New national archive records experiences of Wales’ trailblazing political women
The experiences of the women who played a central part in the first decades of devolution in Wales have been recorded and protected in a national archive.
The voices and papers of current and former women Members of the Senedd have been captured in Setting the Record Straight – Gwir Gofnod o gyfnod, a project by Women’s Archive Wales and the Senedd. An event to celebrate the culmination of a two year project was held in the Senedd today.
In 2003 the Senedd became the first legislative body in the world to achieve parity – a 50:50 split of women and men.
Yet, before the project few female politicians had contributed their documents, photographs, and papers, while male politicians had been proactive in doing so.
Those behind the project said they aimed to counter that and protect the legacy of women’s contribution to a defining moment in Wales’ political history and inform and inspire future generations.
Over 50 Welsh and English interviews were filmed with past and present women Assembly and Senedd Members for the oral history element. The contributors discuss how they became engaged in politics and the difficulties they encountered, to the campaigns they championed and why. A selection of the interviews can be found here.
Speaking in her recording for the archives, Sian Gwenllian, Member of the Senedd for Arfon since 2016, said that research had shown that the Senedd had paid more attention to subjects like childcare and job sharing than in institutions with less equality.
“Having more women means the lives of all women will be improved, because we draw attention to the important things in our lives,” she said.
Among the speakers at the event are Elin Jones MS, Llywydd of the Senedd, who has represented the constituency of Ceredigion since the first Welsh election in 1999. Her story has been recorded, along with important documents spanning her entire career.
“It is imperative that the contribution of women to Welsh politics is protected so that we have a record of the critical role played by those women,” she said.
“That a national Parliament had such a significant number of women from the start, it enabled it to break new ground. It had a real impact on the way in which the Senedd evolved and the way we did politics.
“The archive has an important contribution to make in capturing the whole story and ensuring that the voice of women is appropriately heard when future generations look back at the story of Welsh democracy.”
Catrin Stevens, former Chair of Women’s Archive Wales and Co-ordinator of this project said that the Archive had been concerned for some time about the reluctance of women politicians to deposit their important political papers in our national and local archives, while men politicians had been proactive in writing memoires and safeguarding their legacies.
“This project has succeeded in changing this and ensuring that women’s immense contributions to the first years of Devolution are captured in their papers and in their voices for the future. It has been a privilege, an honour and an inspiration to do so,” she said.
Also included in the archive are the stories of four young women who were among the Members of the first Welsh Youth Parliament: Eleri Griffiths (Cynon Valley) Arianwen Fox-James (Powys), Talulah Thomas (Clwyd South) and Alys Hall (Rhondda).
The oral and documentary collections will be kept in the National Screen and Sound Archive of Wales and the Welsh Political Archive at the National Library of Wales as well as other relevant archives around the country, where they can be watched and studied by historians, researchers, students, and members of the public and safeguarded for future generations.
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