Hidden Voices – Women’s Co-operative Guild 1889-1988

It was in the year 1883 that the Women’s League for the Spread of Co-operation was founded. The name was changed to the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1885 and it was eventually in the mid-1960s that this national organisation was finally named Co-operative Women’s Guild. The Guild functions nationally and has branches in various regional, district and local areas across the country that meets at the Guild’s congress every year.
The Co-operativeAll Posts Women’s Guilds‘ started so that women had a voice in the movement. It wanted women to have a part in the activities as most places then permitted only one member representative from each family.
In most of the cases, it was a male member who attended the meetings. This conference is thus mainly about the voices of women which were often kept hidden throughout history as they had no opportunity to voice their views.
The Co-operative News introduced the “Women’s Corner” as a new section at the start of 1883. Alice Acland was its editor and its aim was to provide a connecting link to all Co-operative Women.
This led to the idea of starting a self-governing society of women to give them an opportunity to join recreation and educational classes. While the national organisation was created in 1883 with its first community branches, the guild had more than 51 branches by 1889.
This Archive maintains the Lea Valley district and Lancashire and Yorkshire region records, along with pamphlets, periodicals and annual reports. The collection constitutes the following parts:

1. LVWG- Co-operative Women’s Guild, Lea Valley District Papers
This guild covers Enfield Central, Cheshunt, College Road and Enfield Town branches. The Enfield Central Co-operative Women’s Guild started in 1895 to mobilize women to learn about, and practice the social reform co-operative methods and improve domestic life conditions.
This collection contains records from 1916 to 1997 and includes minute books from the district, service programmes, accounts books, minute books, reports and congress and the individual branch correspondence reports.

2. LCWG- Co-operative Women’s Guild, Lancashire Region
This guild covers Manchester and Salford, Birkenhead & District, North Lancashire and North East Lancashire districts and their respective branches. The archive includes all the account books, minute books, correspondence and annual reports maintained between the years 1906 and 2008.

3. YCWG- Co-operative Women’s Guild, Yorkshire Region
This region of the Co-operative Women’s Guild covers Doncaster, Grimsby, Scunthorpe, Barnsley, Halifax and Dewsbury & Huddersfield districts and its branches. This collection includes accounts, annual reports and minute books.

4. Pamphlets
The Guild had always been involved in campaigns involving topics like divorce reforms, poorly executed law reform, women’s suffrage and health care. Pamphlets formed an integral part of their campaigns, which is why there are journals and the Guild’s campaigns pamphlets in the archive. The most famous is Women’s Outlook, printed from 1919 to 1967.

5. Annual Reports
The archive includes annual reports presented at the Women’s Guild annual congress from 1893 to 2000. They included details of work and educational activities performed through the year, membership updates and financial details.

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