record Office in Norwich so if I find out any more about the film I’ll update this post!

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!

I’ve travelled the world to learn..

..I must return from Russia with love’

Yes, I’m still on the subject of Russia!  This coloured sketch of Leningrad reminds me of Lowry paintings with all the matchstick people, though maybe with slightly brighter colours!  It’s been cut out of a Russian newspaper and is in the folders I’ve been working on for the past few days, all related to Russia and a visit by Ethel Froud (NUWT General Secretary from 1913 until 1941) and another NUWT member Miss M. Conway, to Russia in 1926.  As I mentioned in my previous post the visit was organised by the Teacher’s Labour League and there was a full schedule for the visit as you can see below, this is only an outline of the visits planned for the first 8 days of the visit, there are another 2 pages following on from this! 

page from the diary of events for visit to Russia, 1926, Collection ref UWT/D/83/6 ©Institute of Education

This diary of events has proved really useful in deciphering some of the words on the back of the photographs I showed you all in the last post.  Following on from this diary are typed notes of each visit.  Most of these are quite clinical, outlining the history of where they visited, who they met without any personal impressions given.  However there are some bits which contain more personal reflection on the visit and some interesting comments.  An example of this is the notes from a visit to a Home for Aged Teachers (this could be the Home for Educational Workers which is photo 10 in the slide gallery on my last post).  Many of the teachers staying in the home spoke some French and English so were able to talk about their life in the home.  They had their own garden areas, music, radio, a political club and a circulating library.  They controlled their own household food and productions with a garden and handwork.  According to the writer of the report they were particularly interested in the NUWT woman secretary (there were 45 women and 5 men living in the home).  There is also lots of interesting details given on the maternity care and rights of women working in a Wool factory they visit, including details of the contents of each of the rooms in the factory crèche, right down to the number of bed, the towels in the room as well as the length of maternity leave – 2 months before and 2 months after birth.

Looking back at it now I wonder how controlled the visits were, did they really get a chance to speak to anyone honestly, were the people they did talk to chosen by their hosts.  As it stands though it’s a fascinating look at Russia through the eyes of women teachers from England.

Bonus photograph discovery!

There were a few years between the winding up of the NUWT in 1961 and the NUWT Collection being passed to the Institute of Education, London and in that time there seems to have been quite a bit of organising done by staff at the NUWT. As part of this process it looks like they separated out the photographs from the rest of the papers and placed the photographs in separate folders. The photographs in these folders are a great resource as they include many portrait photos of prominent members of the union. However part of me was quite disappointed to find these already catalogued and online and I was really hoping I would come across photos that had been missed from this sorting process.

A while ago I did find some fantastic photos of caravan schools (which I wrote about here) but after that nothing. Until that is, yesterday, when I found 18 photographs in a box of folders all marked ‘Russia’. And what a find! The photographs all date from 1926 when Ethel Froud (NUWT General Secretary) and Miss M. Conway (NUWT member) were part of a delegation organised by the Teacher’s Labour League to the Soviet Union.

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There is information written in pencil on the reverse of these photographs. I’ve includes it below, starting from the first photograph in the slide show –

    • ‘3rd Children’s Summer Home,  Sestroretsk’
    • ‘Central Educational Workers Union, Palace of Labour, Consultation with Comrade Matushkin, President of Leningrad Education Workers Union’
    • ‘Palace of Peter the Great, Peterhof’
    • This photograph has no description but includes Ethel Froud sitting second from the left, Leningrad, 1926
    • ‘Sestroretsk Children’s Home (chiefly orphans)’
    • Looks like the same children’s home as in the previous photograph
    • ‘At Central Club, of Rest Houses of Leningrad. T.U’s [Rock Islands, Dr Rapoport]’
    • ‘Creche Factory name of Comrade Kalturin [sic.] (Rev. textile worker wanted to blow up Court, Winter Palace, mined, ready went off to soon, hanged)’.  The factory must have been named after Stepan Khalturin (1857 – 1882) was part of the group ‘The People’s Will’ and he was executed for trying to blow up the Winter Palace.
    • ‘Office, Leningrad Square’
    • Rest Home of Educational Workers Union (Semi-sanatorium) Old Peterhof’
    • ‘School of Red Dawn, agricultural bias, near Peterhof’
    • ‘Vigalok, members of All Russia T.U., Moscow’
    • ‘Creche Kalturin Factory’
    • This photograph has no description but includes Ethel Froud sitting second from the right
    • ‘No. 193 Children’s Home, in New Peterhof (Palace of Grand Duke Nicholas, Uncle of Czar)’
    • ‘Catherine Guerre le 31 Juillet 1926, Leningrad’
    • Children’s Home [Grulris],  Sestroretsk

The NUWT Collection reference for these photographs is UWT/D/83/9.  Like everything else I write about here they are available for researchers to come in and use in the archive.  When the project is near completion the online catalogue will be updated with all the new cataloguing.