Just back from a fascinating talk at The Cambridge Folk Museum, part of a series of talks and exhibitons on the lives of women in Cambridge.
Finding their Voices was a presentation commemorating truly great women from the start of the 20th century.
100 years ago today, 9th of May 1912, the first meeting of the Cambridge Branch of the National Union of Women Workers (NUWW) took place. One may take issue with the “Women” and “Workers” of the title for these were upper middle class women, more thought of as “ladies” and the perception of “workers” maybe of mannual labour which was not true..but they certainly did work and work and work to make Cambridge a better and more hospitable place to live.
The Cambridge Branch of the NUWW was born from a Ladies Lecture Society which met for talks 6 times a year. These were affluent, well educated and enlightened women, some had been to the newly founded women’s colleges Newnham and Girton and some were married to University Fellows. There aim was charitable as they networked,campaigned, organised and mobilised help for the poor, pregnant mothers, infants and babies. Arranging for affordable nutritional meals, increased standards of hygene, better living conditions, germ free milk, insurance for the unemployed and many other matters that brought relief and the chance of a better life to so many. It’s not too strong to suggest that the ideas and effects of these enlightened women were those that gave a foundation to the forthcoming welfare state. Names familiar and unfamiliar decorated the talks, FA Keynes, Maud Gray, Ida and Maud Darwin, and many more. Women who could have sat at home playing bridge and drinking tea in absolute comfort (and probably they did) but who also chose to put in place tangible help for those less well off and earn the respect of a generation for women and what they achieved.