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Rachael Vorberg-Rugh University of Liverpool ‘The unit of the Co-operative a woman’

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1 Rachael Vorberg-Rugh University of Liverpool ‘The unit of the Co-operative a woman’

2 With John Wilson (Liverpool) & Tony Webster (LJMU) History of the CWS/The Co-operative Group, 1863-present Research underway since 2009-10 Due for publication, autumn 2013 – 150 th anniversary Co-operative Business History 18631940s2012


4 “Taken as a general fact, the unit of the Co-operative movement – the customer – is a woman... If the democratic form of Co-operation is to be a great fact as well as a great example... then a vigorous and successful propaganda among female customers must stand foremost in the present and future programme of Co-operative leaders, and the women of England must take their place as energetic, loyal, and experienced members in all associations of consumers.” Beatrice Potter Webb (1891)

5 UK consumer co-ops – business model

6 Family economic unit: husbands = wage earners, wives = wage spenders Co-operative businesses depend on sale of food & household goods → women = customers Dividends = means of saving, stretching family income through shopping (women) Consumer ideology & reality created space for women’s involvement Consumer co-ops: a gendered business model Still from Men of Rochdale (1944)

7 Ripponden Society Founded,1832 Of its 45 members in 1834, 7 women Rochdale Pioneers 1 st woman member, Eliza Brierley, March 1846 Membership rules 1 per household (usually male) Women members

8 Access to leadership Membership = voting rights, access to leadership 19 th century membership = 1 per household (usually male)

9 Co-operatives are community and society organisations – and movements to change communities and society for the better Adapt to changes and challenges – external and internal – evolution of movement goals Involving consumers in the movement – moving from customer to active member – always a challenge for co-operatives Women’s Co-operative Guild is part of this mix – pressure group to increase women’s voice in co-operative democracy Some thoughts

10 Women’s League for the Spread of Co-operation “What are men always urged to do when there is a meeting held at any place to encourage or to start co ‑ operative institutions? – come! help? vote! criticise! act! What are women encouraged to do? – come and buy! That is all. We can be independent members of our stores, but we are only asked to come and ‘buy’.” Co-operative News (6 January, 1883) Alice Acland c1904

11 Early Guild campaigns – Attend meetings – Open membership – Election to local and national committees “Basket power” argument – women’s expertise as consumers is valuable Membership and leadership Guild membership card, 1908

12 Basket power and co-operative business “If the women withheld their baskets from the stores on Friday and Saturday there would be an end of distributive co-operation.” – Mr Bailey, Co-operative Congress 1894 CWS sales, 1912 Grocery/household, 81% Drapery, 8% Boots & shoes, 4% Furnishings, 3% Coal, 3% Clothing, 2%

13 The ‘head and the neck’? “Just exactly as the neck moved the head, so the women of Co-operative Societies could move their Management and other Committees as they desired.” – Walter Nield, Bolton Co-operative Record, 1908 Guild ‘push the sales’ event, c1910s

14 Open membership 1902, 153 societies have open membership (218 respond, over 1000 societies exist) 1903, 20 of 224 Oldham Guildswomen have co-op vote Education coms First = 1884 1900 = 159 1920 = 756 Management coms First = 6 women, 1890 1900 = 30 1920 = 241 Women on local committees, 1890-1920

15 Training for leadership Guild branches – How to read balance sheets, conduct meetings, speak and write papers; ‘Woman’s Corner’ – Confidence-building, mentoring Education – 1890s, district & sectional conferences – 1907, branch officials classes – 1913, 1 & 2 day schools, ‘train the trainers’ – Winter 1916-17, over 300 attend Margaret Llewelyn Davies, c1894

16 Mrs Neal (Bowes Park WCG), 1911 “She finds she wants power to secure the basket power! But how? She is nobody at the quarterly meetings. Only members can make their opinions felt with a vote! She becomes a member, and enters on a fuller life. She is free, with a recognised right to confer and decide on the questions that so much interest her now.... Then, to get the power to discharge her responsibilities, a co-operative woman’s place and work in the movement is on the management committee.”

17 Mrs Neal (Bowes Park WCG), 1911 “The deep-rooted opposition she meets when trying to get elected to a responsible position opens her eyes wide to a very great wrong in the movement, and a serious drawback to its success—the refusal of equality of opportunity to women. And as she gains co-operative knowledge and experience, she finds the same blundering policy throughout the movement—wholesale as well as retail, productive as well as distributive. With the exception that proves the rule, men are in every position of authority and power—men managers, men buyers, men auditors, men directors; men everywhere, ruling and controlling.”

18 Mrs Neal (Bowes Park WCG), 1911 “... If women had been equally trained in true co-operation, would stale goods and a slow sale have been the case in her store? Would unhygienic conditions have prevailed if woman’s housewifely spirit had been allowed full play? Would women have been disloyal to the store if they had shared its responsibility? Would men have to be running about all over the country teaching women about their own cocoas and jellies—and actually how to make them!—if they had equally authorised their production?...Would there have been the necessity for a minimum wage campaign for the women workers if co-operative women had shared the control of co-operative labour conditions?”

19 Mary Cottrell (1868-1969) Born in Sheffield; pupil-teacher at 14, head teacher at 22 Married Frank Cottrell & moved to Birmingham, 1897; joined BCS Move to Bourneville, 1900; joins Ten Acres & Stirchley Society and Guild branch Elected to Education Committee; 1909-32, Management Committee Birmingham City Council, 1917 Consumers’ Council, 1918 Midland Sectional Board, 1919 CWS Board, 1922-36 Next woman on CWS: Eva Dodds, 1959

20 First women on sectional boards 1893 – Southern, Mrs Mary Lawrenson 1917 – South Western, Mrs Mary Found 1919 – Midlands, Mrs Mary Cottrell 1923 – North Western, Mrs AH Nevitt 1928 – Scottish, Mrs Isa McNair 1935 – Northern, Mrs LM Beresford 1940 – Irish, Mrs MI Girvan 1948 – North Eastern, Mrs N Pearson 1968 – Western, Mrs G Pleece Southern Sectional Board, 1904 Mary Lawrenson

21 CWS pamphlet, c1930s What’s wrong with this picture?

22 “Women do the shopping. Why not consult them about the goods they buy?” Women’s Outlook, 1942

23 ChallengeAreaTarget Challenge 1Democracy and Representation Achieving equity in representation in our democratic structures Challenge 2Employment and Leadership Having more women in senior management roles within our corporate structure and businesses Challenge 3Reshaping SocietyCampaigning for gender equality across economic and social participation, in order that women’s voices can be heard and that society’s structures and actions better reflect the makeup of the population.

24 Sharing women’s voices: Launched: 3 July 2012

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