Women's Suffrage Movement Archives
Date range: 1892–1920.
The Library holds four key archives of the women’s suffrage movement:
- the Parliamentary Committee for Women’s Suffrage (1892–1903)
- the Manchester Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage (1909–18)
- the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (1910–14)
- the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (1913–20)
Parliamentary Committee for Women's Suffrage
The Parliamentary Committee for Women’s Suffrage was founded in December 1893 and reached a peak membership of thirty-one MPs in 1897. The Committee began life as a non-party organization but in 1897 it became Conservative. Its object was to secure the Parliamentary franchise for women and it promoted the passage of all Bills and amendments which would further this cause.
The archive consists of four minute books and a couple of annual reports for the period 1895–1903, and a few printed items relating to the women’s suffrage movement, dated 1892.
Manchester Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage
The Manchester Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage was founded in 1908 and was active in propaganda activities until the outbreak of the First World War. Initially affiliated to the London Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage, it later became independent. It dissolved after the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918.
The archive consists of minute books, chronological correspondence files, League ephemera, ephemera collected by the League and news cuttings indexed by subject, covering the period 1909–18. The material occasionally touches on other reform campaigns of the early twentieth century; the campaigns against venereal disease and ‘white slavery’, or the procurement of girls for prostitution; lobbying for change in the divorce laws; and the temperance movement.
National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies
The National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was founded in 1897 to provide an umbrella organization for the various regional societies devoted to the cause of women’s suffrage. Its headquarters were in London and its President was Millicent Garrett Fawcett. Its methods were constitutional and non-militant, in contrast to the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).
The archive consists of thirty bound volumes of news cuttings, 1910–14, which offer a very full chronological record of the social and political position of women and of all aspects of the women’s suffrage movement during this period.
International Woman Suffrage Alliance
The International Woman Suffrage Alliance was founded in 1902 at the initiative of Carrie Chapman Catt, President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, and by the end of 1920 it had affiliated societies in thirty countries throughout the world, with its headquarters in London. The aim of the Alliance was to aid the enfranchisement of the women of all nations through the international co-operation of the national societies. The Alliance held biennial international Congresses, published a monthly journal, Jus Suffragii, and ran an international Information Bureau.
The archive consists of almost 300 files from the period 1913–20: subject files relating to the work of the IWSA; alphabetical correspondence files; and files of news cuttings classified by subject. Britain is the country most fully represented in the archive, but there is a wealth of information relating to suffrage movements in France, Germany and the United States.
All the collections are valuable for the study of the women’s suffrage movement in Britain. The archives of the MMLWS, the NUWSS and the IWSA give valuable insights into the social and economic, as well as political, position of women in the early twentieth century and also touch upon the concerns of other reform movements of the period: prostitution and the ‘white slave trade’; divorce law; venereal disease; prisons; poor law; and other issues. The archive of the IWSA is also a source for the study of international conditions and attitudes during the First World War and its immediate aftermath.
See also the correspondence of C.P. Scott with Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst within the Guardian Archive.
Catalogues available online via ELGAR for:
- Parliamentary Committee for Women’s Suffrage
- Manchester Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage
- National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies
- International Woman Suffrage Alliance
Published microfilm: The Women's Suffrage Movement: Papers of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, the Parliamentary Committee for Women's Suffrage, and the Manchester Men's League for Women's Suffrage, from the John Rylands University Library, Manchester (Woodbridge: Research Publications, 1990).