More Working Lives at the Society of Antiquaries

By Amara Thornton (Co-Investigator)

The Beyond Notability team has been busy going through records at the Society of Antiquaries. Among the lot are the Society’s Council Minute books. Alongside fellowship administration and the scholarly agendas of the day. the Council Minute Books also reflect the day-to-day logistics of running the Society.

Keeping my eye out for mentions of women in the Council Minute books, I came across one woman whose work for the Society was integral to its day-to-day functioning in the Victorian era. This woman is Mrs Baldwinson, who was married to the Society’s Porter, Mr George Baldwinson.

The minute noting her work at the Society was made as part of a Council Meeting in June 1874. George Baldwinson had asked for a raise for himself and his wife (whose first name is, sadly, not recorded), and the minute included information on their work and pay. Mrs Baldwinson’s rate of pay was quarterly, with an annual sum for making tea, in contrast to her husband’s weekly salary. After her death a few years later, a Mrs Knight took over her duties. Another very recent find was a reference to “two girls” (unnamed) who were to help with the Library Catalogue in 1884.

As I tweeted on our launch day, The Antiquaries Journal also includes brief references to other staff who helped the Society function on a day-to-day basis. There we can find acknowledgement of the work of Louisa Hurren, the Society’s housekeeper, who retired in 1945 after 40 years working at the Society.

In 1935, another staff member’s departure was acknowledged in The Antiquaries Journal – this was Miss Warrand, who was leaving the post of ‘Library-cataloguer’ at the Society after 10 years of working. It appears from the Journal that she was one of two cataloguers employed, and that her post was not to be filled because the cataloguing work had been so thoroughly done it was felt that the Society could manage with only one catalogue from that point.

We want to acknowledge the lives and work of these women in the Society’s history, and make sure that their work is recognised alongside the contributions of the Fellows to the Society. We hope that this brief post is a start.