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Records of the Abortion Law Reform Association

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Abortion Law Reform Association
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The records in this section are those which were received by the Institute of Medical Sociology, Aberdeen, from ALRA in 1971 and 1974 and transferred by them to the CMAC at the WIHM in December 1982, and which were catalogued by Jean Aitken Swan. This list sticks very closely to Mrs Atiken Swan's original arrangement and numbering in order to be usable with the card index which she also compiled, merely prefixing her references with the CMAC reference SA/ALR/A.

An extract from her original introduction explaining the arrangement follows:- These ALRA records over a period of approximation 35 years from the mid-1930s to about 1970. The year 1963 which saw the appointment of Mrs Vera Houghton as chairman of the Association marked an acceleration in the pace of the campaign leading to the passing of the 1967 Abortion Act. The volume of correspondence with the general public and of records relating to parliamentary lobbying and general campaigning increased considerably after 1963 and that year foms a dividing line in the arrangement of the material. The papers fall into three main sections: first, records of the formation, constitution and deliberations of the Association, 1936-67; secondly, other records of the period 1936-62; thirdly, other records of or after 1963. The arrangement of the second and third categories requires some explanation.

As a general rule records before 1963 are collected by year or group of years, without differentiation. This method best reflects what was going on at the time and is made practicable by the relatively small quantity of the material before 1963. The range of the material - correspondence, reports, articles, newspaper cuttings, and other papers classified under a particular year can easily be scanned for any particular item. From 1963 onwards records are not classified by year but have been grouped organically in an attempt to reflect the different aspects of the Association's work and interests. Thus the whole of the material falls into 17 classes. An additional class for card indexes has been added.

When received some of the material was already grouped by subject or individual. Where possible this original arrangement has been retained within classes or sections of classes even though in some cases this contravenes the basic arrangement by year before 1963 and by subject thereafter. For instance, the papers of three individuals important in the movement have been retained as entities (classes 15-17) and not dispersed among other classes. There are in addition four other classses where the material has not been divided at 1963: the constitution and minutes of the Association (1); statistics and information (12); parliamentary papers (5/3/1) and administration (14). The catalogue indicates which sub-sections have been kept in their original form and under their original titles. It should be noted, however, that these sub-sections sometimes contain items which do not precisely fit the title but presumably have been included as relevant to that sub-section.

The classes can only indicate the subject matter in the broadest terms. There is inevitably some overlapping and imprecision, given the complexity of the material.

The catalogue is for use with the card index. [More accurately described as a calendar to the files indexed - see A.18 and note, p.22.] A card has been made for individual items in most of the classes. However, one card may be used to describe a series of items with a common theme, such as letters from sympathisers, or a sub-section in its original arrangement where the title gives a sufficient indication of the subject-matter (See David Steel's papers (15)). Some cross references are given on the back of individual cards. Correspondence dealing with a particular individual is filed in batches in date order and in these cases cross-references will be found on the back of the first card in the batch. Some of the papers are undated but from the context of the item it may be fairly certain whether it belongs to the pre-1963 period or after, and it is filed accordingly. Undated items of the pre-1963 period are kept together in a separate class (3/12); those of 1963 and after are filed after the dated items in the appropriate classes and sub-classes.



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