Tag Archives: Women’s Aid

Final Stop for Ellen’s Archives

The final stage of the Ellen Malos’ Archives project – a trip to Bristol University’s Special Collection store to deposit the catalogued items.

Boxes in the back of a van

Sarah, project archivist, stands in front of archive boxes on a shelf

Sarah stands in front of her handy work

Books on a shelf including titles by Susan Griffin and Janice Raymond

Two shelves of box files

Shelf of box files labelled 'Pat VT West'

A shelf of periodicals Books including Janet Frame and Zoe Fairbairns

Don’t forget, Ellen’s archives are available to consult so do get in touch if you want to see them. As always, you will need to plan your trip in advance to ensure the items you want can be retrieved from store.

Final event for Ellen Malos’ Archives – documentation

On Tuesday 24 September we held the closing event for our Heritage Lottery Funded project, Ellen Malos’ Archives.

We welcomed Cherry Ann Knott from the Heritage Lottery Fund, project archivist Sarah Cuthill presented the contents of Ellen’s archive, and Ellen provided a response.

Typewriter, multicolored background, 'What Can History Do?' collected by Feminist Archive South

The evening also launched our booklet What Can History Do? which is available for a donation through this website.

After the formal presentations, attendees had the opportunity to browse material from Ellen’s archive, as well as have good chat.

Thanks to everyone who came and participated in the wider project. We are working on some new ideas for funding bids, but will of course keep this blog updated with regular information about relevant events in Bristol and beyond.

 

Ellen’s archive is catalogued and available to view in the Feminist Archive South, so don’t forget you can pay us a visit if you are curious about its contents.

In the meantime, enjoy the photos!

Sarah & Ellen Present a selection of the archive material on display An attendee browses the archive material Banners and archive material from Ellen's collection An attendee reads the archive material displayed at the event five women chat together

Attendees converse

Attendees Browse the archive

Final Event for Ellen Malos’ Archives – 24 September 2013

The Feminist Archive South warmly invites you to the closing event of our recent project, Ellen Malos’ Archives, which has been generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It takes place on Tuesday 24 September 2013 from 7-9.30pm at M Shed, Bristol

Project archivist Sarah Cuthill will introduce the contents of Ellen’s collection, followed by a response from Ellen Malos.

Ellen Malos was a key figure in the Bristol Women’s Liberation Movement. The first Women’s Centre opened in the basement of her house in 1973, and her work supporting vulnerable women has been recognised through an Honoury Doctorate at Bristol University (2006), and in the naming of the Next Link Women’s Safe House, ‘Ellen Malos House’ (12 June 2007). As activist and later, academic, Ellen was involved in advancing gender equality locally, nationally and transnationally.

Ellen Malos stands at a filing cabinet.

Ellen Malos stands at a filing cabinet in the Women’s Centre, 1973.

Her archive comprises rare historical material, including documents that have shaped some of the most significant legal and policy transformations within British history relating to gender equality.

The presentation of Ellen’s archives will be followed by a report from Project coordinator Dr Deborah Withers who will discuss the outcomes of our workshop series.

Ellen stands at the front of the picture. Behind her are shelves full of books and files

Ellen with her archives, 2013

The final event is also the launch the Feminist Archive South’s pamphlet What Can History Do?
The booklet, comprised of contributions from project volunteers, includes resources about
public history and the study of women’s history.

The final event is free to attend but places are limited so please confirm your attendance by
emailing us.

Refreshments will be provided.

Event address: MShed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Rd, Bristol BS1 4RN

MShed is a wheelchair accessible venue. Please contact us beforehand if you have other access
requirements.

Reflections on the History of Bristol Women’s Aid workshop – 20 July 2013

On Saturday 20 July we held the last workshop in the Feminist Archive South Spring/ Summer workshop series run as part of the Ellen Malos’ Archives project.

We’ve held a range of workshops and events over the past few months, including the history of feminist print media, film showings, archiving contemporary feminist activism, and singing with Frankie Armstrong.

For the last workshop we explored the history of Bristol Women’s Aid with Ellen Malos and Jackie Barron, unfortunately Nicola Harwin was unwell so she couldn’t join us – get better soon Nicola.

Here is some personal impressions of the workshop written by me (that’s debi, by way…)

The early history of women’s aid in Bristol has been fairly well recounted on this blog – a single bed that happened to be in the Women Centre in 1973 was the seed from which Women’s Aid in Bristol grew. The centre often received calls from the police and the Samaritans to see if they could help women and children who were experiencing domestic violence, and it soon became clear that there was a real need for services to help vulnerable women in Bristol. Women and their children would take refuge in the centre for a few nights, but as the centre was a busy place they could not stay there all the time. In 1973 there was literally no support, and no understanding of the abuse women suffered, and it was commonly stated by authorities that women should just ‘go home’ to their violent partners.

As the calls to the women’s centre became more frequent, WLM activists began searching for a property where women could live safely. This became known as the ‘Women’s House Project.’ Recounting the early histories of women’s aid demonstrated how ‘women’s safe houses’ acted as spaces of mutual aid and co-operation, embodying many of the political ideals of the women’s movement as the first point on the document illustrates: ‘the house will be run on a day to day basis by the women in residence.’

List of practical arrangements for running the women's house

The workshop revealed how WLM activists invented language to describe and analyse violence against women, including the very term we use today – ‘violence against women.’ Some of this language, such as ‘battered women’ now seems out-dated, and we reflected in the workshop on how terminology has changed as more became known about the field.

Women Your Body Belongs to You

It might be worthwhile here to just pause a minute and consider: can you imagine living in a culture where there was no language to describe certain kinds of violence? As one contributor, who had been very involved in the development of women’s services in Bath commented, the analyses emerging from the WLM ‘prised open the private domain’ as an arena where women and children can experience physical and emotional violence.

A major part of the development of women’s aid and related services was research and policy reform. As Ellen was keen to state, women in the movement had no previous knowledge of law or social policy so they had to pick things up as they went along. This meant learning how the complex machinery of the state worked, negotiating dense bureaucracy and exercising immense powers of diplomacy. As Ellen jokingly reflected, she developed the skill to sit in meetings with sexist men, resist the urge to strangle them and maintain working relationships that helped them make incremental gains in attaining vital services for women.

Books and pamphlets about women's aid and violence against women research

I asked Ellen if she felt there was any tension between working so directly to reform patriarchal law and the aims of the wider movement that attempted to revolutionise the whole of society. As a socialist, Ellen personally felt there was no contradiction in pursuing such a course of action, but she did suggest there were people in the movement who were critical of these strategies. Ellen emphasised however that the women’s aid movement did not operate solely to change the law. It also aimed to change cultural perceptions and behaviour so that we can live in a world where violence against women is understood to be completely unacceptable. This is clearly an area where activism is vibrant in contemporary feminism, but there is still a very very long way to go before this aim is realised.

Women's House - image of woman's face

A revealing conversation from the afternoon focused on how the austerity measures implemented by the coalition government risk creating a situation where women’s financial independence will be curtailed, which could potentially mean women stay in relationships with violent partners. The introduction of a single payment of Universal Credit in October 2013 decrees that benefit payments can only be paid to one person per household, and does not stipulate the gender of the person money should be paid to.

Feminists have long emphasised the importance of women’s financial independence through benefit payments. Eleanor Rathbone argued for a system of family allowances paid directly to mothers as early as 1918. When threats to family allowance were tabled in the 1970s, women in the WLM mobilized to ensure that payments were still paid to the mother. The change to how benefit payments are structured in the UK may mean that payments go the man, therefore eroding what for some women is crucial access to financial autonomy.

Collection of pamphlets about Bristol Women's Aid

Such changes in welfare policies demonstrate that the struggle for equality and cultural transformation at the heart of feminist politics is a continuous one. Advances can be made but they can also be retracted, particularly in an age of austerity where women’s freedoms are surplus to financial requirements. The workshop also demonstrated to me that understanding these struggles in a wider historical context is crucial, so that we can better understand how feminist incisions can be made in political and cultural life.

Domestic Violence & Housing: Local Authorities Responses to women and children escaping violence in the home

This was one of the first pieces of research to explore how local authorities were implementing laws to protect women escaping violence in the home

I hope that the plans to write the history of Bristol Women’s Aid is realised quickly. Contemporary activists would benefit from knowing how to make policy interventions and transform the law. It is clear that the current government is unpicking just about every progressive piece of legislation made in the 20th century. Sharing such knowledge and skills across feminist generations is vital for understanding the varied strategies of committed resistance women have collectively practiced throughout history. As I said earlier, the fight for equality and cultural transformation is a continuous one, and recording and sharing what we have done is an integral part of sustaining political action.

 

 

 

Final Workshop – Bristol Women’s Aid: Saturday 20 July, MShed, 1-5pm

Join Ellen Malos, Nicola Harwin and Jackie Barron to discuss the history of Women’s Aid in Bristol on Saturday, 20 July, Studio 2 MShed, 1-5pm. All welcome.

The majority of Ellen’s activist life is dedicated to the ongoing struggle to end Violence Against Women.

For the final workshop in this series, Ellen is joined by colleagues who helped develop vital services to protect and support vulnerable women in Bristol and the UK.

Ellen Malos sits on the bed in the women's centre. Women's Liberation posters adorn the walls

Drawing on material from Ellen’s Archive we will look at the history and development of Bristol Women’s Aid and link it to the wider national context.

We will explore questions such as:

  • How and why did the Women’s Liberation movement come to support women and their children who were experiencing violence within the home, and to build an autonomous movement against it?
  • How has it now become supported by local and national governments ?
  • How did Bristol Women’s Aid begin and what did it do?
  • How did things change after the early 1970s?
  • Where are we now?