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’

Volunteering at the Institute of Education

Guest post by Noreen Nicholson on volunteering on two IOE Library & Archive projects – ‘School Histories’ and ‘A New Perspective on Education in the 20th Century: Cataloguing the Papers of the National Union of Women Teachers’

An article in the Summer 2010 issue of Alumni Life announced a forthcoming project on school histories and asked for volunteers to help with various tasks. I thought it looked interesting, applied, and was soon spending a few hours twice a week reading books about a great variety of schools with a view to categorising them for cataloguing: e.g. type (independent, grammar, comprehensive), level of education provided, ages catered for, single sex or mixed, and so on. This was not always easy as many schools, especially the oldest, had gone through several stages of development since their foundation which might lie centuries back in medieval times.  Volunteers were also asked to identify items of interest – “juicy bits” – and photographs suitable for inclusion in a study pack for schools wanting to involve pupils in tracing their history. A few of the books were immensely long and written in a turgid style, and I found myself wondering who – unless having some personal connection with the particular institution – would want to read them.  Others were well written and illustrated and it was tempting to spend too long on each rather than simply to skip through extracting relevant information.

The cataloguing exercise completed, I spent some time compiling a glossary for the study pack and helping with the summary of the history of education it was to include.  My only regret was that the team of volunteers was never brought together, as I think it would have been helpful to exchange views and experiences.  But, as different people were free on different days, this was not feasible.

The project enabled me to renew and expand the knowledge of the history of education gained on the MA course I had taken at the Institute some 30 years previously, and from further research on teacher training colleges in the nineteenth century. I enjoyed the whole experience immensely and knew that I would miss both the work and the feeling of being involved with something so worthwhile.

Before my withdrawal symptoms became too marked it was suggested that I might become involved with the work being undertaken on the archives of the National Union of Women Teachers.  The vast amount of material deposited at the Institute in the 1960s, following the closure of the Union, had never before been fully and systematically catalogued.  The prospect of continuing to work at the Institute was appealing, and so I have over the last year been gathering material about the Union and about some individual members using various sources – minute books, correspondence, the NUWT periodical Woman Teacher, the Dictionary of National Biography and other reference books.

©Institute of Education Archive

With this project I moved into the, to me, relatively unfamiliar territory of education in the earlier part of the twentieth century and of the feminist organisations which were established in those years – some concerned mainly with securing the franchise for all women, others with gaining parity in pay and working conditions with their male colleagues. Perhaps inevitably I have become quite attached to several of the NUWT pioneers and would love to know more about them, their education, lives at and outside of work, also about the schools in which they taught, and their pupils. One whose career I have looked into in some depth is Theodora Bonwick, at first because of her links with parts of London which I know well, later because I was struck by her forceful personality and her progressive views:  she introduced a system of independent learning for older girls into her school near Kings Cross, and campaigned for the inclusion of sex education  in the school curriculum.

Very grainy photograph of Theodora Bonwick from a newspaper obituary notice

Occasionally a photograph has been available and this makes the teachers more real, though in group photographs the prevalence of cloche hats and long, shapeless coats and skirts makes it difficult to distinguish individuals.

Over the years I have been involved in several types of voluntary work: as school governor, literacy tutor, charity trustee and in the Witness Support service, all of them interesting and rewarding. The last two years at the Institute have provided a very different experience, more akin to academic research. While new technology has made it easier to track down sources and trace connections, it cannot as yet completely replace ferreting about among old records. Among the various aspects of the NUWT’s story which I enjoyed following up, through letters and minutes of committee meetings, was how and when the Union’s archive came to be housed at the Institute of Education

I am most grateful to Kathryn Hannan for giving me this opportunity and for bearing with my sometimes eccentric ways of working.  Older people such as myself are often counselled “use it or lose it” – I hope to continue “using it” for a long time yet.

I would just like to add how grateful I and the rest of the archive staff are to Noreen for all her research on the NUWT.  It is adding so much value to the catalogue and other resources on the collection, such as the NUWT LibGuide. We have many plans for development of the NUWT Collection as the focus of teaching resources and as part of this planned project we would like to involve more volunteers on a variety of tasks/learning skills – I hope they get as much out of it as Noreen has!

Appeal to London teachers – Interested in using primary sources in the classroom?

Are you interested in using archives in the classroom but not sure where to start? 

Our plan to develop one of our collections as a teaching resource for Key Stages 3 and 4 could be the place to start.  We are working to submit a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a well-structured education programme where we will link up with schools in the London area for whom we will create teaching resources across all the key stages.  If you think this sounds like something you would be interested in we would love to hear from you.

This project will focus on the National Union of Women Teachers Collection held at the IOE Archive.  The NUWT were a women’s teaching union, established in 1904 to fight for equal pay for women teachers.  The union was disbanded in 1961 when equal pay for women teachers was implemented.   It is a rich and fascinating collection of over 400 boxes of material, including correspondence, photographs, campaign material, educational reports and publications, minutes and press cuttings.  This covers a huge range of subjects from equal pay, equal educational opportunities and equal suffrage to peace and disarmament, evacuation and Air Raid Precautions, sex education in schools, juvenile delinquency and support for female Parliamentary and local election candidates.

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The images shown here give an example of the variety of material in the collection.  The post-war poster (UWT/D/268/1) urging people to save gas and electricity is one of many campaign posters, we also have campaign posters for the Equal Pay campaign, equal suffrage, and opposition to the non-intervention policy in the Spanish Civil War.  Many organisations sent their campaign leaflets to the NUWT including some surprising ones such as the British Union of Fascists as you can see from the letter (UWT/D/251/2).  Needless to say the NUWT did not support the BUF but it is interesting to have these different political viewpoints in the collection and this variety of sources could be very useful for teaching purposes.  The NUWT were involved in the campaign to give British women the right to determine their own nationality on marriage to someone who was not a UK citizen – British men already had this right (UWT/D/216/1).   This material could be very useful in discussing current debates on citizenship, immigration and equal rights.   We have photographs dating back to the early 1900s including examples of demonstrations against cuts in education and for equal suffrage (UWT/G/2/4 and G/2/31).   With funding from the National Cataloguing Grants Programme, the History of Education Society and the IOE’s own Friends of the Newsam Library and Archives, the entire collection is now catalogued and available for online searching.   If you would like to read more about the collection you can access the project blog at  – and search the online catalogue at

What will you get out of it? Well, we will provide opportunities for students and teachers to visit the archives to engage with original source material.  We will also provide teaching resources with digitised material for use in the classroom and have a dedicated digitisation room ready for use.

Using archives in education can help bring the past alive by creating an inspiring way for students to learn about and engage with the past and using a range of original source material in different media supports visual, audio and kinaesthetic learning.  The archive staff have experience of creating teaching resources and working with student teachers to help them create learning activities so we have an understanding of the types of material that could be of use in the classroom.

If you would be interested in finding out more or taking part in this project please contact us by Friday 9th November at:
arch.enquiries [at]

Or call us on 020 7612 6983 or 020 7911 5568.