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Personal Papers of Beryl Power, 1909 - 1949

Reference Code: GBR/0271/GCPP Power, B

Scope and Contents

The papers listed here fall into the following categories: personal and biographical items, which include photographs, testimonials and autobiographical materials; and papers and photographs relating to Beryl Power's work and travel in the USA, India, Burma, Persia, Russia and China.


  • Creation: 1909 - 1949


Biographical / Historical

Beryl Millicent le Poer Power was born in 1891, the youngest of three daughters of Philip Ernest le Poer Power, stockbroker, and Mabel Grindley Clegg (see also Eileen Power and Rhoda Power at GCPP Power, E and R respectively). Philip Power was convicted of fraud in 1891, shortly before Beryl was born. Eileen and Rhoda were said never to have seen their father after their infancy but Beryl did visit him from time to time. Mabel Power died when Beryl was about twelve. After the death of their mother the Power sisters were cared for by their maternal grandfather, Benson Clegg, and their mother's three unmarried sisters. After Oxford High School, Beryl followed her older sister Eileen to Girton College, where she studied history from 1910 to 1913. On leaving Girton, she became an organiser and speaker for the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. This work was terminated by the outbreak of the First World War and she became an inspector in the Board of Trade, under the Trade Boards Act, which dealt with minimum wages in what were known as the 'sweated' industries. In 1920 she was offered the Rose Sidgwick Memorial Fellowship but was unable to take it up because the Civil Service felt unable to release her from her appointment. However, she was offered another American Fellowship - the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial Fellowship - at the end of 1925, under which she studied 'The Technique of Enforcing Labour Laws affecting women and children in the USA', on completion of which she returned to her post as Deputy Chief Inspector of Trade Boards for 1928-29. In 1929 she was appointed as the only woman member of a Royal Commission set up to investigate the condition of workers in industry and in industrialised agriculture in India and Burma. The Royal Commission on Labour in India reported in 1931. On her journey home via Persia and Palestine, Beryl visited the the Anglo-Persian Oil Company [later the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company and eventually British Petroleum] to study its welfare arrangements for its large staff of 28 nationalities. On her return she became an administrative officer in the Ministry of Labour and from 1931 to 1938 was concerned with the setting up and operating of the Juvenile Transference Scheme which dealt with the training and removal of young people from depressed areas. With the threat of war in 1938 she was transferred to the task of compiling a Central Register for Persons with Scientific, Technical, Professional and Higher Administrative Qualifications. In the spring of 1940 she transferred to the Children's Overseas Reception Board and took charge of the selection of children who were to be evacuated overseas to escape the bombing raids. She then spent six months with the Ministry of Food organising a scheme to supply the larger air raid shelters with the wherewithal to supply hot drinks and simple foods during blitz conditions. After this she was put in charge of the Ministry of Supply's Housing and Welfare Department, a wartime department which, inter alia, ran hostels for the workers of the Royal Ordnance factories. At the end of war, she was released by the Ministry of Supply to join the staff of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in China, as a consultant on administrative and welfare policies, in Chungking and Shanghai, for fourteen months from November 1945. When this work finished she spent a further fourteen months with the Chinese Government's Ministry of Social Welfare to advise on Employment Exchanges and Youth Training, based in Nanking and travelling through all the major cities of China. Her last task as a civil servant was to travel once more to India, Ceylon and Burma, this time under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East, to prepare a report on 'Fields of Economic Development Handicapped by Shortages of Trained Personnel'. Beryl Power's interests in retirement included the Institute of Race Relations, the Women's Council (co-operating with the women of far eastern countries) and the Over Forty Association for Women (which assisted older women of slender means in the Greater London area to reorientate themselves after misfortune or to find suitable work and lodging). She died in 1974.


5 archive box(es) (5 boxes) : paper

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers are thought to have been donated chiefly by Beryl Power herself.


There are numerous references to Beryl Power in Maxine Berg, 'A Woman in History: Eileen Power 1889-1940', Cambridge University Press 1996.


Power, Beryl Millicent le Poer, 1891-1974, civil servant

Finding aid date

1998-09-03 13:40:49+00:00


Repository Details

Part of the Girton College Archive Repository

The Archivist
Girton College Archive
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