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Society for Promoting the Training of Women, 1859 - 2012

Reference Code: GBR/0271/GCIP SPTW

Scope and Contents

The archives listed here include the following: corporate records; minutes; financial papers; legal papers; administrative records relating to subscriptions, donations, bequests, individual loan funds and individual applicants for loans; records of marketing and advertising; records of staff and members; and records relating to the history of the Society.
There are also separate records of organisations which amalgamated with the Society, namely the Pioneer Loan Training Fund and the National Advisory Centre on Careers for Women (formerly the Women’s Employment Federation).


  • Creation: 1859 - 2012


Conditions Governing Access

Priority access to designated officers of Futures for Women (in line with the Archive's procedures). A number of files in this collection have been closed in accordance with Data Protection regulations, although the relevant catalogue entries are available online.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to quote or reproduce must be sought from Futures for Women. Please contact the Archivist in the first instance.

Biographical / Historical

The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women (later renamed the Society for Promoting the Training of Women) was founded in 1859 by Jessie Boucherett (1825-1905). The Society aimed to open up new areas of employment for women and to improve standards of education and training for women. In its early years the Society was affiliated with the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science (NAPSS), but it was run and largely funded by women. Connections with NAPSS were severed finally in 1889, although formal links between the two societies had virtually ceased by 1879. The English Woman's Journal, founded the year before the Society, became its official organ. The Society kept the first register of employment for women. It founded the first printing press to employ women exclusively, the first book-keeping class for women, classes for women in shorthand, law copying and photography, and a commercial school for women, these being only a few of the areas in which the Society pioneered improvements in women's employment and training. The Society became a limited liability company in 1879. By the early part of the twentieth century, the idea of training schools and courses was well established and it was considered that the Society's work in that direction had achieved its end. The Society began to phase out its vocational training programmes in favour of providing women with interest-free loans to enable them to undertake suitable training for employment and, in 1926, the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women became the Society for Promoting the Training of Women. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, there were many loan funds set up for similar purposes to those of the Society, some being set up in memory of women who had been strong supporters of the women’s movement in the latter half of the 19th century. Some of these, such as the Caroline Ashurst Biggs Memorial Loan Fund and the Mrs Haweis Memorial Loan Fund, were entrusted to the Society early in the 20th century when family and friends found it difficult to continue administering them. Later in the 20th century, a number of other, larger bodies amalgamated with or were taken over by the Society, including the Central Employment Bureau for Women (established in 1897), the Pioneer Loan Training Fund (established in 1901) and the National Advisory Centre on Careers for Women (founded as the Women’s Employment Federation in 1933). The Society changed its name again in 2014 to 'Futures for Women' and remains active to the present day.


45 archive box(es) (45 boxes) : Paper

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

Deposited by the Society on 30 January 1997, with additional deposits in June 2001 and June 2003, and 2 further deposits in 2010.

Related Materials

See also GCIP CEBW for the archives of the Central Employment Bureau for Women. See also GCRF 8/3/2: letter from Bishop Tait to Jane Lewin about SPEW, 1859; and GCRF 8/3/5: article in 'The Quiver' about SPEW and women typists. A publication issued by the Central Bureau for the Employment of Women, 'The Fingerpost: a guide to the professions for educated women' (1908?) is held by Girton Library in the Blackburn Collection 396.5 C33.


Anne Bridger and Ellen Jordan, 'Timely Assistance: The Work of the Society for Promoting the Training of Women 1859-2009' was published by the Society in 2009. See also Michelle Tuson, '"Not the Ordinary Victorian Charity": The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women Archive', in 'History Workshop Journal', Issue 49, Spring 2000; Anne Bridger, 'A Century of Women's Employment in Clerical Occupations: 1850-1950, with particular reference to the role of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women', PhD thesis submitted to the University of Gloucestershire, December 2003 (degree awarded 2004); and Ellen Jordan and Anne Bridger, '"An Unexpected Recruit to Feminism": Jessie Boucherett's "Feminist Life" and the importance of being wealthy', in 'Women's History Review', Vol.15, No.3, July 2006. The archive is also mentioned in Ellen Jordan, 'The First Women Members of the British Pharmaceutical Society' in 'Pharmaceutical Historian', Volume 31 No. 2, June 2001.


The catalogue of the records of the Society for Promoting the Training of Women [SPTW] was substantially reworked in 2016. The organisations which amalgamated with SPTW (namely the Pioneer Loan Training Fund and the National Advisory Centre on Careers for Women) are catalogued here (see GCIP SPTW 9, Related Organisations). The records of the Central Employment Bureau for Women, however, are catalogued separately as it remained a discrete organisation until it was wound up in 1968 (see GCIP CEBW). The records of the Freedom of Labour Defence Society were found amongst those of the SPTW, and are now catalogued separately (see GCIP FLDS).


Society for Promoting the Training of Women

Finding aid date

2016-05-17 10:13:01+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Girton College Archive Repository

The Archivist
Girton College Archive
Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 0JG United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 338897