These notes are derived from the personal memories of two members of the group, Margaret Dyson and Marie Thompson, which were recorded at a meeting at Girton College on March 24th 2009. Some of these memories had come in turn from meetings which Margaret and Marie had held with other members of the group earlier in 2009.
The group began with a meeting, chiefly of University students, held in the gardens of Newnham College, Cambridge in the summer of 1970, followed up with an introductory day held in the Michaelmas Term of 1970, again at Newnham College. The group had an organisational core which held regular central meetings, usually with a specific theme to discuss, but it appears to have remained largely informal in its nature, information about meetings being spread by word of mouth or by a 'telephone tree'. The group's main base for meetings was, for several years, at 48 Eden Street, Cambridge, moving in 1982 to 49a Burleigh Street, which was known as the 'Cambridge Women's Centre'. Individual members and sub-groups were also members of a multitude of other local groups - pressure groups, reading groups, political groups, consciousness raising groups etc, many of which used the same base as the CWLG for meetings.
The focus remained chiefly on local issues, occasionally interacting with campaigns on a national level, such as campaigns relating to abortion legislation in the 1970s and 1980s, members varying widely in their degree of political interest and activity. The Cambridge group appears to have been relatively 'unpolitical' - Margaret Dyson remembers attending a Manchester meeting which was 'much more political', even 'harshly' so.
The membership was drawn largely from within the immediate area of Cambridge itself though a handful of members came from outside the town. There were no male members in the group but men were regularly present in a supportive role, running creches and helping with specific initiatives such as squats.
One of the first initiatives to spring from the group was the Unsupported Mothers Group, begun by Sally Doherty (later Sarah Greaves) when two of the group's members became homeless. Margaret Dyson joined forces with Sally Doherty at the beginning of the project, having met her at the Newnham meeting in the autumn of 1970, and in 1971 the UMG began a squat in a large empty house on Milton Road, Cambridge, which was owned by King's College. Others joined in too, and further squats took place after this in other empty houses in Cambridge.
Though the group began largely as a student initiative, the number of townswomen involved became greater over the years and in later years they began to be the mainstay of some of the group's activities, such as the Cambridge Women's Refuge (the first one being established in John Street in the mid-1970s), the Cambridge Women's Resource Centre, and Women's Aid.
Other readily identifiable projects, some of which are still ongoing, sprang directly or indirectly from the (collective) ideas and activities of CWLG. These include the following: Rape Crisis; Choices for Women; Women are People; the Pregnancy Advisory Group; and the Nursery Action Group; also Cambridge Women and Homelessness, which was formed in the early 1980s and, with a local housing association, Cambridge Housing Society, set up a project known as Corona House on Corona Road in 1986 - this is still ongoing in 2009, as is the new Women's Refuge, again with a building provided by Cambridge Housing Society and City Council funding.
The CWLG began to wind down by the mid-1980s, probably because of the combined pressures of careers and children and the fact that individual members were probably concentrating more on specific initiatives and offshoot groups than on the central group.
The papers listed here were brought together during a weekend get together held by members of the group in November 1990 to gather, sort and discuss their memories, activities and archives. Broadly speaking, they include papers produced by the Group itself (GCIP CWLA 0) and a wide variety of other feminist publications and subject material (GCIP CWLA 1-4). There is, however, a degree of overlap between all the subdivisions of the cataloguing, partly because of the nature of the material and the way it was arranged by the group before transfer, and partly because it arrived in two separate deposits, GCIP CWLA 0 constituting the later deposit.
The papers listed at GCIP CWLA 1-4 were donated by the CWL Group in January 2001 by Margaret Dyson, member of the Group, via Alastair Reid of Girton. The papers listed at GCIP CWLA 0 were originally donated by the Group to the Cambs County Record Office (now Cambs Archives and Local Studies) in 1997 but were transferred from there to Girton in June 2009. Additional publications were received from Felicity Potter in October 2012 (Acc no 1213/10), and were added to the exisiting collection.