The oldest and most extensive collection of women’s history in Europe, and a key part of the UK’s national heritage, is moving to the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where it will become part of the largest social science library in Europe.
The Women’s Library is currently held by London Metropolitan University (London Met) but its future has been under review since London Met announced it could no longer maintain the collection and would be looking for a new home for it. Following a competitive bidding process, London Met announced today (Friday 28 September) that LSE’s offer has been successful. The collection will become the Women’s Library @ LSE, with its own dedicated reading room to ensure its unique identity is maintained. LSE’s Library is unusual amongst university libraries in being open to the public and the School looks forward to welcoming visitors to the new Women’s Library @ LSE.
Professor Craig Calhoun, Director of LSE, said: “It is of vital importance that strong historical collections are maintained and I am proud that LSE has been able to step in to keep the Women’s Library open. There are numerous synergies between the Women's Library collection and LSE's existing holdings. Combined, they will undoubtedly make one of the best international collections for the support of research on women's lives and gender issues.”
The Women’s Library (WL) was founded in 1926 as the Library of the London Society for Women’s Service, a non-militant organisation led by leading suffragist Millicent Fawcett. It has evolved into Europe’s leading source of documents relating to every aspect of women’s lives, including women’s rights, suffrage, sexuality, health, education, employment, reproductive rights, the family and the home.
The Women’s Library @ LSE will shed light on over a century of women’s struggles for equality and will enrich the already significant collections relating to the lives and experiences of women currently housed in the LSE Library. The WL collection includes Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) as well as first editions of the Brontës’ works and of Virginia Woolf, signed biographies of Margaret Thatcher and copies of Bridget Jones. These will join items in the LSE Library’s collection such as a first edition of Sylvia Pankhurst’s The Home Front (1932), which features a handwritten inscription by Sylvia to Bertrand Russell, and a petition by London midwives, published in 1643, protesting at the effect the civil wars were having on their trade.
The move will also bring together for the first time the papers of Baroness Seear, former Chair of the Fawcett Society, which have to date been split between both collections.
The open collection will be housed in a brand new reading room connected to an exhibition space. The archives and museum pieces not on display will be kept in a refurbished and extended secure store with material made accessible on request. Work will also begin on digitising the Women’s Library @ LSE collection and providing access to it through the LSE Digital Library.
Professor Malcolm Gillies, Vice-Chancellor of London Met, said: “There has been a wonderful collaboration process with many institutions over the past six months. This has finally led to LSE’s excellent bid to take on the staff and the collections. We’ll be working with them to achieve the best continuity to ensure library users are not inconvenienced."
Elizabeth Chapman, Director of Library Services at LSE, said: “I am delighted LSE has been chosen to provide a secure home and future for the Women’s Library. This is a truly inspiring collection of women’s history that deserves to be maintained and made accessible for future generations and we look forward to welcoming all who are interested in this fine collection to the Women’s Library @ LSE in the future.”
LSE will now work closely with London Met and Women’s Library staff to ensure a smooth transition and aims to open the Women’s Library @ LSE in 2013.
Helen Carasso, LSE Press Office, 020 7955 7440, firstname.lastname@example.org
LSE Press Office, 020 7955 7060, Pressoffice@lse.ac.uk
The Women’s Library @ LSE will include over 60,000 books and pamphlets, over 3,500 periodicals as well as press cuttings. The collection features more than 500 personal and organisational archives as well as over 5,000 objects such as posters, photographs, badges and banners; many areas in which LSE collections already have strength.
Further synergies between the two collections include the WL's 'Women in the Workplace' collection, which links closely with LSE's Charles Booth Enquiry into London Life and Labour and the investigations of LSE founder Beatrice Webb on women’s work; its archives on pacifism and campaigning, which will enrich LSE’s archives of CND and papers relating to the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp; and the women's liberation movement material, which will complement the Hall-Carpenter Archives of gay activism held at LSE.
For more information, see The Women's Library @ LSE.
For London Metropolitan University's announcement, click here.