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The Townswomen's Guilds (TG) is a British women's organisation. There are approximately 30,000 members, 706 branches and 77 Federations throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight. (Figures updated 1 August 2013).
The movement was formed in 1929, at the instigation of Margery Corbett Ashby and Eva Hubback, when women first won the right to vote and with the aim of educating women about good citizenship. Since then, TG has lobbied on national and local issues. Townswomen are encouraged to have ideas and views, develop new skills, campaign on various issues, support each other, make new friends and above all, have fun.
Membership and Organisational Structure
The national headquarters of the Townswomen’s Guilds (TG), is in Birmingham, England. There are 77 Federations, with 706 Guilds in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight.
The Townswomen’s Guilds’ (TG) Patron is Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal and the organisation’s National President is Dame Diana Brittan DBE and National Vice-Presidents are; Dame Jocelyn Barrow DBE, Eileen Bell CBE, Baroness Flather and Dame Esther Rantzen DBE.
TG’s Honorary Life National Vice-Presidents are; Maggie Chilton MBE, Jean Ellerton JP, Marjory Hall OBE, Jean Hunt, Pamela Pollock, Pauline Myers, Sue Smith OBE and Iris Shanahan MBE.
In June 2013, Margaret Key, who is a member of the Aldridge Afternoon Guild in the West Midlands’ Federation, was announced as the new National Chairman of the TG, taking over the role from Pauline Myers (now Honorary Life National Vice-President). Margaret leads the board of the National Executive Committee (NEC) in the running the organisation and the staff at the headquarters.
TG is very proud of its members’ achievements, both for their service to the organisation and for their support to other organisations, charities and their community. Every year, members are recognised and awards are presented at the organisation’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).
Townswoman of the Year – this is an award presented to a member who has devoted their time and energy to the organisation and is chosen by the National Chairman.
Officers’ Trophy – this award is given to a member who has exceptionally gone ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ to support an organisation or charity, or has made an impact to her community in a positive way and is chosen by the National Executive Committee (NEC).
The Townswomen’s Guilds (TG) produces Townswoman, a magazine for its members and is published quarterly every year - it is delivered directly to 30,000 TG members. Townswoman contains a mixture of articles covering all aspects of the organisation and more general features of interest to the members.
Guilds meet at regular monthly or weekly meetings and their annual programmes include guest speakers, demonstrations for members to learn and develop new skills, and social activities and outings.
Townswomen also get involved in many charitable and fundraising events, sports and creative leisure activities and with TG’s National Arts and Crafts Judges the organisations holds regular competitions.
Music has always played an important role in TG and there are a number of Federation and Guild choirs that will sing at both national and local events.
As well as social and educational activities, TG is proud to do its utmost to influence positive change in our world and has a strong focus on Public Affairs. The organisation harnesses the opinions of its members on important political issues and brings them to the attention of Government and decision-makers.
In 1929 four Townswomen's Guilds were formed at the instigation of Margery Corbett Ashby and Eva Hubback as an experiment in the study of citizenship, under the leadership of Alice Franklin and Gertrude Horton. The first four guilds formed were: Haywards Heath, Burnt Oak, Moulsecoomb and Romsey. By the end of the year, 26 Guilds had formed.
1931 - 13 area federations were formed to enable guilds within easy reach to know and help each other.
1932 - 146 guilds had now been formed. At the Annual General Meeting it was agreed to drop all political propaganda and to concentrate on the education of women as citizens. This resulted in the resignation of several members who subsequently formed the National Council for Equal Citizenship.
1933 - The organisation changed its name to the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds (NUTG). The magazine, previously called the Women's Leader became the Townswoman and NUTG adopted the NUWSS colours - Red for Courage, White for Faith and Green for Hope.
1938 - The rapid increase of members meant a move for NUTG headquarters from their cramped Westminster bungalow to a house in Cromwell Place, South Kensington.
During the War years the Ministry of Labour officially asked the NUTG to collaborate in encouraging married women, ineligible for National Service, to work part-time in offices, shops, and local industries to release men and women for munitions and services. Many younger Townswomen were conscripted. After the war the NUTG received a grant from the Ministry of Education to develop the movement and strengthen its educational base.
The Festival of Britain in 1951 gave guilds and federations throughout the country an opportunity to take part in local celebrations. In London "With this Sword", a pageant to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first guild formation, was performed at the newly developed Royal Festival Hall.
Two historic resolutions were passed in 1953 at the NCM in Blackpool, which meant that Townswomen could now campaign on national affairs.
By the late 1960s the total number of Townswomen's Guilds had risen to more than 2,700. The clearing of the Ried Camp, Austria, was completed in 1961 and £46,000 was raised to build four blocks of flats.
1970s and 1980s
The National Chairman's new chain of office, designed by Leslie Durbin, was worn for the first time in 1970. The Queen became TG's Patron for Jubilee Year. The 50th anniversary celebration was a spectacular revue, The Golden Bond. Devised by Kenneth Barrow, the production was staged at the Royal Albert Hall on 22 and 23 May 1979 and the cast of more than 700 Townswomen had prepared for the performances. The Golden Anniversary Luncheon at the Savoy Hotel on 29 January 1979 was attended by The Princess.
The Diamond Jubilee 1988/89 - Celebrations for TG's Diamond Jubilee began in May 1988 with the first exhibition of the Diamond Jubilee Tapestry at Liberty & Co in London and a Gala Concert attended by The Princess Royal at Central Hall in Westminster. Our Patron also attended a special reception for members in November, delivered the final Dame Margery Corbett Ashby Memorial Lecture the following April and completed the year at the National Conference Meeting at the Royal Albert Hall in July. The year of celebration closed with a special thanksgiving service in Westminster Abbey in July 1989.
Townswomen's Guilds celebrated their 70th Anniversary with a thanksgiving service held at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London in June 1999.
2000-2001 - in celebration of the Millennium, Townswomen from all over the UK came together at the Royal Albert Hall on 26 June 2001. An evening of singing, dancing, narration and movement came together to celebrate the decades of time, seasons, civilisations and of course a celebration of women through time past and present.
2003 - to celebrate International Women's Day Townswomen held a conference in Canterbury to highlight the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban regime. Named "Behind the Veil" the conference gathered together a variety of women's rights organisations, with the founder of WomenAid International, Pida Ripley speaking to the 300 Townswomen in attendance.
2009 - celebrations up and down the country marked 80 years since the movement's formation.
- Stott, Mary; Organization woman : the story of the National Union of Townswomen's Guilds, Heineman, 1978