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The Women's Library: Suffrage Collection

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Poster by Hilda Dallas, c.1912

The Women's Library is the oldest and largest collection of women's history in the UK. It was founded in 1926 as the Library of the London Society for Women's Service, a non militant organisation led by leading suffragist, Millicent Fawcett. It is now held by the London Metropolitan University and is an internationally acclaimed specialist Library, Archive and Museum with collections that have broadened since the Library's inception to include a wide range of subjects which focus on the lives of women in Britain.

In 2002 with the support from the Heritage Lottery Fund the Library moved into a purpose-designed building in a converted washhouse in Aldgate, London. The building has a specially designed reading room, exhibition hall and conference and workshop facilities. It is fully accessible to wheelchair users, with lift access to all public spaces.

The Library's collections are focused on women's endeavours and consists of 60,000 books and pamphlets, 3500 periodical titles, over 450 archives and 5000 museum objects. Our collections cover a variety of topics, such as women's rights, suffrage, sexuality, health, education, employment, reproductive rights, the family, and the home. The emphasis is primarily on women in Britain, but some international material is included. The national significance of the collections is recognised by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which granted Designated Status to the collections in their entirety in January 2007. The Women's Library today aims to inspire learning and debate on issues that concern women for the benefit of all and is an internationally renowned resource, available to everyone.

Photograph of procession of the religious leagues for women's suffrage, c.1914

Digitisation of the collections

In 2010, The Women's Library with funding from the Museums, Library and Archive Council were able to embark on a digitisation project to make our collection of images available to a greater audience. The full range of images is available on The Women's Library website (www.thewomenslibrary.ac.uk)

Suffrage Image Collection

The Library houses an important collection of suffrage material, this includes posters, photographs, postcards, badges and other memorabilia.

Museum Objects

The strength of the Museum Collection lies in the range of printed ephemera and artefacts that document suffrage campaign activities such as badges, arm bands, sashes, tea sets, board games, playing cards, tea towels and aprons. The Museum Collection complements the range of artefacts and ephemera held in The Women's Library archive and printed collections. As at 2011, The Women's Library held approximately 5,000 objects in the Museum Collection, with an additional 7000 objects identified in the archives

Purse of Emily Wilding Davison, c.1913, held by Davison at the Epsom Derby

Posters

The earliest posters held result from suffrage activities and can be divided into three main groups; advertisements for meetings and events, illustrated propaganda posters arguing why women should get the vote, and thirdly newspaper bills bearing suffrage related headlines, used to promote paper sales.

Photographs

As at 2011, The Women's Library held approximately 1200 photographs in the Museum Collection, with an additional c.4600 photographs identified in the archives. A large proportion of The Women's Library Photograph Collection is comprised of portraits of famous women and significant individuals in women's campaigning. The main strength of the collection is in the group of photographs that represent suffrage campaigning. The images represent a wide range of activities such as suffrage arrests, elections, petitions, demonstrations, processions and exhibitions.

Postcards

As at 2011, The Women's Library held approximately 1,300 postcards in the Museum Collection, with an additional 400 postcards identified in the archives. The earliest postcards held result from suffrage campaigning and include: documentary photographs of suffrage activities and events, and portraits of activists produced by the Women's Social & Political Union, the Women's Freedom League, and illustrated propaganda cards produced by the Artists' Suffrage League and the Suffrage Atelier. The collection also includes a significant number of anti-suffrage comic cards produced by commercial printers.

Postcard published by Suffrage Atelier, 1909-1914

Copyright and Contact Details

Address: The Women's Library
Old Castle Street
London
E1 7NT
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7320 2222
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7320 2333
Email: twlinfodesk@londonmet.ac.uk
URL: www.thewomenslibrary.ac.uk

Rights: The Women's Library: London Metropolitan University

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