This is the second in a two part series marking Women’s History Month. To celebrate, we asked colleagues across The National Archives to tell us about their favourite records relating to women, resulting in an eclectic mix of everything from a medieval queen to a design for an inflatable corset!
Earlier this month my colleague Vicky blogged about some of the personal stories that were selected, while I am going to take a look at some of the choices that illustrate the ‘official voices’ that appear in relation to women. As Vicky discussed in her blog, many of these documents could be considered both personal stories and official voices, but we have chosen to divide them in this way for the purposes of these blogs.
The suffrage question is commonly associated with women’s history, particularly in an archive of government, and examples of both personal stories and official government views appeared in the staff selection. Melinda Haunton from our Archives Sector Development department chose CAB 27/336, Equal Franchise 1926-1927 which contains the discussions of the Cabinet Committee debating equalising the franchise.
The Committee reviewed what equal franchise might look like, betraying fears of a both young and female vote. For example, they considered raising the voting age for men to 25, thereby cutting the number of young people in the electorate, or having the votes of everyone over 30 counted twice. Melinda said:
‘This is a fascinating document for what it shows about anxiety about youth as well as about women… It’s also the original reason that women under 30, and non-property-owning women can vote whereas now I think the Equal Franchise is sometimes thought of as inevitable … For me, this is the most symbolic step towards gender equality the UK ever made.’
Along the lines of women’s empowerment, Kate Jarman and Sally Hoult from our Advice and Records Knowledge department both chose documents showing government depictions of women’s contribution to the war effort during the First World War. Continue reading »