Wednesday 1 June 2011

Wednesday Wonders

I thought that, in conjunction with my, still relatively, new job cataloguing the records of the National Union of Women Teachers I would start my first 'series' on this blog.  So, 'Wednesday Wonders' it is!  I still get so excited by some of the things I come across when cataloguing - in fact, all archivists I know do - it's one of the major perks of the job.  The best thing for me now is that I'm sharing an office so not only can I share my finds in blog land I can also share them instantly with real live people!  That's not to belittle sharing things in blogland, far from it, I love reading about the archive work going on in Archives in far off lands and I hope that archivists elsewhere get as much pleasure from reading my blog, and of course, that non-archivists enjoy it too!

This week's Wednesday Wonder was one of those moments when you really do just go 'hey you'll never guess what I've just found' and hope your colleagues share your enthusiasm.  It was the lovely colours of the headed notepaper that first caught my attention.  The green and purple is lovely, and I thought, hmmn, this looks slightly familiar.  Then I looked closer, it was letter headed notepaper from the Women's Social and Political Union!

Letter from Rose Lamartine Yates, ref UWT/D/47/1, © Institute of Education
The WSPU was founded by Emmeline Pankhurst and her three daughters Emmeline, Adela and Christabel Pankhurst.  It was founded in 1903, one year before the NUWT, and they were founded out of frustration with what they saw as a lack of action in terms of obtaining the vote for women.  Their motto 'Deeds, not Words' reflects their stance.  The Women's Library website has a great summary of the WSPU so I won't repeat it all here.

As you can see this letter is a bit later, from 1933.  Rose Lamartine Yates (1875 - 1954) was born in Brixton to French parents.  She studied in the UK and in France.  In 1909 she joined the Wimbledon branch of the WSPU and by 1910 she was the Treasurer and Organising Secretary of the Branch.  In the letter she thanks Ethel Froud (the General Secretary of the NUWT at that time) for inviting her to attend NUWT conference but explains that she was too busy [she was] 'needed here', and was also ill, so she could not make it.  It's really interesting that this letter is dated 1933 as the WSPU ceased to exist in 1919 - maybe Rose Lamartine Yates just had an excess of headed notepaper!  The WSPU were very much about publicising the cause wherever possible and the collection of WSPU items at the Museum of London illustrates this - they have WSPU green and purple tea pots, badges, sashes, and WSPU stockings! 

So thank you for reading, it's been nice to share! Any archivists out there have any favourite finds from their cataloguing work?  What about in other professions? Any unusual finds? 

N.B. For more information on the content of the NUWT Archive you can search the catalogue here.  I also post about the NUWT project on the Institute of Education Library and Archive blog, Newsam News.

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