Family Planning Association

  • Family Planning Association
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The collection comprises archives of the FPA and predecessor bodies, 1921-1976, including minutes, records of branches, internal records of administration, research and surveys.

This list includes three sets of papers related to the FPA records. The records of the North Kensington Women's Welfare Centre, originally founded by the Society for the Provision of Birth Control Clinics in 1924, and of Margery Spring Rice, superintendent of the centre from 1924-1958 were part of the original list. The papers of Caspar Brook, director of the FPA, 1968-1973, were stored in Cardiff with the FPA records and have been incorporated in the current list (Section CB) as the majority of the papers relate to his activities at the FPA. [Additional papers of the Organisation Working Party, 1960-1964, were also located in the move and have been listed at the end of section A5].

Some files of individuals' correspondence were transferred to the Wellcome Library from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in March 1989. These have been incorporated in the main list. (section A14).

A copy of the original introduction to the collection, section A plus some smaller areas, is held in the Notes field. This goes into detail on the history of the FPA and how it is represented in the archive.

A list of abbreviations is also held in the notes field.

Some material in this collection has not been catalogued yet. See 'Accruals' for further information about uncatalogued parts of this collection.



Physical description

1065 boxes, c.10 O/S items and 23 digital items Uncatalogued: 77 transfer boxes, 31 CDs, 4 archive boxes of AV, approx. 5729 digital files, 1 archive box, 1 file and 1 bundle.


The original classification system has been retained, although this does not always adhere to normal archival listing standards; it was decided that a complete re-numbering of the collection was impractical. Related papers are indicated by the use of cross-references.

The basic divisions are between section A (records 1930-c.1975), section B (records c.1965-c.1975) and section C (c.1965-c.2008). In addition, several small sections stand outside this division: published non-FPA papers (MISC), files on regional branches and federations (X), files relating to the North Kensington Women's Welfare Centre (NK), and personal papers of [Margery] Spring Rice (SR) and Caspar Brook (CB).

An outline list follows:

A: RECORDS 1930-c.1975





1-20: General files

G: Federations

H: Area Organisers

A-F: Old branch files (selected)

J: Old branch files (unselected)

K: Proposed branches


A6: CONFERENCES (not associated with AGMs)

















A23: MISCELLANEOUS, including photographs

B: RECORDS 1965-1975. [This material accumulated during and after listing of early records and mostly dates from the period after re-organisation of the FPA in 1965. The classification follows that used for the A series, which led to some gaps in numbering.]






B10: PUBLICITY (including press cuttings)



[B16: Publications to 1975 are in A16]



C: RECORDS 1953-1995












SR: [Margery] SPRING RICE PAPERSX: REGIONAL FILES [Files transferred to FPA from branches, federations]



Acquisition note

The records of the FPA were transferred to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre at the Wellcome Institute (now the library at Wellcome Collection, Archives and Manuscripts department) from the Cardiff University Population Centre (formerly the David Owen Centre) in July 1988. The records had originally been transferred to Cardiff in 1976 from the FPA national office in London when Caspar Brook, the former director of the FPA, moved to take up the position of director of the Centre.

As well as the records from Cardiff, a few items, found at the FPA national office in the course of a survey of later archives, were also transferred to the library (1975-1991), these have been incorporated into the main list.

Substantial additional transfers were made between 1990 and 1996 and these were catalogued with the assistance of Heritage Lottery Funding.

Prior to the FPA formally entering liquidation on 15 May 2019, Wellcome acquired further records from the organisation, forming accessions 2574 and 2498.

Biographical note

1918: Marie Stopes published Married Love.

1921: Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress (CBC), founded by Marie Stopes and Mothers' Clinic opened.

1922: Walworth Women's Welfare Centre opened.

1924: Society for Provision of Birth Control Clinics (SPBCC) founded; North Kensington Women's Welfare Centre opened [Walworth also run by SPBCC].

Workers' Birth Control Group founded.

May 1924: Deputation to John Wheatley, Minister of Health.

1927: Birth Control Investigation Committee (BCIC) founded [Chairman, Sir Humphrey Rolleston, Hon Medical Secretary, Dr C.P. Blacker] and established International Medical Group to investigate birth control in other countries.

1929: Birth Control International Information Centre (BCIIC) founded [President, Margaret Sanger].

Jul 1930: Ministry of Health Memorandum 153 MCW 'Birth Control' issued.

National Birth Control Council (NBCC) founded

Premises at 26 Eccleston Street.

Workers' Birth Control Group joined NBCC.

1931: Birth Control Investigation Committee joined NBCC.

Jul 1931: NBCC changed name to National Birth Control Association (NBCA).

1933: Resignation of Dr Marie Stopes from Governing Body

Feb 1937: Deputation to Sir Kingsley Wood, Minister of Health.

1938: Society for Provision of Birth Control Clinics and Birth Control International Information Centre amalgamated with NBCA.

Feb 1938: NBCA moved to 69 Eccleston Square [HQ of Eugenics Society].

Feb 1939: Dissolution of BCIC. Replaced by Scientific Advisory Committee.

May 1939: NBCA changed name to Family Planning Association (FPA).

1947: FPA branches grouped into regional federations.

Oct 1949: FPA moved to 64 Sloane Street.

1954: Death of Lady Denman, chairman; succeeded by Mrs Margaret Pyke.

1955: FPA Silver Jubilee.

Lady Denman Memorial Fund established to provide clinics in rural areas.

First official visit by Minister of Health [Iain Macleod].

Jul 1957: Oliver Bird Trust founded and established Council for Investigation of Fertility Control (CIFC).

Oct 1957: Publication of The Human Sum [for FPA Silver Jubilee].

Nov 1958: First issue of 'Medical Newsletter' published by the Medical Department, became bi-monthly and then quarterly until October 1976, when it was replaced by 'Fertility and Contraception'

1959: FPA Holdings Ltd incorporated.

BBC Appeal by Bishop of Southwark.

Birthright film premiere.

1960: Organisation Working Party established [Chairman, Professor François Lafitte, Birmingham University].

1962: Family Planning International Campaign [later 'Countdown'] launched.

FPA became a registered charity.

Feb 1963: FPA moved to 231 Tottenham Court Road.

Sep 1963: Family Planning in the Sixties Report of Organisation Working Party published.

1965: Re-organisation of FPA branches. 500 clinics grouped into 52 branches.

Press and Information Department established.

Theodore Fox appointed as director (1966 - 1967)

Oct 1965: Interim National Council established.

1966: FPA incorporated as a company.

Margaret Pyke Memorial Trust established.

1967: National Health Service (Family Planning) Act.

National Council empowered the FPA's 736 clinics to offer advice to unmarried patients, if they so wished.

FPA Holdings Ltd ceased trading.

Jun 1967: National Council formally established.

1968: Caspar Brook appointed as Director and Secretary of the FPA, he was Director until 1974.

First vasectomy clinic opened in Cardiff.

Oct 1968: FPA moved to 27-35 Mortimer Street.

Jan 1969: First issue of 'Family Planning Journal' published.

Apr 1970: Oliver Bird Trust/CIFC wound up. Remaining funds to Margaret Pyke Memorial Trust to continue annual lectures.

National Council made it mandatory for FPA clinics to advise unmarried patients.

Jun 1970: 1000th clinic opened at Thamesmead, London.

1972: Amendment to the National Health Service (Family Planning) Act empowered local authorities to provide vasectomies free.

Family Planning Sales Ltd established.

Formation of the FPA Education Unit.

1973: Education and Training Department established.

1974: NHS Reorganisation Act allowed contraceptive advice and supplies to be made free of charge to everyone.

April 1974 - January 1975: John Geffen Director and Secretary of the FPA

Phased handover of FPA's 1,000 clinics to NHS AHA began, to complete by October 1976.

1975: Most FPA clinics handed over to NHS Area Health Authorities. GPs entered family planning service from July.

FP Sales Ltd moved to Oxford.

February 1975 - December 1978: Thomas E. Parker Chief Executive Officer of the FPA.

March 1975: FPA's National Council adopted new constitution for the FPA to come into effect in early 1976.

1976: Disbandment of Training and Medical Department.

AHAs became responsible for medical family planning training of doctors and nurses.

Absorption of FPA's clinics completed by the autumn, leaving the FPA with 7 private contraceptive clinics for research purposes, and 14 vasectomy clinics.

April 1976: Launch of the new FPA. New constitution to develop education and information work. FPA provided for a new regional structure in place of former branches: reorganised into 10 regions.

1977: Further restructuring of the FPA. Northern Ireland became the eleventh region of the FPA.

FPIS set up between HEA and FPA, to provide information service for consumers and professionals.

January 1979 - December 1979: Dorothy White Director of the FPA.

1980: FPA Golden Jubilee.

Recommendations made by Working Party in the report 'Future of the FPA' for reorganisation of FPA accepted by NC.

January 1980 - March 1989: Alastair Service General Secretary of the FPA.

Sept 1980: National Executive Council replaced both the NEC and the NC.

1981: FPA's community project 'Grapevine' is closed.

1983: HEC and the FPA joined a group of 11 manufacturers to form the Contraceptive Consortium (later Contraceptive Foundation).

FPA led a campaign against moves by Victoria Gillick to ban confidential contraceptive advice to under - 16s.

1984: Launch of FPA's 'Men Too' campaign.

JAC established.

1988: Clinic Cuts Action Committee established.

Review of structure and strategy of FPA by Coopers and Lybrand.

April 1989: Doreen Massey appointed as Director of the FPA.

Further restructuring of FPA following management review. New departments established. Medical Department closed.

1990: Number of FPA regional offices and few remaining FPA clinics closed.

FPIS became FPPS.

1991: Population Concern now independant of FPA.

1992: 'FPA Inform', a monthly bulletin produced by Information and Research Department for staff starts.

1996: FPA moved to 2-12 Pentonville Road, N1.

March 1996: Anne Weyman appointed as Chief Executive of FPA

1998: Research Department closed.

FPPS became CES (Contraceptive Education Service) still run by the FPA and funded by DoH..

2000: FPA 70th anniversary.

2002: FPA Sales Ltd. sold.

2005: FPA 75th anniversary.

2008: FPA defends the 28 week abortion time limit.

FPA launches "It's My Right", a campaign for the sexual rights of people with disabilities

15 May 2019: FPA was placed into liquidation due to a historic pension deficit and ceased to operate as a charity and a limited company.

Related material

Held by the Wellcome Library:

A collection of grey literature formerly held in the FPA Library, consisting of approximately 650 items published from 1969 to 2011 may be found here.

'Family Planning in Community Medicine', Film made by London Film Associates, 1973, for the Family Planning Association, held by the Moving Image and Sound Collection. Consult the Wellcome Library online catalogue to order a viewing copy of this film.

In other repositories:

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists retains microfilms and indexes of FPA training certificates, part of the Joint Committee on Contraception records held at the college. A summary list of RCOG holdings relating to the FPA is held in the Wellcome Library. Certain files from the Scottish branches have been transferred to Glasgow University Archives and are held with records of Greater Glasgow Health Board. These transfers are indicated in the list.

Archived website

This organisation's website has been archived as part of the work of the UK Web Archiving Consortium (UKWAC) and can be consulted here:

Terms of use

This collection has been catalogued and is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records.

Appraisal note

Digital material has been transferred from the original physical media to secure storage. The physical media has not been retained

Accruals note

The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future. Please contact for more information or to request access to uncatalogued material. Requests are considered on a case-by-case basis.

Acc 1510: Approx 100 FPA powerpoint presentations.

Acc 2462: 3 boxes of papers relating to the FPA and its predecessor bodies, including copy correspondence with various regional offices and campaigns, 1940s.

3 transfer boxes received May 2010 (boxes 14-16 of acc. 1744), consisting of files on projects in Northern Ireland, practice development, and cooperation with outside bodies by FPA's Information Department; 1970s-2000s.

47 transfer boxes were transferred (acc 2498; May 2019), following the FPA going into liquidation. A further 17 boxes (plus 1 box of audio-visual material and 448MB of born-digital records were transferred from Iron Mountain storage in 2020 (acc 2574).



AGM Annual General Meeting

AHA Area Health Authority

AID Artificial Insemination by Donor

ASME Association for the Study of Medical Education

BCC Birth Control Campaign

BCIC Birth Control Investigation Committee

BCIIC Birth Control International Information Centre

BCT Birth Control Trust

BIMH British Institute for Mentally Handicapped

BMA British Medical Association

BMJ British Medical Journal

BMSA British Medical Students Association

BPAS British Pregnancy Advisory Service

CB County Borough

CBC [Society for] Constructive Birth Control

CC County Council

CES Contraceptive Education Service

CHC Community Health Councils

CIFC Council for Investigation of Fertility Control

CMAC Catholic Marriage Advisory Council

CMHP Carers of Mentally Handicapped People

CMNT Committee on Medical & Nursing Training

CPAG Child Poverty Action Group

CSSP Centre for the Study of Social Policy

DHA District Health Authority

DHSS Department of Health and Social Security

DoH Department of Health

ECWG Ethnic Community Working Group

ESC European Society for Contraception

FPA Family Planning Association

FPIC Family Planning International Campaign (later 'Countdown'/'Concern')

FPIS Family Planning Information Service (later 'FPPS')

FPPS Family Planning Promotion Service (later 'NICE')

FPS Family Planning Services

FPSG Family Planning Services Group

GMTC General Medical and Training Committee

GP General Practitioner

GPFM General Policy, Finance and Management Sub-Committee

HCOG Health Chief Officers Group

HEA Health Education Authority

HEBS Health Education Board for Scotland

HEC Health Education Council (later 'HEA')

HMC Hospital Management Committee

HPANI Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland

HPAW Health Promotion Authority for Wales

HQ Headquarters

HRWG Human Resources Working Group

ICPP International Committee for Planned Parenthood

IPPF International Planned Parenthood Federation

IPS Institute of Population Studies

IRC Information and Resource Centre

IU(C)D Intra-uterine (contraceptive) device

JAC Joint Action Committee for Families and Family Planning

JCC Joint Committee on Contraception

LA Local Authority

LCC London County Council

LDAG Learning Difficulties Advisory Group

LHA Local Health Authority

LHC Local Health Councils

LHS Lefthand side (selected file papers)

MAC Medical Advisory Committee

MAP Medical Advisory Panel

MB Metropolitan Borough

MCW Maternity and Child Welfare

MD Metropolitan District

MGC Marriage Guidance Council

MPC Margaret Pyke Centre

MOH Medical Officer of Health

MRC Medical Research Council

MSAC Medical and Scientific Advisory Council

MT Management Team

NAFPD National Association of Family Planning Doctors

NAFPN National Association of Family Planning Nurses

NAT National Aids Trust

NAWO National Alliance of Women's Organisations

NBCA National Birth Control Association

NBCC National Birth Control Council

NC National Council

NCES National Contraceptive Education Service (later 'CES')

NFPS Natural Family Planning Service

NEC National Executive Committee (later 'Council')

NHS National Health Service

NHSTA National Health Service Training Authority

NICE National Initiative on Contraceptive Education (later 'NCES')

NIRC National Information Resources Centre [before 1974, Family Planning Information and Training Centre]

NICERH National Initiative on Contraceptive Education and Reproductive Health

NIHPA Northern Ireland Health Promotion Agency

NIHPU Northern Ireland Health Promotion Unit (later 'NIHPA', then 'HPANI')

NMGC National Marriage Guidance Council

NPA National Pharmaceutical Association

OPM Office for Public Management

PAS Pregnancy Advisory Service

P E P Political and Economic Planning (merged with the CSSP in 1978 to become the PSI)

PHC Primary Health Care

PCC Post-coital contraception

PSGB Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (Became Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 1988)

PSI Policy Studies Institute

RC Roman Catholic

RCOG Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

RHA Regional Health Authority

RHB Regional Hospital Board

RHRL Reproductive Health Research Link

RHS Righthand side (general file papers)

RPSGB Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain

SCC Staff Consultancy Committee

SEAG Sex Education Advisory Group

SEF Sex Education Forum

SHEG Scottish Health Education Group (later 'HEBS')

SPBCC Society for Provision of Birth Control Clinics

SPOD Committee on Sexual and Personal Relationships of the Disabled

THT Terrence Higgins Trust

UDC Urban District Council

UN United Nations Organisation

UNESCO United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation

UNICEF United Nations Childrens Fund

VD Venereal Disease

WNC Women's National Commission

WNCCC Womens National Cancer Control Campaign

Original 1976 introduction to the catalogue of the collection:



MAY 1976

Work on the archives of the Family Planning Association began in 1970 when Mrs Margaret Howard, who had worked for the Association since 1947, was appointed Archivist, and attended the School of Library and Archive Studies at University College, London, as a part-time student. With the advice of Mr Lionel Bell of the Public Record Office Mrs Howard devised a scheme for the classification of the records covering the period from the 1920s up to 1968.

From storage in the basements of Margaret Pyke House, Mortimer Street and Elsley House, Gt Titchfield Street, the records were shelf listed, packed in storage bags and removed to shelving in an open corridor on the 4th floor of Elsley House, where the work of sorting and arranging was carried out until April 1975. At this time the records were removed again to a well furnished basement seminar room in No. 23-25 Mortimer Street, where they could be kept locked-up and where the work on them continued.

I was appointed Assistant Archivist in November 1973, and worked with Mrs Howard until her sudden death in December 1974. Before this, and for a short while after, a great deal of valuable work was carried out by Mrs Nancy Ryder in a voluntary capacity. Mrs Lilian Rubin was appointed Assistant Archivist in February 1975.

The work of arranging and listing both the older records (Class A) and those of the 1968-1973 (Class B) period was completed in April 1976, and Mrs Rubin prepared an index to the descriptive lists of the Class A records.

The physical condition of the files is good, only a small number had been affected by damp. The procedure was originally to remove the papers from old manilla file covers, extracting all metal fasteners, which might rust, and re-fasten them by means of tags into new stiffer folders. The FPA practice of keeping tagged on the left hand side of a file any key papers relevant to it or extracted from it has been upheld by separating those papers from the main file by a sheet of plain white paper labelled 'Left Hand Side'. Files which were too bulky have been split and given point numbers e.g. A1/52.1, 2 etc. As time went on it became clear that to complete all these processes would not be possible in the time available. We therefore, took a short cut by cutting off staples and not fastening the papers to their covers. In this condition, however, they are very vulnerable to loss and disarray, and we recommend that steps be taken to remedy this before the files are released to searchers. Those classes involved are indicated on the class list.

The present method of keeping the files in storage bags was a temporary arrangement only. It is not satisfactory for long term storage as files are likely to be damaged by being pulled out. Also the files are insufficiently supported. We recommended that these bags be replaced by archive storage boxes as soon as possible.

Nothing has been done to check the acidity of the papers, but minor repairs were done by means of music tape, or pasting onto area bonded fibre.

The 2,600 items tell the story of the development of birth control services from the foundation, in July 1930 of the National Birth Control Council, which changed its name to National Birth Control Association in July 1931 (See Minutes of Governing Body, 9 July-A5/1) and to the Family Planning Association in May 1939 (See Minutes of Special Meeting of Members, 10 May- A5/3). They include the records of the Birth Control Investigation Committee (See A13/4-5). The story is full of incident, often dramatic, occasionally sad, and is packed with colourful, forceful personalities, whose names occur in other important spheres.

Dr Marie Stopes, the most famous British protagonist of birth control, was a member of the original Governing Body, but her highly original and uncompromising character led to her resignation in 1933. (See Executive Committee Minutes, 8 Dec-A5/2 and A16/1.1). The first effective Chairman was the Lady Denman, noted also for her work among Women's Institutes. She was succeeded on her death in 1954 by Mrs Margaret Pyke, the Association's first secretary, who saw it expand from the one room and a typewriter she first knew, to a highly organised and competent Central Office, with a nationwide network of clinics, before her death in June 1966. The highest number of clinics was 1,052 on 4 April 1972.

Among the FPA's Vice Presidents occur such eminent names as those of H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, Julian Huxley, Maynard Keynes and many others.

The history of birth control does not, of course, begin in 1930, and the archives contain a number of letters and papers written in the 1920s - the period during which the first birth control clinics were set up. The National Birth Control Council was established as a body to co-ordinate the work of five existing voluntary organisations namely the Society for the Provision of Birth Control Clinics (founded 1924) and the Birth Control International

Information Centre (founded 1929) which were both amalgamated with the National Birth Control Association in 1938, the Society for Constructive Birth Control and Racial Progress (founded by Marie Stopes in 1918), which remained independent; the Workers' Birth Control Group (founded 1924) which joined the NBCA in 1930 and the Birth Control Investigation Committee (founded 1927) which was incorporated with the NBCA in 1930 and amalgamated with FPA in 1939. (See A16/1.1)

From 1930-1938 the offices were at 26 Eccleston Street. Rooms were then offered by the Eugenics Society in their premises at 69 Eccleston Square, and the move took place in February 1938.

In Oct 1949 the Association moved to 64 Sloane Street; February 1963 saw a further move to 231 Tottenham Court Road, and October 1968 the move to Mortimer Street (See A16/1).

The National Birth Control Council also pressed for the extension of birth control services under the Ministry of Health Memorandum 153 MCW (See A8/17 for copy) issued almost simultaneously with the foundation of the NBCC.

[in 1930].

There are two main series of records. Those relating to the period from 1968 form the bulk of the archive and have been arranged in classes numbered 1-23 and have the prefix A. Each file has then been given a separate number with the class thus A1/1.

A4 contains the records of old branches, Federations and Area Organisers. In the first instance it was decided to preserve only a sample of the old branch files and these were selected to represent the different types of premises in use, and to include the clinics set up in rural areas by the Lady Denman Memorial Fund. These were known as Lady Denman Clinics. The selected old branch files were arranged and listed by Mrs Ryder. Subsequently it was decided that all the old branch records should be preserved. As it was not possible to process these with the same care as the other material within the time allowed they have been arranged in alphabetical order and placed in bags numbered 1-103. No staples or clips have been removed and no dates noted. A simple alphabetical check list was compiled and is attached to A4.

[Note. These are now section A4/J-K (June 1991).]

A5 contains the complete set of Executive Committee Minutes and minutes of sub-committees, the Oliver Bird Trust, and the Council for the Investigation of Fertility Control. A16 includes copies of all FPA publications booklets and leaflets to April 1976 as far as we know. It also includes papers relating to the publication in October 1957 of the FPA book, The Human Sum, with contributions from many well-known authorities. This was launched to mark the Silver Jubilee in 1955. There is also a complete set of the Family Planning Journal.

A17 includes a large and interesting collection of Press Cuttings covering a wide variety of subjects related to birth control, fertility and population. These reflect the change in attitude towards birth control which took place from 1930 to 1960. They also reveal the complete reversal of the population problem from anxiety about too few in the inter-war period to the later anxiety about too many.

There is a small but valuable collection of miscellaneous records (A23) consisting mainly of items collected by Margaret Pyke, many of which were sent out on loan at a time when a history of the Association was planned. This project was not completed and the records were all returned. They have been kept together in preference to dispersing them to other classes. There is also a small collection of books, pamphlets and offprints on birth control and related subjects, many of which date from the inter-war period.

The other main series of records consists of the later accumulation, most of which date from 1968, or, in the case of branch records, which date from 1965 when the clinics were re-organised into new branches. This series is classified as closely as possible to the scheme laid out for the 'A' series and numbers are prefixed with the letter 'B'. There is nothing significant about the date 1968 and the 'A' series contains records after this date, notably among the publications, and the 'B' series contains, apart from branch records, a few earlier papers. This was in most cases the logical procedure, but in a few it was due to the date of accession of that particular document.

In addition to these two series of Central Office records, there are clinic Minute Books and items of special interest which have been sent in by request, and are in bags numbered in order of accession and prefixed with the letter 'X'. Individual items in this group have not been numbered. [Note. Section X is now listed after section B]

Two further separate but complementary and important collections are the records of the North Kensington Clinic (prefixed 'NK') which was set up in 1924 by the Society for the Provision of Birth Control Clinics, and was served among others by Dr Helena Wright and Dr Joan Malleson. These include minutes of the Executive Committee from 1924-1969. The letters and papers of Mrs Margery Spring Rice, who was Chairman of North Kensington from 1924 to 1958, have also been given to the Association and cover the period 1926-1969; they include a letter from Beatrice Webb of 5th May 1931, and one from Arnold Bennett of 10th November 1926 (See SR5). This series is prefixed "SR".

The year 1930 was a landmark in birth control history. It saw the publication by the Ministry of Health of Memorandum 153 MCW, which gave local authorities permission to offer contraceptive advice to married women for whom "a further pregnancy would be detrimental to health" at special sessions of Maternity and Child Welfare clinics, or gynaecological clinics. Upon this permission the Association based its negotiations with local authorities for the opening of clinics until the National Health Service (Family Planning) Act of 1967. The section of the FPA Archive which covers these negotiations (A11) is a rich field, reflecting the various liberal and conservative interpretations of 153 MCW, the clashes of personal belief, and the determination of individuals in the face of bureaucracy and prejudice. Moreover it is a section arranged and listed by Margaret Howard just before her death. As Branch Organising Secretary from 1949-1959 she was responsible for many of those negotiations, and she therefore added notes from memory and summarised the information in the files, bringing her unique understanding to bear upon them. So clear was her recollection of old disputes that she occasionally burned again with fury as she re-read old letters!

The great period of expansion of FPA clinics was in the 1950s. In 1954 a nationwide branch membership campaign was launched in order to present a united front in negotiations with the Ministry of Health over use of hospital premises. 1955 saw the official visit of Iain Macleod, as Minister of Health, to FPA headquarters, (See A8/31) then celebrating its Silver Jubilee. This event was chronicled in The Times leader 'To-day's Families' (30 Nov. 1955), so family planning had become respectable. Meanwhile the churches, notably the Methodist Church, gave support, and the Anglican church gave official approval at Lambeth Conference of 1958, to what had long been acceptable to most churchmen. The Rev. Dr. Kenneth Greet, Secretary of the Christian Citizenship Department of the Methodist Church, served on the Executive Committee from 1956 to 1964, and the Rev. S.R. Birchwall, Vicar of Chingford, from 1955-1964 and on the National Council 1964-1971.

In 1959 Dr Mervyn Stockwood, Bishop of Southwark, made a successful appeal for funds on the BBC's 'The Weeks' Good Cause' (See A12/5-14). The same year saw the release of the FPA's film Birthright, launched by a party at the House of Commons (See A8/3). The media had now opened its doors to the forbidden subject, and birth control began to be more openly discussed.

Early in its development the Association realized the need for research into and treatment of sub-fertility, which led to the setting up of sub-fertility clinics and special sessions. Other ancillary services followed including psycho-sexual problems sessions, and training of doctors to undertake these (See A3, A19). Backing up the work of the clinics there has been rigorous testing of new contraceptive products and continuous medical research into new, simpler and more effective contraceptives. The Council for the Investigation of Fertility Control was set up in 1957 with £30,000 donated by Sir Oliver Bird, a benefactor of the Birmingham clinic. Its object was to assist research for a simpler contraceptive by examination and trials. It gave priority to the trial of oral contraceptives. Of necessity the Association took on the work of training doctors and nurses in contraceptive techniques and related skills (See A19). Awareness of the need for more and better sex education, and for a population policy also followed and are reflected in the archives.

By 1960 the Association had become highly complex and diffuse and the need for general re-organisation to strengthen and simplify the administration and re-define its aims and objectives was recognised. A working party was set up under the chairmanship of Professor François Lafitte, which published a report in 1963, Family Planning in the Sixties. (See A5/65). Following the recommendations of this report the Association became incorporated as a Company not having a share capital in 1966, and in place of the cumbersome structure of federations, within which each clinic was a branch, with or without sub-clinics, clinics were grouped into 52 New Branches. In this way the FPA was equipped to cope with its expanding role, culminating in the success of its campaign to get birth control facilities incorporated in the National Health Service, and the subsequent handing over of its clinics to Area Health Authorities, a process due to be complete by October 1976.

This review should have been written by Margaret Howard. Tribute has been paid to her work for the FPA in Family Planning Journal, April 1975. It suffices here to say that she remained the guiding light of the work on the archives. The records contain her many notes and directions, without which its completion would have been so much more difficult. Thanks are due to Mrs Ryder for her detailed and careful work on the selected branch files, to Mrs Rubin, who combined her expertise as a registered indexer with meticulous care and enthusiasm for the project as a whole and made many valuable suggestions, and to Mr Bell for his advice in the early stages.

Sheila J. Himsworth

Permanent link


Accession number

  • 290
  • 291
  • 304
  • 364
  • 417
  • 428
  • 557
  • 631
  • 1510
  • 1744
  • 1986
  • 2498
  • 2574