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Richard Burton Archives: Women's History

Mae'r dudalen hon hefyd ar gael yn Gymraeg

Sources for Women's History

Women holding hands on top of missile silo at Greenham Common.

The Richard Burton Archives hold various collections that are of relevance to the study of women’s history. These cover:

  • education, both as professional teachers and life as a University student
  • working life and business
  • protest, including the campaign for women’s suffrage and Greenham Common
  • politics, as members of political parties
  • participation in voluntary organisations such as a women’s shelter

Dancing on the silos, Greenham Common, 1 January 1983 (Ref. DC3/14/1/67)

Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives 


Association of Women Science Teachers (Welsh Branch)

This branch was formed in the 1920s by a group of women science teachers. This collection covers the period 1921 to 1965 and includes: 

  • annual, general and committee minute books (1921-1962)
  • agendas and circulars (1929 -1962)
  • reports (1947)
  • Memorandum and Articles of Association (1949)
  • Secretary's correspondence (1930-1955)

Amongst the records is the first minute book of the Association. The inaugural meeting took place at University College Swansea (now Swansea University) on 7 May 1921. The minute books show the respect that the Association received from local industry and the interest shown by the members in the ways in which science contributed to contemporary business success. 

Minute books.

Minute books of the Association of Women Science Teachers (Welsh Branch), 1950s (Ref. SWCC/MNA/TUG/12)

Ruby Graham 

Ruby Graham (nee Joseph) (b.1905) was a student at University College of Swansea between 1922-1925. Her personal collection provides a glimpse into student academic and social life in the 1920s and includes:

  • photographs
  • dance cards for the Annual Ball at the Patti Pavilion Swansea
  • programmes for Inter-Collegiate Week
  • testimonials and exam papers

It also includes testimonials from her later time at Cardiff University. She went on to become a producer at Swansea Little Theatre.

See the guide to University Collections for more information about institutional, students' union and personal archives.

Images from the Ruby Graham (nee Joseph) Collection

Dance cards and inter-collegiate week programmes.

Dance cards and inter-collegiate week programmes, 1922-1925 (Ref. UNI/SU/PC/5/2)

Large group of people in fancy dress costumes.

Fancy dress for Rag Week, 1922 (Ref. UNI/SU/PC/5/5)

Women dressed in hockey kits with hockey sticks.

Womens Hockey Team, 1925 (Ref. UNI/SU/PC/5/5)

History exam paper.

History examination paper, 1925 (Ref. UNI/SU/PC/5/3)


Group of women with one man.

Members of Cardiff Independant Labour Party Women's Group campaigning in a Municipal Election before the First World War, c.1905 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/PC/10/4)

Annie Powell

Annie Powell (1906-1986) was a teacher, councillor and mayor. She joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and stood for election as the Communist party candidate on a number of occasions. In 1979 she was appointed Wales’ first communist mayor for Rhondda.

Records include:

  • Newscuttings, 1978-1979 concerning Annie Powell's role as the Communist Mayor of Rhondda (Ref. SWCC/MNC/PP/23)
  • Election leaflet for Rhonnda East parliamentary constituency, 1955 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/35/36/2)
  • Election address for Rhondda Borough Council election, 1970 (Ref. SC/776)
  • A group photograph of Lew Mills (Seven Sisters), Annie Powell, Idris Cox, Betty Bartlett and Edgar Evans, 1924 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/PC/2/1)

Newport Labour Party

The Newport and District Labour Party (later known as Newport Labour Party) was founded in February 1913 as part of the growing labour movement within Wales. The Party attracted support from a variety of groups which were committed to the constitution and progress of the Labour Party. Newport Labour Party attracted members from a large cross-section of the local population through its emphasis on social events such as dances. This resulted in a high percentage of women members, who soon became the driving force of the Party.

Records include:

  • The Federation of Labour Women, Caerphilly Division minute book, 1934-1953 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/POL/6/6)
  • Newport Labour Women, St Julians section minute books, 1954-1957 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/POL/14/6-7)

Gallery- Protest

Group of people with some holding protest signs.

Demonstration at Bedlinog against the Scab Union, 1936 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/74)

Group of people holding protest banners.

Photograph of demonstration in the Rhondda of men, women and children carrying banners, April 1937 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/DIS/77)

Group of women sitting holding protest signs with policemen in the background.

Photograph of women protesting against Margaret Thatcher during the 1984/5 strike. Copyright Martin Shakeshaft ( (Ref. SWCC/DIS/106/39)

Group of women with their arms in the air.

‘Here we go for the women of the working class’, Miners' wives at the 1st National Conference of Women Against Pit Closures, Sheffield, 17 August 1985 (Ref. DC3/6/1/29)

Image by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives

Industry and Business

Amy Dillwyn

Amy Dillwyn (1845-1935) was a novelist, businesswoman, and social benefactor. On the death of her father, she inherited a spelter works and successfully rescued the business. Dillwyn employed a manager but herself attended the office, dealing with correspondence and overseeing the finances. She personally led a trip to Algeria in 1905 in search of high quality calamine. She campaigned for the vote for women and was a benefactor of a number of local organisations such as the South Wales Nursing Association.

Her papers include her diaries and notebooks, as well as personal correspondence. The collection (Ref. 2012/11) is currently uncatalogued but the Archives team can advise on content. 

Pages from Dillwyn's 1863-1917 diary (when she was active in business) covering the First World War have been digitised and made available on Cymru1914

A Companies House blog post describes her importance as an early businesswoman.

Handwritten diary entry.

Entries in the diary of Amy Dillwyn recording going into the office and business, 1898 (Ref. 2012/11/6)

Other records relating to women in industry

  • Reports of the Executive Committee for Swansea of the Prince of Wales' National Relief Fund re local unemployment, Belgian refugees, work for women etc, 17 December 1914 and 15 January 1915 (Ref. LAC/64/1-2, digital copies available on Cymru1914)
  • An open letter from the Girling Joint Shop Stewards Committee to union members concerning the introduction of women workers on the new conveyor track at the Girling Factory at Cwmbran, 28 July 1964 (Ref. SWCC/MNA/PP/67/63)
  • Photograph of a women opener at the Clayton Tinplate Works, c.1930 (Ref. SWCC/PHO/PORT/58)
  • File of correspondence relating to the employment of women during the Second World War, 1941-1942, including a leaflet entitled ‘The Employment of Women: Suggestions to Employers’ (Ref. SWCC/MNA/TUG/7/B/37)
  • Tin and Sheet Millmen's Association Reports, 1917-1919, with reference to the employment of women and girls (Ref. SWCC/MNA/TUG/6/10)


Cwmdonkin Shelter, Swansea

Cwmdonkin Shelter was opened on 7 May 1886. The Shelter was a temporary refuge for pregnant, poor, destitute girls and was run by women prominent within Swansea society (the Ladies Committee). Its stated aim was to rescue and reform but also to prevent girls from falling to temptations. Girls were rescued from the docks, police courts and workhouse and were admitted regardless of their religion. Girls were taught practical skills, helped to return to their communities, sent to long-stay training homes or sent for emigration to Canada to begin new lives. The impact of the National Health Service and the growth of social services saw the Shelter develop into a mother and baby home. It closed in 1970.

The collection includes:

  • proposed rules (c 1887)
  • minute books (1867-1970)
  • annual reports (1921-1965)
  • financial records (1947-1965)

Cwmdonkin Shelter Mission statement extract.

Extract from Cwmdonkin Shelter mission statement, 1922 (Ref. LAC/22/B/2) 

East Side District Nursing Association 

The East Side District Nursing Association was founded in 1905. District nurses provided an alternative nursing service for those who could not afford private home nursing.  The administration of district nurses prior to 1948 was the responsibility of the county Medical Officer of Health and the nursing superintendent of the County Nursing Association, often a ‘Queen’s Nurse’.  

The reports and summaries of work carried out by the Association can be found in the Henry Leyshon collection. Henry Leyshon of Swansea was a committee member, 1906-1912.


Margaret Kirkland (Women's Freedom League) 

Miss Margaret Kirkland was a member of the Women's Freedom League Swansea Branch in the 1930s. She was President of the local branch of the Soroptimists and President of the Swansea Chamber of Trade in 1934. The collection is a rich resource for researching the fight for women’s suffrage including material related to the Swansea branch of the Women’s Freedom League and other feminist and liberal movements. 

Cover of newsletter with an invitation to birthday party of a suffragist.

'The Vote' , 4 July 1930 (Ref. LAC/58/A/4)

Raissa Page 

Raissa Page (Cleone Alexandra Smilis) was Canadian and moved to the UK in the 1950s. After a career as a social worker in London, specialising in looked after children, Page became a documentary photographer in her mid-forties. Her photographic work was greatly informed by her feminism and political beliefs. She undertook commission work for many publications including Social Work Today, The Observer Magazine and Spare Rib, amongst many others. In 1983 she became a founder member of Format, an all female photographic agency. 

Woman sitting on grass holding a camera.

Photograph of Raissa Page, early 1980s, photographer unknown (Ref. DC3/16/1/213)

The collection consists mainly of photographic prints, negatives and transparencies produced between 1977 and 1993. Subjects include:

  • social care of children, older people and those affected by poor mental health
  • miners’ strike of 1984-5
  • Greenham Common peace camp, 1980s
  • images from photographic assignments abroad – including to Israel, China, Cuba, and the USA.

To see more examples of Raissa Page's work have a look at the project blog posts and Twitter feed (@RaissaPage).

Raissa Page images

Woman carrying large stone above her head.

"Stone quarry workers (migrant labourers) nr Mandi, Delhi", 1982 (Ref. DC3/33/1/2)

Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives 

Women holding hands on top of missile silo.

"Greenham: Dancing on the silos at dawn", 1 January 1983. (Ref. DC3/14/1/67)

Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives 

Older women holding a sign that says ‘Grannies against nuclear winter’.

"Pensioners vigil at Greenham Common 20.5.84", 20 May 1984. (Ref. DC3/14/1/18)

Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives 

Three female nurses.

"3 nurses in out patients clinic Homerton Hospital", 1980s. (Ref. DC3/28/1/29)

Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives 

Women with a selection of musical instruments.

"Women Live Festival. June 82. Jubilee Gardens". (Ref. DC3/22/1/10)

Photograph by Raissa Page. Protected by copyright. Not to be reproduced without permission, please contact Richard Burton Archives 

Organisations and Associations

Miners' Welfare Associations and Workmen's Institutes

The register of hall bookings for Ystradgynlais Miners’ Welfare Association, 1938-1940, includes entries for regular meetings of the Yniscedwyn Sick Fund, Yniscedwyn Lodge, Ystradfawr Lodge, Trades & Labour Council, Women’s Section (Labour Party), Child Welfare Clinic, Haslem System of Dressmaking etc and casual use of hall by organisations such as the Women’s Voluntary Defence Service, Nursing Association, Spanish Aid etc. (Ref. SWCC/MNA/I/41/46).

Women's Co-operative Guilds

In 1883 the Women’s Co-operative Guild was created. The Guild was set up to spread information on the purpose of co-operatives and their value to the community and the nation as a whole; it also promoted women and improved their standing in society.

'Women can dig it too'