Collections focus: women’s history

Background to the collections

The collections reflect major social, cultural and political movements of national and international significance, which have a common thread in relating to Huddersfield and the region as a key location for associated activity.

We currently hold 73 individual archival collections and 55 individual Special Collections (of published material).  These collections occupy 194 m3 and contain more than 200,000 individual items. The individual collections vary considerably in their size. The largest are the University’s own internal archives (at least 950 boxes), the Rugby League (Board) Archive (approximately 900 boxes), Hopkinson’s business archive (approximately 421 boxes), the British Music Collection (approximately 365 linear metres) and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival archive (approximately 171 boxes). Most other archive collections are between 1 box and 72 boxes, and the special collections between 1 and 90 linear metres. The total number of individual items is around 214,349.

 A wide range of formats are covered, including files and individual sheets, textile samples in bound volumes, large formats including maps, plans, drawings, posters, magnetic video and audio cassettes, photographic formats of a wide range of types and dates, many of them plastic based (acetate and nitrate), long playing records and digital material both sound and image.

The vast majority of the collections date from the mid-19th century to the modern day, although there are a few items dating back to the 18th century and one or two items even earlier. 

Women’s history

The experience of women since the C19th is documented across a number of collections relating both to organisations and individuals. The University collection houses the near complete records of the Huddersfield Female Educational Institute 1846-1883, one of the first such institutes. It is a full record of its history including curricula, students, book lists, full financial records, and annual reports.  The wider collections of the University capture women’s experiences in further education.  This female experience in education is bought up to the modern day with the Women in Technology and Science (WITS) collection, which encourages women to study and work in technology and scientific subjects.

 There are also the collections directly relating to notable women involved in promoting women’s rights.  These include: oral history interviews with the Labour activist Baroness Lockwood who was instrumental in the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and the first Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission; the papers of activist Noreen Logan who campaigns for Pensioners’ rights, and the notebooks of Ruby Ward that illustrate her career as a midwife in the 1950s and 1960s; the Asian Voices oral history project which captured the experiences of first generation Asian communities in Huddersfield; and the work of Graham Thurgood, a senior lecturer at the University, who has researched the history of nursing in Huddersfield and Halifax.

The archives show the role and education of women with the seismic shifts in society that took place in C20th and had their seeds in C19th radicalism.   The collections have proved invaluable in enabling the University Archives to get involved in the collaborative ‘History to Herstory’ website in conjunction with West Yorkshire Archive Service, the Bronte Society, Hull Local Studies Library, and Leeds City Council Libraries.  In the University records, the near complete records of the Huddersfield Female Educational Institute 1846-1883 describe the experience of one of the first such institutes. This Institute was a pioneer in the education of women and the collection is a comprehensive record of its history including curricula, students, book lists, full financial records, annual reports. These formed the basis of much of the research published by June Purvis, in ‘Hard Lessons – the lives and education of working women in nineteenth century England, 1989’. Professor Purvis has commented as follows about this archive: ‘The Huddersfield Female Educational Institute was especially important since it was one of two institutes for working women…that attracted relatively large numbers in the 1850s and 60s. I can remember being impressed with their content since it is rare to find such detail about working women in the past’.

Personal papers such as those of the midwife Ruby Ward, whose notebooks illustrate her career as a midwife in the 1950s and 1960s, and activist Noreen Logan (currently of Huddersfield & District Pensioners Organisation), illustrate the varied paths of Huddersfield’s daughters.

View summary collection description on the Archives Hub for the Huddersfield Female Educational Institute.

Visit From history to herstory – celebrating the lives of women in Yorkshire from the 1100s to the present day.

To find out more about any of our collections, please contact us.

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