Caring and Sharing – The centenary History of the Co-operative Women’s Guild

This history of the Women’s Co-operative Guild celebrates the 100th birthday of a remarkable organisation. When the Guild was founded in 1883, working class women had no public voice and were widely exploited at work and in the home. The Guild quickly became one of the first radical feminist groups to identify and challenge sexual prejudice and oppression, and to fight for change. Guildswomen were active in the campaign for maternity benefit, and improved infant and child care facilities. They defied convention by demanding easier divorce, and in the 1930’s bravely supported the Peace Movement by initiating the White Poppy Campaign. By 1939 the Guild’s 87,000 belonged to an organisation of national reputation and importance.

After the upheavals of the war the Guild found it difficult to compete with other claims on women’s free time, and met new problems associated with the decline in the number of Co-operative outlets. Nevertheless, Guildswomen continued to campaign vigorously for a wide range of radical social policies. The Guild continues to provide an outlet for the campaigning, creative and caring interests of its thousands of members.

The stirring events of the Guild’s foundation and its campaigns, as well as its adjustments to the changing social and economic environment of recent decades, are recounted in this centenary history. The book will be of special interest to Guild members, but it will also appeal to anyone with a concern for women’s role in society. It is also an important addition to the academic literature on the women’s movement.

From the back cover


The Co-operative Women’s Guild ceased to be a national organisation in June 2016. At a special general meeting in Coventry on 6 October 2015 a proposal to dissolve, put forward by the guild’s national executive committee (NEC), was carried by 27 votes to 3. Local branches can continue their activities.

Author: Jean Gaffin & David Thoms

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