Celebrating women’s achievements

Thousands of events will take place around the world tomorrow to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD).  This day has been observed, in one incarnation or another, for over 100 years.   Today, IWD celebrates women’s achievements and looks forward to a bright, safe and equal future for women.

Over the next few days the Library blog will feature two guest posts, on ‘Equal pay for equal work’ for female veterinary surgeons, from Julie Hipperson, PhD student at Imperial College London.  The RCVS Charitable Trust, in collaboration with Imperial College London and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), are supporting Julie’s PhD entitled ‘Veterinary training and veterinary work: a female perspective, 1919 -2000.’  You can follow Julie’s work here, on her blog, Pioneers and Professionals.

In honour of IWD, the Library has designed a small display that showcases our extensive archive on the first female president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), Dame Olga Uvarov, a Russian refugee.

Equal Pay for Equal Work – Part 1

Part one of two guest blog posts from Julie Hipperson, PhD student at Imperial College London.

In February 1943, the Council of the SWVS were not surprised when their attention was alerted to the fact that the Veterinary Record was carrying adverts which offered different salaries for men and women.  The issue of equal pay for equal work was by this time on the national agenda thanks to the efforts of women’s organisations such as the British Federation of Business and Professional Women, who had been spurred on by the reality that women being deployed into essential war work were receiving far less than their male counterparts, and due to the importance of the issue the adverts sparked a conversation within the SWVS about the suitability of adopting the principle of equal pay for equal work within the veterinary profession.

The widely-held opinion was that in small animal practices women should have similar salaries, and the general view was that in routine laboratory work women should be on the same scale as men.  As such, the final resolution was that the Council would lodge a formal note of protest if a salary were offered on a lower scale for a woman.  There was, however, dissension voiced over the issue of agricultural practice; as women could not lift heavy weights, the argument ran, they should have a lower rate in these type of work.  This was disputed, some arguing that even male practitioners also required lay assistance ‘for the heavy jobs’, and due to the important nature of the debate, a survey was sent out to its members mid-1944.  In total, it had been sent to 192 women, and they received a 35% response rate.  Of the replies received, 57 had given an unqualified ‘yes’ to the question of whether women should receive equal pay for equal work.  Eight, however, agreed in principle but were not sure that women could do equal work.

The issue of women’s strength was something which had been discussed during the debates on women’s entry to the profession, and would continue to be discussed, but what is interesting about this view of women’s pay in agricultural practice is that it links the issue of equal pay to a woman’s physical ability to do the job, rather than their intellectual ability.  It becomes less a question of a right predicated on inalienable equality, a view the more strident women’s groups were voicing, and more a pragmatic assessment of their ability as women to do the job they were being asked to do.  This could perhaps be characterised as striving for an equality of opportunity, rather than necessarily equality of pay.

by Julie Hipperson.  Part 2 to follow.

Read more about the profession on our webpage, Capturing Life in Practice  Follow Julie’s blog, Pioneers and Professionals

Equal Pay for Equal Work – Part 2

The final instalment of Julie Hipperson’s piece to mark International Women’s Day.

The last post looked at how in its early days the SWVS was conflicted about adopting whole-sale the notion of equal pay for equal work based on their physical ability to do the job, an ambiguity beautifully encapsulated in an interview held with Mary Brancker, as part of the Capturing Lives in Practice project. When asked about the physical strength required in being a vet, she replied:

Well, in a way, in those days particularly, you realised you weren’t as strong as a man; that you were different, and that it was a strain trying to fit yourself in…You didn’t really compete with the men, if you were sensible.  Some of them tried to compete, and that wasn’t satisfactory.  I did sort of realise that wasn’t…that you must admit, in all honesty, there were things you couldn’t do.  But on the other hand, you did realise that you’d got to try to do things that didn’t come naturally to you.[1]

Their nuanced response was perhaps largely subsumed by the SWVS’s decision at policy level in the 1940s to formally protest against pay inequality, but it was not entirely extinguished.  In 1947, for example, when the Ministry of Agriculture issued a proposed revised scale of salaries, the SWVS felt that it ought to lodge on behalf of some of its members that the Society ‘strongly disapproves the scale for women, which do not uphold the principle of equal pay for equal work”. Again, we can see that whilst formal objection focused on equal pay, the caveat to this was that it was not a view universally held within the Society.  I would suggest that it was this reluctance to subscribe wholesale to the notion of equal pay which made the Society wary of aligning themselves with the BFMPW, refusing its invitation in 1945 to affiliate, not because its members did not, in the majority, support the principle, but rather because the aims and tactics of the other organisations were predicated on a certainty of equality in all forms, a certainty which was not necessarily shared by all members of the SWVS.

It was a complicated issue, further nuanced in the 1960s and 1970s by developments such as part-time work, disputes about pay scales linked to qualifications, and greater questions being asked about women’s ability to hold their own in the market place.  However, looking at the SWVS’s views on equal pay in the early days begins to tell us much about how the Society positioned itself on questions of feminist principle, and it begins to say something about the wider profession’s assessment of what makes a confident, competent practitioner.

Read more about the profession on our webpage, Capturing Life in Practice  Follow Julie’s blog, Pioneers and Professionals

[1] Quote used courtesy of the British Library and the Centre for Rural Economy at Newcastle University.

Our home on Horseferry Road – 100 years old today

Today we are celebrating the 100th birthday of 62-64 Horseferry Road, the current home of the RCVS.

The plaque on the corner of the building records the laying of the foundation stone like this:

“Mr Fegan’s Homes” (incorporated)
to the glory of God and the welfare of orphan,
needy and erring boys, here and
hereafter, the foundation stone of
this House of Mercy was laid by
the Right Honourable Lord Kinnaird
20th May 1912.
“His compassions fail not  Lam. III 22 ”

Why ‘House of Mercy’?   This was something that intrigued me and several other staff so the anniversary seemed like a good time to try and find out more.  A quick search on the web revealed that the charity Fegans still exists today offering support to children and their families in South East England.

An email to them brought forth a wealth of fascinating material about the history of the building and its intended use.  ‘House of Mercy’ refers to the fact that it was being built to house the new headquarters of “Mr Fegan’s Homes”, a shelter for homeless boys under 16 and a hostel for poor working boys.

James Fegan (1852-1925) started his work helping street urchins a few years after he completed his education,  founding a charitable society in 1870 and opening his first home in 1872.   The society continued to expand and by 1912 was in need of a new building.

Loving and Serving (the society’s magazine) for March 1912 tells the story up to the point when the foundation stone was laid in May 1912 – a story full of trials and tribulations.  It seems that, not long after they had completed the purchase of 87-91 Tufton Street, some of the frontage was requisitioned by the Council as part of a road  widening scheme.  This meant that 62-64 Horseferry Road had to be acquired as well to give them enough land on which to build – the whole (corner site) was eventually cleared for the new building in February 1912.

Leaflet - ceremony to lay the foundation stone

Leaflet for ceremony to lay the foundation stone copyright Fegans

The building was to be called “The Red Lamp” – its red lamp, on the top most corner of the roof,  would “shine night by night as a beacon of hope and help…”.

Loving and Serving May 1912 records the laying of the foundation stone by Lord Kinnaird at a ceremony which was attended by several prominent clergymen.  The programme for the event had hoped for £3,000 in ‘gifts and promises‘ towards the cost of the building, but this was surpassed on the day when a total of £4,426 was pledged.

Laying the foundation stone

Laying the foundation stone copyright Fegans

“The Red Lamp” was designed by AE Hughes and is described by Pevsner 1 as ‘free Neo-Wren’(1).  The finished building was slightly different to that shown on the leaflet for the laying of the foundation stone –  with two doors in Horseferry Road and only one in Tufton Street (the original plan had been for two doors in Tufton Street) , presumably this was due to the loss of frontage in Tufton Street.

The official opening was held just over a year later on 17 June 1913 . There was a public meeting at Church House, Westminster (just around the corner), then those in the crowd who had reserved tickets to view the building moved to Horseferry Road where the three sections of the building were declared open. The event is described in detail in the July 1913 issue of the Society’s magazine, which was now renamed The Red Lamp.

opening day 17 June 1913

Opening day 17 June 1913 copyright Fegans

To give a flavour of the event – it was ‘a bright summer afternoon’ there was ‘sweet and effective singing’ and a ‘substantial Thank-offering, £837’. The only negative thing recorded was the theft of the caretaker’s watch!

completed building

Completed building copyright Fegans

Unfortunately the high hopes for “The Red Lamp” were curtailed by the outbreak of war in 1914, with the shelter and hostel closing at that time.  The offices and  advisory centre remained in Horseferry Road until the building had to close due to bomb and fire damage following an air raid on 16 April 1941.   (The then RCVS building in Red Lion Square was also hit by a bomb, on 10 May 1941, and suffered similar damage).

If you are interested in finding out more about the work of Fegans today, please visit their website.

All images were kindly supplied by Fegans who retain the copyright.

1.  Bradley, Simon and Pevsner, Nikolaus London 6: Westminster (Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of England) Yale Univ Press 2003

From burial ground to picnic spot

May is local and community history month so that, together with a rather nice photograph from 1913 that was included in the material we received from Fegans (see the previous post), has led to me writing about one of the places I go to eat lunch – St John’s Gardens on Horseferry Road.

The garden started life as the burial ground of St John the Evangelist, Smith Square  which is now used as a concert venue.

The burial ground was consecrated in July 1731 and very quickly became overcrowded, so much so that 20 years later three feet of earth was deposited over the whole site to solve the problem.  According to one report 5,126 graves were dug in a 10 year period.

In 1781 two watchmen were appointed to protect the site, and a wall was added in 1784 – at that time the stealing of bodies for dissection was common.  In 1814 it was felt necessary for the watchmen to be armed with pistols!

The burial ground was finally closed in 1853, with Lord Palmerston claiming it was a public nuisance.

After 30 years lying neglected, a group of local residents formed a committee with the aim of converting the ground into a public garden.  Their plans were finally realised in 1885 when on the 23rd May The Duke of Westminster declared the gardens open.

This photograph of the gardens was taken from James Fegan’s office window on 17 June 1913, the opening day of what is now Belgravia House, the home of the RCVS.

St Johns Gardens 1913

St Johns Gardens 1913 copyright Fegans

The view from the same spot today is not that different – the layout of the flower beds and pathways is similar, though there are more buildings surrounding the gardens.

If you look carefully today, nearly 160 year after the burial ground closed, you can still see evidence of the former use – some of the gravestones are lined up against the walls.  Sadly most are so worn it is hard to see that they are gravestones at all – and the inscriptions have long gone.

There is though one unmistakable link with the past – the sarcophagus of Christopher Cass (1678-1734)

Christopher Cass' sarcophagus

Cass was Master Mason to His Majesty’s Ordnance and worked on a number of London churches as well as Blenheim Palace and the stonework front of Burlington House.  The grade II listed sarcophagus is said to be the earliest granite monument in England.


St Johns Gardens © Copyright Fegans and used with their permission.

Image of Christopher Cass’ sarcophagus © Copyright Kevin Gordon from the Geograph website and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Diamond Dogs: The Queen’s Corgis

This Sunday, we will be watching, with baited breath, to see if the Queen takes her corgis aboard the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee with her.  Well, perhaps not, but in Britain the Pembroke Welsh corgi immediately evokes images of Queen Elizabeth II, walking her adored pets through the grounds of Balmoral or posing for portraits with a short-legged beast by her side.

According to Welsh folklore, corgis were the mount of choice of the fairy folk, when going into battle.  According to experts however, corgis probably have their origins in Scandinavia and were later used by Welsh farmers as cattle drovers.  The ubiquitous royal dog is undoubtedly an ancient, although not particularly majestic looking breed, steeped in folklore.

Her Majesty’s love of corgis was inherited from her father, King George VI, who introduced the breed into the Royal Family in 1933.  A corgi named Dookie was bought from local kennels and quickly became a favourite playmate of the royal children.  For her 18th birthday the Queen received a corgi named Susan, from which she bred a number of dogs.  The corgis that currently grace Buckingham Palace are called Monty, Willow and Holly.  Her Majesty also keeps several ‘dorgis’, a corgi/dachshund cross, named Cider, Candy and Vulcan. Princess Margaret’s dachshund, Pipkin, is the sire of most of the Queen’s dorgis.

The corgi’s exact breed history is not traceable.  Welsh legend tells of a hardworking farming community, who struggled to tend their cattle and make their cheeses. A pair of children tending to the cattle came across two puppies under a tree, almost identical to foxes.  The brought them home with them and were told that they were dogs, gifted to them by the fairies.  As these strange puppies grew, they helped the community herd cattle, guard their homestead and kill vermin.  Experts think that the corgi bares a similarity to several Scandinavian breeds, most notably the Swedish Vallhund.  The Pembrokeshire corgi was officially recognized by the Kennel Club in 1934 but could have arrived in Wales as early as the 10-12th century.

You can read more about the Queen’s love for animals, of all shapes and sizes, on the website of the British Monarch. For more details on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee festivities, please visit the official website.

Celebrating National Pet Month – a selection of open access resources on small animal medicine

dogandcat2_220widthThis year National Pet Month runs from 1 April- 6 May.  As their web site says they are on a mission to:

  • help promote responsible pet ownership across the UK
  • highlight the important work of pet care professionals and working companion animals
  • raise money for the nation’s pet care charities

As a library we have a role to play in supporting the work of pet care professionals and in particular vets.  As can be expected there is a huge range of resources available on small animals so in honour of National Pet Month we thought we would highlight a few of the open access (free) ones.

Acta veterinaria Scandinavia
Banfield Journal: Achieving Success in Practice which has a critically appraised topic in every issue!
Emerging Infectious Diseases
Journal of animal welfare law

For more open access veterinary journals

dogandcat_220widthReview articles:
Yeates, J., Everitt, S., Innes, J. F. and Day, M. J. (2013) Ethical and evidential considerations on the use of novel therapies in veterinary practice. Journal of Small Animal Practice, 54(3), pp. 119-123 This article reviews the ethical and evidential considerations of novel veterinary therapies while safeguarding the welfare of animals.
AVMA Guidelines for the Euthanasia of Animals: 2013 Edition

DeBusk, S., Silberstein, N. And O’Keefe, L. (eds.) (2011) Anesthesia for the vet practitioner. Rev. 3rd ed. [online] Portland : Banfield Pet Hospital. Available from http://www.banfield.com/Pet-Owners/About-Us/Medicine/Research/Anesthesia-Book [Accessed 18 April 2013]

PubMed Central – access to journals in biomedical, life-sciences and veterinary science
AVMA collections – a selection of articles from AVMA scientific journals that have the most practical application on specific subject areas e.g. Canine behaviour series, Disaster preparedness and response (including health of search and rescue dogs), Feral cats, Heartworm disease, Obesity in dogs, Rabies, Spay-neuter

For more open access databases

The International Veterinary Information Service (IVIS) provides free access to veterinarians, veterinary students, technicians and animal health professionals worldwide e.g.

American Association of Feline Practitioners Practice Guidelines (1998-)
European Association of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging (2005-)
European Veterinary Conference (2007-)
European Society of Veterinary Orthopaedics and Traumatology(1998-)
North American Veterinary Conference (2005-)
World Small Animal Veterinary Association (2005-)

All you need to do is register with the website.

So as you can see there is a lot of information out there. Don’t forget if you need help finding your way through it all we are here to help.

First image by Claudio Matsuoka under this Creative Commons License
Second image by Carterse under this Creative Commons License
Third image by MarilynJane under this Creative Commons License
Fourth image by Ohnoitsjamie under this Creative Commons License

WAHVM Congress 2014

WAHVM Congress 2014Readers of this blog with an interest in veterinary history might like to know about the 41st Congress of the World Association for the History of Veterinary Medicine, hosted by the Veterinary History Society  at Imperial College, London  from 10-13 September 2014.

This event, which is being held in Britain for the first time, will welcome speakers from 30 countries to discuss the twin themes of ‘History of One Health‘ and ‘War, animals and the veterinary profession.‘  There will also be sessions on veterinary collections, general veterinary history and oral history. 

The key note speakers are:

Professor Donald Smith, Professor of Surgery and Dean Emeritus, Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. – ‘The Three Parts of One Health: Zoonosis, Comparative Medicine and Zoeyia’

Dr Hilda Kean, Ruskin College, Oxford.  – ‘Animals in wartime Britain: The Home Front’

To find out more and  to register  visit   www.veterinaryhistorylondon.com

10th International Veterinary Congress: a case of unfortunate timing

At 11pm on 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany.  That same evening at the Natural History Museum 300 guests were gathered for the conversazione and reception of the 10th International Veterinary Congress.  A Congress that had been many years in the planning ….

Programme of music at the reception

Programme of music at the reception

London had been chosen as the venue for the 10th meeting of the International VeterinaryCongress  (IVC) at the previous meeting in 1909.   The original plan had been to hold the 10th IVC in 1913 but as there was already an international medical congress in London that year the date was moved to the summer 1914,

The organising committee consisted of Sir John McFadyean, Principal of the Royal Veterinary College, his son-in-law Stewart Stockman plus 28 others including the RCVS Registrar Fred Bullock.  In July 1911 the Committee met for the first time – the main topic of discussion was how the estimated £3,500 needed to run the Congress would be found.

By October 1912 good progress was reported to have been made with the scientific and social programmes but only £300 had been raised.  Planning continued throughout 1913 – the RCVS voted to make distinguished foreign visitors Honorary Associates and the ‘coffers’ increased to £3,180.

In early 1914 it was announced that: the money had been raised; places at the commercial exhibition were selling well, and the papers to be presented had been translated into English, French and German ready for printing.

By June some 1300 delegates had registered and the stage was set for a successful congress and then … on  the 28th Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo and everything changed.

Over the coming weeks as the threat of war grew McFadyean and his committee considered postponing the congress but in the end, with so much at stake, they decided to carry on.

Congress badge

Congress badge

The first event, an evening reception at the Hotel Cecil on the Strand, took place on the 2nd August with far fewer attendees than had been expected

The following morning McFadyean officially opened the congress. There was good representation from the USA, Canada, China, Brazil and South Africa but representation from Germany, France, Austria, Serbia, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy was practically none existent.

After the opening addresses and the election of officers for the meeting, McFadyean announced the scientific programme would start the following day.

At 11am on the 4th August McFadyean again mounted the podium and uttered the following words “Yesterday we felt the cloud of anxiety… and today the cloud has become much darker”. He then proposed that the meeting should adjourn and reassemble at 3pm to transact the “business necessary to bring the Congress to a close”.  This they  did with all activities cancelled except for the conversazione that evening.

Thus 300 delegates were at the Natural History Museum, listening to the String Band of the Royal Artillery and studying the specially selected exhibits, as Britain officially entered the war.

Boxes of unused badges from the 10th International Veterinary Congress

Boxes of unused badges

It would appear that much of the winding up activities were left to the RCVS registrar Fred Bullock. This is probably why the records (letters, receipts, minute book, accounts etc) are in our archives.  Perhaps the most poignant memento we have of the congress that never was are the boxes of pristine congress badges whose intended recipients never even made it to London

For a  fuller account of the 10th IVC  see Bruce Vivash Jones (2014)  Unfortunate timing Veterinary Record  174(25)  pp 627-629

200 year anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo: Unique records to be digitised

At our recent Summer Reception, guest speaker Kirsten Rausing announced £387,275 in funding from The ALBORADA Trust for a five year project to catalogue, properly store and digitise priority pieces from our historic collections and make them available for free online.

Amongst the documents we plan to digitise is a manuscript ledger recording the work of the Board of Ordnance Veterinary Hospital at Woolwich Barracks from 1802-1855 – a unique record of significance for the veterinary history of both the Battle of Waterloo and the Crimean War.woolwich 2

The hospital’s origins stem from February 1796 when the artillery horses stationed in Kent were reported to be in a diseased state.  Edward Coleman, Professor at the London Veterinary College, was asked to investigate.  His report confirmed that many of the horses had glanders and had been destroyed and recommended that a portion of the stables at Woolwich be set aside as an infirmary.

Coleman suggested that the infirmary could be staffed by a pupil from the veterinary college, who could remain in residence, and that he could attend once or twice a week. This plan was agreed very quickly and Coleman started as Medical Superintendent on 25 March 1796  at 10s a day and John Percivall as Assistant at 6s a day.

The ledger is divided into two parts – the first section lists the admissions of sick and injured horses from the

  • Horse Brigade, Royal Horse Artillery,
  • The Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers, the Riding Establishment
  • Senior officers of the regiment stationed in Woolwich.

The second section is a store issuing and receipt book for the hospital which allows researchers to see the huge increase in supplies required directly after the Battle of Waterloo and during the build up to the Crimean War.

The National Army Museum’s Waterloo 200 project carries the strapline ‘discover the battle that changed the world’.  We are delighted that on the 200th Anniversary of the Battle  this document, which highlights the role of veterinary surgeons in this world-changing event, will soon be made available for all to view.

The digitisation project will start later this year – and I will post the history behind our most interesting and rare pieces and updates on progress here, so watch this space!

Image credit: Jacob Bland