Association of Women Clerical Staff

Badge of the Association of Women Clerical Staff.

Badge of the Association of Women Clerical Staff.

Founded in April 1903 with just 64 members, and originally known as the Association of Shorthand Writers and Typists, the union’s first president was the Fabian intellectual and trade union historian Sydney Webb.

It became the Association of Women Clerks and Secretaries in 1912, and from that point on organised only women workers. Its badge shows not a penguin as it might appear but an auk – the union’s name being abbreviated to AWCS.

Though never large, the union survived until 1941, when it amalgamated with the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union. In 1972, it became the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff or APEX (and has since 1989 been part of the GMB).

One of the AWCS’ leading members, Anne Godwin (1897-1992), who had become general secretary of the CAWU in the 1950s, became only the third woman president of the Trades Union Congress, serving in 1961-62, shortly before her retirement.

The union’s surviving records can be found in the Working Class Movement Library.

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