NUWT collection catalogue now online!

I feel like I should have a big drum roll here as I’m so excited to announce that the National Union of Women Teachers collection is now available online!  The catalogue is free-text searchable meaning that if the search term you are looking for appears anywhere in the catalogue entry then your search will pull it up and highlight it for you.

To get to the information itself? Well it’s so easy, you can just search for any terms you want in the basic search box and it will bring up all the records held at the IOE which contain that term.  Alternatively you can follow these steps to narrow your search down to items within the NUWT Collection.  Here is a visual ‘how to’ for narrowing your search –

search ‘how to’

I thought a bit more explanation on the organisation of the collection and the way in which I catalogued it would be useful to include here. If you remember from the beginning of this blog, the aim was to catalogue 370 boxes of ‘subject files’.  Well we thought all those boxes were subject files but in actual fact they contained subject files and a whole lot more! I found minute books, photographs, membership figures, account books and equal pay campaign material – all in addition to the huge range of subject files. To reflect the different types of material the collection is divided up into 7 sections –

  1. NUWT Committee records
  2. NUWT Administrative records
  3. NUWT Financial records
  4. NUWT Subject files
  5. NUWT Branch and County Association records
  6. NUWT Photographs
  7. NUWT Publications

The subject folders are catalogued at folder level, which means that there is a detailed summary of the contents of the folder, often with lists of any publications or reports in the folder.  If there are photographs or campaign posters this will be highlighted in the description as well.  Any minute books or account books are catalogued to volume level, giving the covering dates of the volume and the committee or branch they relate to.  Some of the volumes, particularly the branch minute books, are often catalogued in more detail in order to give an idea of the work that NUWT branches were involved in.  The Committee, administrative, and financial sections include folders of correspondence as well as official records such as minute books and account books, and the subjects discussed in the correspondence will be summarised in the ‘scope and content’ field.  The photograph section contains all the photographs that were stored separately and these are mostly catalogued individually.  The publications section contains the compete run of the journal of the NUWT ‘The Woman Teacher’, along with a large selection of publications written by members of the NUWT.  The publications include campaign material n why women teachers should join the NUWT, as well as educational publications on a variety of subjects including science teaching for girls, nursery education, post-war education, physical education in schools.


Project update

It’s been very quiet on the NUWT blog recently as the cataloguing project funded by the National Cataloguing Grants Programme officially came to an end at the end of July.  It’s been a pretty mammoth task to get through all the cataloguing – about 370 boxes in total!  The most recent stage – and the reason the blog has been so quiet – has been the renumbering and re-ordering of the entire collection. 


My desk – surrounded by some of the boxes to be sorted and renumbered

In the 14 months of the project 232 boxes of subject files have been catalogued to a detailed file level description (this means that the content of the folders has been summarised and important documents, reports and discussions highlighted in the description). In addition I found a huge number of branch records mixed in with the boxes of subject files. So we’ve gone from having 20 minute books covering 15 or so branches of the NUWT to having 62 boxes of minute books, account books and correspondence files which now cover 147 branches.  This gives us a much fuller understanding of the work of the NUWT throughout the country and the relationships between branches and central council.  Towards the end of my cataloguing I also made a few exciting finds in terms of the history and workings of the union when I found the earliest Central Council minute book – from 1907 – 1914 – as well as a membership book giving membership figures for the union from 1926 – 1939.

I’m currently working on checking through the online catalogue and it should be up online on Monday – which is so exciting after all this work!  I’ll do a more comprehensive round-up of the cataloguing another day but for now I just wanted to update readers on what’s been happening with the project.

The end is nigh

well not really, but the boxes of material that are completely uncatalogued are nearing the end – only 6 left! I’ll not dwell on the material that needs re-catalogued or that has only been partially catalogued (from years ago), and the huge reorganisation that is going to be the next task. The sense of satisfaction I get now from going to the store and seeing all the neat rows of catalogued boxes is the best!

Suitably, a lot of the material in these last few boxes is about the closure of the NUWT itself, in 1961, when equal pay for women teachers was finally achieved. In amongst a folder of letters concerning the final ‘Victory Luncheon’ was this rather poignant photo of 41 Cromwell Road, NUWT Headquarters from 1935 to 1961, with a ‘for sale’ sign perched outside.

41 Cromwell Road, NUWT Headquarters, with ‘for sale’ sign showing, 1961, ref UWT/D/472/4 ©Institute of Education Archive

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.

Let’s take to the trees

I’m currently working on putting together a small NUWT exhibition for the foyer space outside the library at the Institute of Education. I have the boards all printed up, the material chosen for the display cases and just the captions to write. I needed a wee break from trying to word the captions so I went back to some cataloguing. In a folder of conference papers (1931) I found this appealing little cartoon at the bottom of a press report of the conference from The Schoolmistress.

I like the idea of taking to the trees!

Cartoon from ‘The Schoolmistress’, 14/05/1931, ref UWT/D/439/5 ©Institute of Education Archive

‘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?