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Avril Rolph Bursary 2020

Avril Rolph Bursary 2020

Congratulations to Teleri Owen of Conwy for winning the Avril Rolph Bursary 2020 award. She was presented with the certificate and cheque for a research paper entitled (in Welsh) ‘Secretively and in Public: The Effect, Role and Representation of Women during the Great Penrhyn Strike 1900-1903’ in a Zoom ceremony on 28 July. The adjudicators were Neil Evans, Elin Jones and Siân Rhiannon Williams. Teleri has just graduated with a first-class honours degree in History from Cardiff University. A tribute was paid to Avril Rolph by Jenny Sabine, Honorary Vice-president of Women’s Archive Wales.

AVRIL ROLPH (1945-2018)

Avril Rolph, who died in June 2018 and whom we are commemorating with this bursary, was a rather remarkable person, and she was a key member of Archif Menywod Cymru / Women’s Archive Wales.

Avril was not just a founder member of Women’s Archive Wales, she was involved in its very conception – the research project to record the history of second-wave feminism in Wales, which she worked on with Ursula Masson, demonstrated the urgent need to collect and preserve the records of women’s history in Wales. Avril said that when she visited women to interview them, they often produced bagsful of papers and photos recording the early activities of the Women’s Liberation Movement, and asked her what to do with them. She and Ursula realised that there must be a way of preserving all these important records.

Avril was a professional librarian and she brought her meticulous documentation skills to her work for the Women’s Archive. She was our first Secretary. When Ursula died in 2008, she took on the role of Chair at that sad and difficult time. Yet it was in her later role of Administrative Secretary that Avril’s talent for understanding and interpreting legal matters, her foresight and her attention to detail played a crucial role in the development of the Women’s Archive.

She successfully guided us through the Charity Commission registration process and our subsequent application to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Her technical knowledge was invaluable in planning our new website. Throughout our history it was Avril we turned to for advice on many topics, and it was her wise but quiet words that guided us. As Professor Deirdre Beddoe once said, Avril was the rock of Women’s Archive Wales. Her death left a great void in our organisation, and not just as a colleague but also a friend. Her loyalty, quiet rather dry humour and her interest in people made her a joy to know.

Avril’s research interests included women’s history, especially of the 20th century, women in libraries, and LGBT history. She wrote a short biography of the feminist headteacher Emily Phipps, and most recently was working on the history of the suffrage movement in the Swansea area. She was a passionate believer in the necessity of researching the lives and experience of women, all women not just the high-ranking and famous, as a counter-balance to more traditional history.

She would certainly approve of the purpose of this bursary and would have relished reading the varied pieces of research that have been submitted last year and this.

Jenny Sabine