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Key Themes


The content of History to Herstory has been divided into eight key themes to help guide you towards collections that you may be interested in. Click on the links below to get started.

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Prominent Women


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“The Brontës are the world’s most famous literary family. Charlotte, Emily and Ann Brontë were the authors of some of the best-loved books in the English language”

There are many prominent women featured on the History to Her Story website. Do ensure you take a look at the other web pages on diaries, correspondence, politics, work, war, groups and associations to get a more rounded picture of the enormous contribution Yorkshire women have made to all areas of life.

The Brontës are the world’s most famous literary family. Charlotte, Emily and Ann Brontë were the authors of some of the best-loved books in the English language, notably Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. On the History to Her Story website, from the Bronte Parsonage Museum, is a collection of letters to friends such as Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor; and to publishers such as Aylott & Jones and Smith & Elder. The letters discuss their poetry, books, friendship and home lives. They are a fantastic resource for students and teachers studying the Brontës, or indeed anyone who would like to learn more about the Brontë family and their work.

The website includes the compositions of Frances Mary Hefford Cocking who worked as a pianist and composer. The records contain her manuscript scores for ‘Elskoy Olden Time Suite’, one scored for violin and piano and the other for piano quintet. The First World War prevented her from training further to become a concert pianist, so instead she concentrated on teaching music in the Huddersfield area. She was also one of the pioneers of teaching music appreciation in schools.

There are women who travelled extensively and recorded their views on other cultures in letters, journals and scrapbooks, which can be viewed on this website. Anne Lister travelled to France, Switzerland, Germany, Scandinavia, Finland and Russia, often deviating from the main tourist routes to visit orphanages, factories and prisons. She was the first amateur mountaineer to reach the summit of Vignemale in the French Pyrenees in 1838. On her travels she found accommodation in grand hotels, private mansions, monasteries, roadside inns, peasants’ hovels and even her own carriage. Mary Taylor a friend and correspondent of Charlotte Bronte sought her fortune on the Continent and later New Zealand. She also made regular visits to Switzerland and climbed the Alps. Charlotte Ramsden travelled extensively in Europe and Alice Cliff Scatcherd travelled in the Middle East and Egypt.

The website holds records of 286 letters (from 1922 to 1928) from Hull-born Amy Johnson to her partner Hans Arregger, a Swiss businessman who also lived in Hull. Amy Johnson, the pioneer female aviator, flew solo in 1930 in a single-engined Gipsy Moth plane from England to Australia. She later flew to Japan and Cape Town. Amy Johnson was the first woman to be granted a ground engineer’s licence by the Air Ministry. The letters give us a glimpse of Amy’s life at the University of Sheffield, and later as an office worker in London. These give a fascinating insight into 1920s society.

There is a collection of official letters and personal papers belonging to Audrey Firth, the Lord Mayor of Bradford, including a letter from Winston Churchill. The oldest document in the History to Her Story collection, a feoffment (a transfer of land) between Matilda, daughter of Quenild of Gipton and William of Bello monte and his heirs, is connected to Susannah Beaumont, a member of the Whitley Beaumont family, who owned vast amounts of land around Huddersfield. Other records relating to Susannah Beaumont include her personal account books, which show that she enjoyed playing cards, but usually lost.

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Women's Groups and Associations


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“Groups, associations and societies were important for women as they provided a means by which women could come together outside of the family and work environment”

Groups, associations and societies were important for women as they provided a means by which women could come together outside of the family and work environment. Included on the site is 20th century correspondence and papers from the Fenton Ladies Choir, which include photographs and newspaper cuttings, concert programmes, certificates and marking sheets.

In 1950 the choir sang at the Festival of Britain competition, and in the late 70s made radio and television broadcasts. Another collection from Gladys Hawley includes photos from the Huddersfield Choral Society, including their trip to Holland in 1928.

During the Second World War the Crosland Hill Knitting Circle combined sociability with support for the nation’s war effort. This site contains the Circle’s records from 1940 to 1946, including balance sheets and details of the War time Bureau Mayoress’s Comfort Fund. After the War, the Colne Valley Business and Professional Women’s Club was formed in 1951. The site holds the Club’s minute books (1951-1964) and scrapbooks (1970-1982), which include menus, programmes and newspaper cuttings. The site also contains records from the Electrical Association for Women (c. 1960s-1986). It contains leaflets and pamphlets about home wiring, fuses and appliances, plus minute books from committee and annual meetings. There are also Hebden Bridge Cooperative Women’s Guild Records, which include minutes of meetings and accounts. There is also the Sowerby Female Union Society Rule Book. Many unions had members who contributed small sums of money, which could be used if a member of the society became ill. The rule book covers fraudulent claims and embezzling stock, paying for funerals and the handling of disputes. There are similar records for the Heptonstall Friendly Society (1810-1858).

Other groups and associations enabled women to work together to improve aspects of society. On this site is a collection of family papers and a biography by D. J. Prickett about Florence White, a Bradford lady who founded the National Spinsters Pensions’ Association, which helped many women who, due to the large numbers of men who had died in the First World War, were unable to marry. Florence White gave a voice to single working class women and campaigned that spinsters should receive 10 shillings a week from the age of 55. The site has copies of the rally songs.

These organisations enabled women to be involved with something outside of running the home, looking after their children and going to work. The clubs allowed women to socialise, chat, meet with like-minded women and take part in new things.

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Women and Mental Health


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“Ann Forrest is amongst the patients who had delusions of persecution and she believed her husband had “attempted to poison and murder her many times”

This website contains images from mostly female patient medical casebooks of the West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum (later known as Stanley Royd Hospital) in Wakefield. There are some male casebooks, which can be used for comparison. The books cover the period 1818 to 1902.

The records include address, occupation, length of illness, family members who have been ill, cause of illness, treatments and details of progress; some records include photographs of patients. You are able to search for records by patient name and location.

The reasons for admission varied greatly. Ann Forrest is amongst the patients who had delusions of persecution and she believed her husband had “attempted to poison and murder her many times.” Many patients had religious delusions, including Julia Lawton who thought she had seen “the devil coming into her room.” Other patients had delusions of grandeur, including Mary Manning a domestic servant, who believed she was “possessed of great wealth and had been crowned”. Some patients were admitted due to epilepsy, such as 5yr old Edith Annie Craven. Mary Ellen Yates was admitted due to insufficient food and mistreatment by her husband. Sarah Drabble had eighteen children and was feeling in a “low desponding state ever since her confinement”. Other reasons for admission included violent or unpredictable behaviour, due to poverty, excessive drinking, bereavement, suicidal tendencies and ‘disappointment in love’. Causes listed for mental illness, such as ‘confinement’, we would now recognise as postnatal depression or the term ‘change of life’ we’d call the menopause. Some patient notes also include newspaper articles, such as Sarah Jane Ellis with the paper report, ‘The Wife Sold for a Shilling’ (1868) and Rittie Littlewood, “Serious Charge Against Another Leeds “Wizard”” (1857). The casebooks are a valuable source giving us snapshots of 19th century life and attitudes to the care of the mentally ill, especially with regards to the lives of women in the asylum.

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Women's Diaries


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“On the History to Her Story site, there are many diaries and personal papers that give an insight into Yorkshire Women’s lives”

Lady Amabel Yorke’s diaries of over 8,700 pages span the years 1769 – 1827 and record events such as the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars.

As happened to so many women during the First World War, Florence White of Bradford became engaged in 1916, but her fiancé sadly died in a military hospital a year later. The First World War is one of the reasons why so many women were spinsters during this period, not through choice, but simply because opportunities for marriage were slim. Spinsters were solely reliant upon their own income to survive and, as a result of this plight, Florence White founded the National Spinsters Pensions’ Association in 1935. She campaigned that spinsters should receive 10 shillings per week from the age of 55. By December of that year, the organisation had grown with over 8,000 members and 16 branches throughout the UK. Florence White gave a voice to thousands of single working class women; she brought women together and gave them something to fight for, as well as friendship. Through the History to Her Story website you can access a collection of family papers, rally songs and a biography by D. J. Prickett about Florence White.

Mrs Mary Ann Crisp’s papers contain details of food ration books and demonstrate the types of food people were restricted to during war time.

Florence Lockwood wrote a remarkable set of diaries, which cover the period of the First World War and the peace settlement of the early 1920s (1914-1924), she was a suffragist, pacifist and feminist. The site contains a unique set of memoirs, anecdotes, war dispatches and thoughts about war from a woman’s point of view. A diary entry from 13 Sept 1916 records a conversation Florence had with her patriotic sister-in-law in which it is evident that the two women held very different views about the war, with Lockwood referring to the “futile horror of war.” One page lists her male relatives, and those who have been killed or were missing in action were crossed through in red pen. She also writes about her work during the war for the Suffrage Movement, and as a supporter of the League of Nations, where it’s evident that Lockwood believed international difficulties should be settled through diplomacy and talks rather than wars. The diaries are useful for researchers of this period of European history, and they give a perspective of war from a woman’s point of view. The History to Her Story site also contains letters from Mrs Phyllis Turner (nee Thornton) covering the years 1913-1964. The earliest letters date from her school life in France and were written to her mother who lived in Huddersfield; the collection also contains some replies. Later there are letters from her husband George and letters she wrote whilst on honeymoon. Included too are letters from her son John who served in the forces in North Africa and Italy. These give a valuable insight into the time period covering both World Wars and comments on these from a woman’s perspective.

During the Second World War the Crosland Hill Knitting Circle combined sociability with support for the nation’s war effort. This site contains records from the Circle for the years 1940-1946 and includes balance sheets, and details of the War time Bureau Mayoress’s Comfort Fund.

In 1983 Yorkshire women travelled to Greenham Common to join in the peace rally and blockade. On the History to Her Story website you can find records from The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Huddersfield Group which includes leaflets such as ‘Nuclear War and You’, ‘H-Bomb on Huddersfield’ and ‘Kirklees and Nuclear Weapons.’ These records give an excellent contemporary insight into Yorkshire Women’s attitudes to war.

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Women's Correspondence


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“Ellen Nussey was a lifelong friend and correspondent of Charlotte Brontë. When Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854, he became concerned about her letters falling into the wrong hands”

Ellen Nussey was a lifelong friend and correspondent of Charlotte Brontë. When Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854, he became concerned about her letters falling into the wrong hands.

Charlotte wrote to Ellen on 10 October 1854: “Arthur says such letter as mine ought never to be kept, they are dangerous as Lucifer matches…I can’t help laughing, this seems to me so funny”. Mr Nicholls made repeated requests that the letters should be destroyed, but Ellen chose to ignore them and did not burn the letters. It is due to Ellen’s preservation of Charlotte’s letters that so much is known today about the Brontë family. On the History to Her Story website you can read correspondence between Charlotte Brontë, Ellen Nussey, Mary Taylor and the publishers of their work, notably George Smith.

The website holds records of 286 letters (from 1922 to 1928) from Hull born Amy Johnson to her partner Hans Arregger, a Swiss businessman who also lived in Hull. Amy Johnson, the pioneer female aviator, in 1930 flew solo in a single-engined Gipsy Moth plane from England to Australia. She later flew to Japan and Cape Town. Amy Johnson was the first woman to be granted a ground engineer’s licence by the Air Ministry. The letters give us a glimpse of Amy’s life at the University of Sheffield, and later as an office worker in London. These give a fascinating insight into 1920s society.

The History to Her Story site also contains letters from Mrs Phyllis Turner (nee Thornton) from 1913 to 1964, from when she was at school in France, written to her mother who lived in Huddersfield. The collection also contains some replies. Later there are letters from her husband George and letters she wrote whilst on honeymoon. Included are letters from her son, John, who served in the forces in North Africa and Italy. These give a valuable insight into the time period covering both World Wars from a woman’s perspective.

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Women and Politics


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“Causes supported by Yorkshire women have included the Suffrage Movement; the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Women against the Pit Closures and against War”

Yorkshire women have been strongly involved in politics with a desire to make positive changes in society. Throughout the ages, women have campaigned long and hard for causes that they passionately believe in.

Causes supported by Yorkshire women have included the Suffrage Movement; the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; Women against the Pit Closures and against War. It’s also worth looking at the Women’s Groups and Associations’ page for evidence of groups that contributed to education and health reform.

Edith Key was a suffragette and the secretary-organiser of the Huddersfield branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). She participated in suffrage demonstrations in London, resulting in her spending several days in Holloway Jail. Key provided shelter to a number of suffragettes who were avoiding the authorities, including Adela Pankhurst. She was also involved in the Adult School Movement and, along with her family, was opposed to the Boer War and the First World War. There is a photograph of Edith Key from c.1920s on the website and minute books of the WSPU from 1907 to 1909.

Florence Lockwood campaigned for the Suffrage Movement. Her diary pages show that she believed that women needed to be better recognised in society; which included the right to vote. Lockwood was also a peace campaigner. Her diaries on this website cover the period of the First World War and the peace settlement of the early 1920s. These contain a unique set of memoirs, anecdotes, war dispatches and her thoughts about war. One page lists her male relatives with those who had been killed or were missing in action crossed through in red pen. She also writes about her work during the war for the Suffrage Movement and as a supporter of the League of Nations.

The History to Her Story site contains a collection of political, satirical and personal material in the form of scrapbooks (c.1880-1904), belonging to Alice Cliff Scatcherd, the noted Liberal, philanthropist and radical suffragist. Alice was a progressive supporter of social reform and the sponsor of Women’s Rights Bills in Parliament. She and her husband were also involved with child welfare and education. Florence White was a campaigner for women’s pensions. She founded the National Spinsters Pensions’ Association and campaigned that spinsters should receive 10 shillings a week from the age of 55. This site also has copies of the rally songs. Florence White gave a voice to thousands of single working class women.

In 1983 Yorkshire women travelled to Greenham Common to participate in the peace rally and blockade. On the History to Her Story website you can find records from The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament Huddersfield Group, which includes leaflets such as ‘Nuclear War and You’, ‘H-Bomb on Huddersfield’ and ‘Kirklees and Nuclear Weapons.’

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Women and Work


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“The papers about Miriam Lord are a rich source for those interested in the lives of disadvantaged women and children in the 20th century”

The work that Yorkshire Women have been involved with is greatly varied. On this site you can learn through letters and Bradford Community Centre papers about the work of Miriam Lord, who trained as a teacher and was involved in the education of nursery school children. During the 1930s, Lord was involved with the Forster Centre for the unemployed, where she helped arrange holidays for mothers and children.

She organized fundraising events, which totalled in excess of £20,000 and she was awarded an OBE in 1960. The papers about Miriam Lord are a rich source for those interested in the lives of disadvantaged women and children in the 20th century. Lord’s work was influenced by Margaret McMillan, who led the Bradford School Board in the 1890s. The work of the board included pioneering free school meals and milk, the use of school baths and the introduction of school medical inspections. Other records which give insight into education, the life of a teacher and the classes taught, include the Journals of Alice Fletcher (1911-1913). Fletcher worked at Birkby Council School and her journals include a class timetable, a letter from the Headmaster and daily journal entries of the classes she took, such as mental arithmetic, geography, dictation and composition. The journals also include teaching notes for her classes. You can also see records relating to Eleanor and Constance Sykes’ teaching careers, such as their teaching-certificates.

There are papers and photographs of Elsie Harling, a nurse and voluntary worker from Dalton, Huddersfield, who received a Family Planning Association training certificate. The papers include memoirs of her nursing career from when she trained as a State Registered Nurse at Huddersfield Royal Infirmary. Her fascinating memoirs include accounts of incidents on the wards, theatre work and Christmas in hospital. Many women worked in the woollen mills. The archive records available through this site contain a 1930s photograph of Marion Booth and her colleagues, who worked as weavers at Rookery Mills in Huddersfield.

The Stanley Royd records give a good indication of the occupations women were involved in, including professions such as domestic servant, weaver, dressmaker and schoolteacher. The important non-waged role of housewife is also included, which involved child rearing, cleaning, preparation of food and maintenance of the home and garden.

Frances Mary Hefford Cocking worked as a pianist and composer. The records contain her manuscript scores for ‘Elskoy Olden Time Suite’, one scored for violin and piano and the other for piano quintet.

There is an apprenticeship indenture document for Sarah Hurst, a poor child of Clayton West, from 30 May 1817. She was put into the care of Abraham Hays, a linen weaver from Monk Bretton, until she was 21.

The History to Her Story site shows how many areas of work Yorkshire women have been involved in and how they have made a huge and important contribution to society.

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Women and War


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“Florence Lockwood wrote a remarkable set of diaries, which cover the period of the First World War and the peace settlement of the early 1920s (1914-1924)”

Lady Amabel Yorke’s diaries of over 8,700 pages span the years 1769 – 1827 and record events such as the American War of Independence, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic Wars.

As happened to so many women during the First World War, Florence White of Bradford became engaged in 1916, but her fiancé sadly died in a military hospital a year later. The First World War is one of the reasons why so many women were spinsters during this period, not through choice, but simply because opportunities for marriage were slim. Spinsters were solely reliant upon their own income to survive and as a result of this plight; Florence White founded the National Spinsters Pensions’ Association in 1935. She campaigned that spinsters should receive 10 shillings per week from the age of 55. By December of that year, the organization had grown with over 8,000 members and 16 branches throughout the UK. Florence White gave a voice to thousands of single working class women; she brought women together and gave them something to fight for, as well as friendship. Through the History to Her Story website you can access a collection of family papers, rally songs and a biography by D. J. Prickett about Florence White.

Mrs Mary Ann Crisp’s papers contain details of food ration books and demonstrate the types of food people were restricted to during war time.

Florence Lockwood wrote a remarkable set of diaries, which cover the period of the First World War and the peace settlement of the early 1920s (1914-1924), she was a suffragist, pacifist and feminist. The site contains a unique set of memoirs, anecdotes, war dispatches and thoughts about war from a woman’s point of view. A diary entry from 13 Sept 1916 records a conversation Florence had with her patriotic sister-in-law in which it is evident that the two women held very different views about the war, with Lockwood referring to the “futile horror of war.” One page lists her male relatives, and those who have been killed or were missing in action were crossed through in red pen. She also writes about her work during the war for the Suffrage Movement, and as a supporter of the League of Nations, where it’s evident that Lockwood believed international difficulties should be settled through diplomacy and talks rather than wars. The diaries are useful for researchers of this period of European history, and they give a perspective of war from a woman’s point of view. The History to Her Story site also contains letters from Mrs Phyllis Turner (nee Thornton) covering the years 1913-1964. The earliest letters date from her school life in France and were written to her mother who lived in Huddersfield; the collection also contains some replies. Later there are letters from her husband George and letters she wrote whilst on honeymoon. Included too are letters from her son John who served in the forces in North Africa and Italy. These give a valuable insight into the time period covering both World Wars and comments on these from a woman’s perspective.

During the Second World War the Crosland Hill Knitting Circle combined sociability with support for the nation’s war effort. This site contains records from the Circle for the years 1940-1946 and includes balance sheets, and details of the War time Bureau Mayoress’s Comfort Fund.

In 1983 Yorkshire women traveled to Greenham Common to participate in the peace rally and blockade. On the History to Her Story website you can find records from The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Huddersfield Group which includes leaflets such as ‘Nuclear War and You’, ‘H-Bomb on Huddersfield’ and ‘Kirklees and Nuclear Weapons.’ These records give an excellent contemporary insight into Yorkshire Women’s attitudes to war.

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