IN 1974I undertook one of my most daunting assignments ever for this newspaper, worse than climbing a 200ft tower crane with no safety harness: I went to interview the local, and newly formed, branch of the Women’s Liberation Movement.

Back in the day, as they say, these female trail blazers suffered all sorts of aggravation, not only from men I might add, which painted them as little more than bra-burning harridans who couldn’t get, or didn’t want, husbands.

Fortunately the reality wasn’t like that and they didn’t shred me, in fact they bought the drinks. They made their point, helped change society and all these years later the records of their work have been presented to the University of Worcester’s archive at The Hive history centre in the city to keep for posterity.

At its height, the Malvern and Worcester Group of Women’s Lib comprised about 50 members and some have kept in touch, a nostalgic link to their pioneering days. Among them is Sue Tyrrell, then a  Malvern schoolteacher, who had been given the job of talking to me. Nearly 50 years later she said: “It would be hard for youngsters to believe now, but when I was a young woman there were no women vicars or aeroplane pilots. Women couldn’t get a mortgage or take out hire purchase without a male guarantor. 

“Companies recruited staff on the basis of women’s jobs or men’s jobs and paid them differently. Recruiters openly refused employment to young women on the basis that they would leave work and have babies.

The newly formed Malvern and Worcester Group of the Women’s Liberation Movement speak to the Press in 1974

The newly formed Malvern and Worcester Group of the Women’s Liberation Movement speak to the Press in 1974

“Careers teachers counselled girls about to leave school that they needed to make sure they were adept at domestic duties as they would sooner or later become plumbers’ wives or carpenters’ wives or anyone’s wife really. Childcare was non-existent unless you happened to be a wealthy woman who could afford a nanny.”

The Women’s Lib movement had its roots in a book by French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir called Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex), which criticised all Western thought for positioning woman as “other” and man as “default”.

When it was published in France in 1949, it became a sensation and was promptly banned by the Vatican, which probably did it no harm at all.

In the early Fifties it was published in America, influential women writers took up the cause and gradually the bandwagon began to roll. During the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, feminist activism exploded in the United States and around the world, forever changing society by expanding the rights, opportunities, and identities available to women.

Malvern and Worcester Women’s Lib float in 1974 Malvern Carnival

Malvern and Worcester Women’s Lib float in 1974 Malvern Carnival

The first meeting of the Malvern and Worcester group of Women’s Lib was held in 1974 in the large country house Birchwood at Storridge, which was then a commune, while the first meeting in Worcester was at the rather unlikely venue of the Plough pub in Deansway.

Another founder member Diana Churchill, added: “Over a five-year period we campaigned for equal pay, for equal opportunities, for childcare, for abortion rights, for the recognition of domestic violence as a criminal offence and against sex discrimination. One of our memorable achievements was the setting up of a Women’s Refuge in Worcester.

“Most importantly being part of the group enabled us to gain the confidence to stand up for ourselves and to understand that working in the domestic sphere deserved to be recognised as equally important to society as the non domestic.

“Many years have passed since that time but we still have some of the papers that were produced or used by the group and it makes fascinating reading.

“We are delighted that this is being handed over to the Worcestershire Archive Service, which will preserve this unique record of local action for future generations to read.  

“To the young people of today we would say we know there is still a long way to go before we have true equality between the sexes, but all those of us who were involved in the Women’s Liberation Movement are proud that we played our part in changing the role of women in our society for ever.”

If you were part of Women’s Lib and want to get back in touch, email