Women overcoming disadvantage through education

We are launching our “WEA Women overcoming disadvantage through education” campaign with a conference in Nottingham this Wednesday, 4 June. It’s at the ICCA, Hucknall Road, Nottingham, NG5 1QZ, with registration at 10.00 am for a 10.30 start and a 4.00 pm finish.


As well as our own General Secretary and CEO, Ruth Spellman and WEA colleagues, speakers will include:

  • Dr Finn Mackay, feminist activist and WEA Ambassador
  • Dr Anita Franklin from the University of Sheffield
  • Cheryl Turner of NIACE
  • Baroness Frances D’Souza, the Lord Speaker House of Lords

You can find more about the conference here.

The WEA has recognised, included and valued women’s contributions and has improved women’s lives through education for over 110 years, so the campaign is a continuation of a long tradition.

Albert Mansbidge established “An Association to promote the Higher Education of Working Men” in 1903 with his wife Frances, using two shillings and sixpence (12½ pence) from her housekeeping money, but the organisation changed its name to become the “Workers’ Educational Association” in 1905 in response to women’s demands for inclusion. This was before the fight for female suffrage was won. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Emily Wilding Davison was an early WEA activist. She was the suffragette campaigner who died after King George V’s horse trampled over her at the Epsom Derby in 1913.

Writing in the same year as the tragic event at Epsom, Ida Hony, the second WEA’s women’s officer, said,

“Of all the special efforts the WEA is making today, perhaps none is more important than the special effort it is making on behalf of women.”

Mel Lenehan, Regional Education Manager for the WEA in the East Midlands. has shared this short video giving an overview of our women’s education from the Association’s early days to today’s ‘Women Leading Learning’ and ‘Women into Politics’ projects.


We are inspired by our past and can learn from it but too much nostalgia can seem indulgent when inequality is still rife and there is so much work to do, so we’re focusing on current and future priorities.

Wednesday’s conference aims to:

  • Define the skills and knowledge needed by learning practitioners to deliver the women’s learning programme model;
  • Identify what difference the women’s learning programme model makes to students and society;
  • Share and consider ways to embed equality, diversity and social purpose education within women’s learning provision.

It’s guaranteed to be a stimulating and stirring get together.

You can email Hanna Liljeberg hliljeberg@wea.org.uk or telephone: 01332 291805 to find out more.