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Discrete CollectionsThe Women's Library
TitleOral Evidence on the Suffragette and Suffragist Movements: the Brian Harrison interviews
Ref No8SUF
Box Fetch NoBox 1: Disc 1-40; Box 2
Extent15 A boxes & 210 digital files (40 dvds)

See the biography for Harrison; Sir; Brian (1937-); historian
See also individual biographies for some interviewees and some people and organisations discussed in the interviews.

Between 1974-1981 Brian Harrison, then of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, undertook an oral history project financed by Social Science Research Council (he later extensively used these interviews in his book 'Prudent Revolutionaries: Portraits of British Feminists between the Wars' Oxford University Press 1987). The original aim of the project was to provide material to supplement documentary sources on the Edwardian women's suffrage movement in Britain and to make these interviews available to scholars subsequently working in the field. Interviews were conducted with surviving Edwardian women's movement campaigners, their sons, daughters, relatives and employees. During the course of the project the chronological scope was widened to include those active in the women's movement after women's enfranchisement. Thematically the scope was also widened to encompass those who were active in various women's organisations, including international and religious organisations, and to cover themes including women's employment and birth control. 205 interviews with 183 individuals were completed.
Custodial History1981 Deposit of tapes
The recordings (on open reel quarter-inch format cassette) were donated to The Women's Library (then the Fawcett Library) by Harrison in 1981 with the agreement of the Social Science and Research Council who funded his project. At this time Harrison gave his copyright in the recordings to The Women's Library.

1982 Permissions Project
In 1982 the Fawcett Library sent out consent forms to all the interviewees or their families asking them to allow blanket access to their interview for private research and / or quotation in publications. 119 positive responses were received, some interviewees requesting certain conditions of use. 35 interviewees denied general access. 24 interviewees were deceased. In 7 cases the consent forms were returned undelivered. During the 1980s and 1990s access was therefore given only to a restricted number of interviews, on a case by case basis.

1995-1996 Conversion to VHS Tape Project
The original reel-to-reel cassettes were made available to researchers in the library until the mid-1980s when the library started the process of creating cassette copies. This project was not fully completed by 1994 when a decision was made to find an alternative surrogate format for the long-term preservation of the recordings. Following advice from the Head of Television Services at London Guildhall University, copies of the original cassettes were made on Hifi VHS, completed c. 1996.

After 2005 the collection was withdrawn from access due to the fragility of the VHS tapes. It was recognised that the recordings needed to be converted to a new digital format to ensure their long-term preservation and facility of access.

2007-2008 Digitisation and Catalogue Enhancement Project
A 30-day project 'Keep Their Voices Alive' was funded by the Friends of The Women's Library to create digital surrogates of the recordings, to enhance the catalogue descriptions of the interview content, and to provide biographical information about interviewees.
The VHS surrogate copies of the original recordings (and 10 of the original reel-to-reel cassettes) were digitised as WAV files by London Metropolitan University Media Services between 2007- 2008. These WAV surrogate versions of the tapes were edited at The Women's Library by the project archivist to create a single WAV file and single MP3 file for each individual interview. The digital WAV surrogates of the tapes are held on dvd in the archive vaults. The digital WAV and MP3 versions of each interview are held on a server. Digital MP3 versions of the interviews are also held on dvd for production in The Women's Library Reading Room.
Catalogue Enhancement:
A team of 16 volunteers listened to the interviews and created summaries of content, broken down into 15 minute segments, to enhance research access. They also created brief biographies of each interviewee. These summaries and biographies were edited by the project archivist Anna Kisby and added to the online catalogue. Where volunteers and the project archivist identified 'sensitive' subject matter in interviews for which we do not hold documented permission for access (as established during the 1982 project) then these interviews were closed under the Data Protection Act. After seeking advice from the Oral History Society and several sector specialists a decision was made to open all other interviews.
Volunteers who participated in the project were:
Helen Boyce; Polly Cassidy; Red Chidgey; Emma Croome; Daphne Glick; Jean Gooding; Alison Hargreaves; Judith Hind; Julia Ireland; Ines Koegler; Dr Jill Liddington; Helen McCarthy; Catherine Osborn; Barbara Parnell; Caroline Vollans; Debi Withers.

In 2012 the project was restarted by Liz Taylor, The Women's Library archivist. Volunteers who participated in the project were: Daniel Wildes, Jenny Marsden, Diana Garrett, Caroline Vollans, Alex Wulf, Nicola Guy, Siobhan McSweeney and John Holme; staff members who took part were Sonia Gomes, Susanna Glover and Victoria Hamilton.
DescriptionThe collection consists of 205 interviews available in digital audio file format and one folder of contextual material relating to the interviews, including essays and reports by Brian Harrison. The digital files are copies of the original oral history interview recordings that are held on reel-to-reel cassette.

Audio recordings of available interviews can now be accessed online via the 'Suffrage Interviews' collection highlight page on the Library website:

Available on dvd in the reading room. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library @ LSE 5 full working days in advance of their visit.
Related MaterialThe Women's Library holds a wealth of related material on the women's suffrage movement. See Archives Strand 2 - Suffrage Organisations, Strand 7 Personal Papers and Strand 9 Autograph Letters. Other oral and life history collections are held in Strand 8. Interviewees whose personal papers are held at The Women's Library include Winifred Adair-Roberts (7WAR), Margery Corbett Ashby (7MCA), Fiona Billington Greig (7FBG) and Agnes Muriel Pierotti (7AMP), Charles Price (husband of Millicent Browne) (7MPR). The book by Brian Harrison 'Prudent Revolutionaries: Portraits of British Feminists between the Wars' (Oxford University Press, 1987) is held in The Women's Library Printed Collections.
Related Record7WAR
Access StatusMainly open; some items closed
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