Today is the 101st International Women’s Day and I thought it would be a good time to highlight some of the interesting and influential women represented in our collections here at LSE Archives.
Beatrice Webb, (née Potter), Lady Passfield; 1858-1943 (PASSFIELD)
I couldn’t start with anyone but Beatrice Webb, who probably needs no introduction as she is the star of our recently launched Digital Library and one of the founders of the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her position as a pioneering social reformer is well-known, but what interests me about her are the views she held on feminism. Beatrice seemed to be a cautious feminist, opposing the suffrage movement in its earlier days in favour of improvements in social and economic conditions for women as a more effective route to emancipation. Her views on political equality later relaxed, but she never supported the more militant members of the women’s movement. Beatrice was the first woman to be elected a Fellow of the British Academy and they are holding an event this evening inspired by her and honouring women in the humanities and social sciences. Take a look at Beatrice’s manuscript and typescript diaries in our digital library here: http://digital.library.lse.ac.uk/collections/webb.
Charlotte Shaw, (née Payne-Townshend); 1857-1943 (PA261)
Charlotte was another important figure in LSE’s history. She rented the upper floors of the houses at Adelphi Terrace so that the LSE could afford to use the lower floors in its early days. Charlotte was also an important early benefactor of the School and, amongst other donations, gave funds to create the Shaw Library containing books for more cultural education, which is located on the 6th floor of the Old Building and named after her. She is represented in our collections with many images in the Shaw Photograph albums and a more informative blog entry can be found here: http://lib-1.lse.ac.uk/archivesblog/?p=2823
Audrey Richards; 1899-1984 (RICHARDS)
We hold the fieldwork notes and other papers of anthropologist Audrey Richards, who is regarded as a founder of the field of nutritional anthropology. Richards studied at LSE under Bronislaw Malinowski, carrying out fieldwork amongst the Bemba of what was then Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). There she studied the food production and nutrition of the Bemba, which meant that her focus was on the female members of the community as women were the principal farmers. Richards was president of the African Studies Association from 1963-1966 and the Royal Anthropological Institute from 1959-1961. She was awarded the CBE in 1955 and became a fellow of the British Academy in 1967.
Edith Summerskill, Baroness Summerskill; 1901-1980 (SUMMERSKILL)
Edith Summerskill was a medical practitioner and a councillor and MP for the Labour Party from the 1930s until 1961 when she was made a life peer. Summerskill’s medical background gave her authority in her campaigns for a public health service and she was particularly focused on fighting for the provision of birth control and better maternity services. Her involvement with the Married Women’s Association led to the successful passing of the Married Women’s Property Act of 1964, which gave married women equal rights to money provided for matrimonial matters and property bought out of those finances. What is left of her papers are held here, along with her son’s research for his unfinished biography of her.
Lena Jeger (née Chivers), Baroness Jeger; 1915-2007 (JEGER)
Lena Jeger is another Labour MP represented in our collections. Intitially a civil servant, Jeger worked at the Foreign Office during the Second World War, where she learnt Russian. After the War she became deputy editor of ‘British Ally’, a newspaper circulated in Russia for propaganda purposes. In her role as an MP, Jeger supported many important acts of the period; she was a sponsor of the 1967 Abortion Law and played an important role in securing the Equal Pay Act of 1970, as well as supporting legislation ending capital punishment and legalising homosexuality. We have her business and personal papers, which cover all aspects of her early and political life.
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the pioneering, passionate and social reforming women in our collections. Maybe next year I can explore some more! Please take a look at our guide to holdings if you would like to find out more about the women in our collections. If you would like to further explore sources for women’s history, The Women’s Library’s Genesis project is a great place to start.