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Discrete CollectionsThe Women's Library
TitleDouie, Miss Vera
Ref No8SUF/B/117
Box Fetch NoBox 1: Disc 24
Date12 Dec 1976
Extent117a - 71:27 mins, 117b - 33:59 mins
Admin Biographical HistorySee biography for Vera Douie
DescriptionInterview took place at 2 Charlbury Road, Oxford. Also see interview 8SUF/B/043. Interview is in two parts 8SUF/B/117a and 8SUF/B/117b.

Interview summary, 8SUF/B/117a:
0:00 mins:
Usefulness of the Fawcett Library to women between the wars. A members' library from the beginning. Rises in book prices. The library committee. Most books donated not bought. Creation of the Women's Service Bureau. The bureau received grants after the war, once these ended it continued with a small advisory service offering expert advice. Gained her job at the library through the bureau. Prince of Wales Fund. Library a department of the London Society for Women's Service (LSWS). Initially two shelves of books. Her work in the library: research, information work, taking cuttings from newspapers, answering questions. Library initially only used by members of the society, nobody else knew that it existed. Growth of Library collection. Ruth Cavendish-Bentinck, a left winger, formidable, had a militant side.

15:00 mins:
Ruth Cavendish-Bentinck gave books to the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC), when it split into the National Council for Equal Citizenship and the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds the books came to the Library. Sarah Clegg on the executive committee and attended meetings, her contributions to the Library including the purchase of its buildings, trouble regarding her will. Financial help for the society. Sarah Clegg's eccentricity and her generosity to all women's organisations. Description of the library as it grew, what it looked like and how it was run. Millicent Fawcett laying the foundation stone in 1929. The workings of the library sub-committee.

30:00 mins:
How Virginia Woolf used the library, her kindness and generosity towards it. The kind of women on the executive committee. The junior council. Unexpected longevity of the library. Original aims of the library, including archiving easily lost ephemera. Collections of closed-down societies given to the Library. Not refusing donations as long as they were within the scope of the library. Initially the scope was wide, later it became more specialised. What was discussed at the Library sub-committee. How members of the committee would help to secure books. Jane Norton the librarian chaired the meetings, her skills and personality. Library an insignificant part of the London society at first, but by the beginning of the Second World War the two were becoming equal in importance. Change of Library's role from giving advice to professional women to offering help to women with a grievance.

45:00 mins:
Why the LSWS disaffiliated after the First World War. Eleanor Rathbone, her physical appearance, her use of the library. Why the new name was chosen. Borrowing habits of late 1920s-early 1930s. Move to Oxford, new student clientele. The Library's pattern of growth. Its relations with the National Central Library. How the library worked with other libraries, how books were catalogued. Growing prestige of the Library. Varied clientele, people writing articles and books, people who wanted information on housing or different political groups. How the Library assisted early women MPs. Kept information on the progress of bills through parliament.
60:00 mins:
Women educating themselves, writing articles. German refugees protested against the closure of the library at the beginning of the Second World War. The Library reopened during the first year of the war. Library's move to Oxford after the building was bombed. Rachel 'Ray' Strachey was head of the Women's Employment Bureau, later the Women's Employment Federation, which now had a mostly advisory role but still placed some people in work and became more widely known owing to lecturing in girl's schools. Remembers Ray Strachey writing The Cause. Ray Strachey's appearance and personality, her use of the library. The nature of her work at the library. Junior council very active up to the Second World War. Impact of the Second World War.

Interview summary, 8SUF/B/117b:
0:00 mins
What the library was like to visit. Library used by people doing specific work, for example writing a book or a speech. Split of NUSEC. Strong connections between the LSWS and the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. Split of membership at the beginning of the First World War between pacifists and those who were anxious to join the war effort. Fawcett Library always impartial. Some ex-militants were members and gave a lot of material. Edith How Martyn's generosity to the library. Throughout the Second World War she corresponded with Edith How Martyn who had become a personal friend and was in Australia. Role of the Pethick-Lawrences in the creation of the Women's Freedom League.

15:00 mins
Why the material in the London reserve never went to the Fawcett Library. Breach between militants and non-militants. Women's Social and Political Union quarrelling with itself about the Pankhurst family. Pippa Strachey, sister in law of Ray Strachey. Pippa became secretary of the London society for Women's Suffrage in 1907, did the job until her retirement in 1950. Pippa Strachey's devotion to Millicent Fawcett. Belief that the militant side should not have all the limelight, the constitutional side was also instrumental in getting the vote. Personalities of Ray and Pippa Strachey. Different but good friends. Women working in the civil service. Difficulties around interpretation of the Sex Disqualification Removal Act.

30:00 mins
Connection between British Commonwealth League (BCL) and the Fawcett Library quite strong. BCL added to the Library on appropriate subjects and regions. Sarah Clegg's support. The Carnegie Trust's early support of the Library and to the tradeswomen's guilds. The Carnegie Trust financed the Library's move to Oxford.
Related Record8SUF/B/043
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsInterview recordings are available online and can be accessed at the link provided in this record.
Former Reference NumberTape 41
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