ARCHIF MENYWOD CYMRU / WOMEN’S ARCHIVE WALES: A SHORT HISTORY
AMC/WAW was founded in 1997 to rescue and preserve records of the lives and experience of women in Wales, and to raise awareness of the history of women in Wales.
Ursula Masson of the then University of Glamorgan (now University of South Wales) received funding to document the history of the Women’s Liberation Movement in South Wales. The research was carried out by Ursula and Research Assistant Avril Rolph and demonstrated the need to collect and preserve the records of women’s history in Wales, which could so easily be lost.
In December 1997 Ursula and Avril organised a meeting of historians, archivists, library and museum professionals and other interested people.
A working group was formed and meetings held regularly from February 1998. The first Annual General Meeting (AGM) of AMC/WAW was held on 31 October 1998. A committee was appointed and Professor Deirdre Beddoe elected Chair. The original idea of obtaining premises of our own proved prohibitive. Instead, a scheme was proposed and agreed whereby we actively seek donations which we deposit in existing archives and record offices as the AMC/WAW Collection. After the AGM a half-day conference, followed by the Great Suffrage Celebration Dinner, was held in the Dylan Thomas Centre, Swansea. The dinner marked the 70th anniversary of one held by Swansea Suffragists on 28 October 1928 to celebrate the achievement of universal suffrage.
A small Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant paid for a worker to publicise the Archive, encourage donations and recruit members. The first issue of the AMC/WAW Newsletter was published in April 1999.Our second AGM and half-day conference was held in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. We have continued to include a conference with the AGM each year since.
AMC/WAW was accepted by the Charity Commission as a Registered Charity.
A major acquisition was the papers of the late Val Feld AM, who died in 2001.
In June we held a women’s history roadshow in Gorseinon, Swansea, to test the idea as a way to encourage people to deposit their papers into safe-keeping and raise their awareness of women’s history. At this year’s AGM Deirdre Beddoe was elected President and Ursula Masson elected Chair.
Our first website was launched this year, and another pilot roadshow held. We held stalls at both the Glamorgan Family History Society and West Glamorgan Record Service open days.
Much of this year was spent in planning a major project to build our collections and raise the profile of the Archive.
In March came the exciting news that HLF granted us £187,000 to hold 17 Women’s History Roadshows across Wales. We were able to appoint three staff members. Most of the remainder of the year was spent organising the project. A new development this year was holding our conference over a weekend. This set the pattern for our future annual conferences.
Despite her illness, our founder and Chair Ursula Masson spoke at the launch of the Wales Women’s History Roadshow project in the Senedd, Cardiff, in January. Sadly, Ursula died in April 2008. Avril Rolph was elected Chair in her stead. During the year Roadshows were also held in Llanelli, Monmouth, Dolgellau, Swansea, Newport, Caernarfon, Blaenafon, Haverfordwest, Aberystwyth, Llandrindod and Carmarthen. Due to the generosity of a member, we were able to offer a prize for the best school project which included women’s history in the Welsh Schools Heritage Initiative annual competition www.whsi.org.uk. We have continued to offer this prize each year. On 31 October a Members’ Awayday was held in Llandrindod Wells: an opportunity for members to review our achievements and plan for the future.
Roadshows continued in Mold, Pontypridd, Wrexham, Llangefni and Merthyr Tydfil. The project officially ended in July. In view of the huge number of donations received, HLF gave permission to use some under-spend from the main project to have many of the images and audio files up-loaded to the People’s Collection Wales server, ensuring wide public access to the results of the project. A major donation was the entire archive of the Llanelli YWCA. At the AGM Helen Thomas was elected Chair.
Revisiting the outcome of the Awayday and the Roadshow project, the committee decided that their first priority should be to consolidate achievements and make the collections more accessible.
Helen Thomas resigned and Jenny Sabine was elected Chair at the AGM.
A new website was launched at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. This year we started to hold our committee meetings by video-conference facilities between Bangor and Swansea universities. In August, AMC/WAW broke new ground by holding a lecture at the National Eisteddfod through the medium of Welsh with simultaneous translation in English. This has been an annual event in succeeding years.
We were successful in getting a grant of over £65,000 from HLF for an oral history project Voices from the Factory Floor, recording the memories of women who worked in light manufacturing industries after the Second World War, 1945-1975. We appointed three field officers to interview the speakers from all over Wales. We succeeded in recording over 200 women, representing c. 200 different factories.
In February Archive member Christine Chapman AM hosted a reception in the Senedd to promote reception in the Senedd to promote the project and AMC/WAW. In August the status of AMC/WAW was registered with the Charity Commission as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation (About us : Constitution). Our main focus of this year was the Voices from the Factory Floor project. As part of our World War I commemorations a database of names and details of women mentioned on official war memorials was initiated.
A website, film and the Final Report of the Voices from the Factory Floor project were launched at a celebration held in Canolfan Soar, Merthyr Tydfil, on 25 March and the whole project attracted a great deal of media attention. The master tapes were deposited in the National Screen and Sound Archive. Early in the year we received funding of £8,000 from the HLF for a project, Women in World War I: the Welsh Experience. A number of significant collections were deposited during the year.
Funding for our WW I project ended this year. Despite a slow start the project has been successful, resulting in a website, and four posters, copies of which have been distributed to every secondary school in Wales and are available on the website. As a finale to the project, members held commemorative ceremonies for women killed during WWI at four points in Wales.
During this year we spent a great deal of time planning our new website with Waters Creative. The Ursula Mason Memorial Lecture was delivered by Sian Rhiannon Williams. The book ‘ Voices from the Factory Floor’ on our project by Catrin Stevens was published and launched in March. In the National Eisteddfod Manon Eames gave a talk on ‘Anglesey, Women and the Sea’. This was sponsored by Janet Evans. Our Annual Conference was held at Aberystwyth and was very successful and well-attended. Our Annual Conference was held at Aberystwyth and was very successful and well-attended. Due to illness, Chair Jenny Sabine stood down from her role during the Annual General meeting and Catrin Stevens was elected in her place. We heard that our application for a HLF grant for a project called ‘Century of Hope’ : celebrating a century of women’s heritage in Wales 1918-2018, was successful and would be developed in 2018.
The ‘Century of Hope’ project dominated 2018. We recruited three part-time workers and celebrated 11 events; working with Pen-boyr School to remember Cranogwen; A full day of activities in the Pierhead, Cardiff in conjunction with the Welsh Assembly to celebrate International women’s Day and in the evening the Ursula Masson lecture was given by Dr Ryland Wallace; a peace banner-making workshop with school children in Abergavenny; a Roadshow in Llandudno; a talk by Manon Eames at the Volvo Ocean race event in Cardiff; a re-enactment of the fracas between Lloyd George and the suffragettes at Llanystumdwy, a Heritage Women’s Walking Tour in Aberystwyth; a discussion about women’s statues at the National Eisteddfod in Cardiff, a re-enactment of the Peace March to Greenham Common in Cardiff and Chepstow, a major International Conference, the WAW National Conference and Celebration Dinner in Swansea in October and participation in a conference at the National Botanic Garden. Founding (20 years ago) and other members of WAW and also the events of 2018 were filmed for the Archive. Unfortunately we also lost one of our founder and most stalwart officers when Avril Rolph died suddenly on June 28th.
The beginning of 2019 saw the successful conclusion of the ‘Century of Hope / Canrif Gobaith’ project with a memorable evening at the Redhouse, Merthyr Tydfil to celebrate the memory of Ursula Masson one of the founder members of AMC WAW and the premiere of the film ‘Century of Hope’ by Catrin Edwards and Tash Horton – project officers. This was very well-received and has been shown in other venues around Wales since then. The last remnants of the HLF grant allowed us to summarise the oral history interviews of founder members and to prepare the archive of this project to be transferred to the National Screen and Sound Archive at the National Library at a ceremony in Y Drwm in November 2019.
We also launched a new project ‘Setting the Record Straight: capturing the records and voices of women in Welsh Politics - Gwir Gofnod o Gyfnod’ in the National Assembly in March. This lead to obtaining grants from HLF and The National Assembly to employ project workers to deliver this ambitious project and this was formally launched at Gwyl Gwlad in the Pierhead, Cardiff in September 2019.
We held our Annual Conference in partnership with St Fagans National Museum of History in their new conference facilities in October. We had a record number of attendees and a record number of papers. During the Saturday the five nominees for the Avril Rolph Bursary delivered papers and the Bursary winner was Molly Caenwyn for her paper on the early photographer, Mary Dillwyn. The bursary in memory of Avril had been launched in partnership with Swansea University Libraries in April 2019.
We also held our annual lecture at the National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst when Wil Aaron delivered a paper on Martha Hughes Cannon and former MP Betty Williams launched the appeal for a memorial for her in Llandudno.
This is a brief record of the main events of AMC / WAW history to date. The Archive has continued to liaise and collaborate with public record offices in Wales and other like-minded organizations. We always work with our primary purpose in mind: to find and preserve evidence of the lives and experiences of women in Wales, and to make this history accessible to all.