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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Somerset

ArchI've Celebrated

As 2018 draws to a close, we reflect on some of the anniversaries that the Archives have researched this year. A universally commemorated event was the centenary of the declaration of peace signifying the end of the First World War. It has been interesting and at times touching to discover more about the Jesuits who served as Chaplains over these past years and learn about their personal experiences as told in their own ‘voice’ in letters, diaries and even artwork.

It was also a century since Canon Law took legal effect and the opportunity presented itself to think about how the work we do in the archives conforms to the legislations about caring for archives as set out in Canon law. We are fortunate to work for a body that values its archives.

Of more local interest was the observation of 170 years of St Beuno’s and 145 years of St Aloysius, Oxford. We also created articles to mark 155 years of Letters & Notices, 150 years since Gerard Manly Hopkins entered the Society and

70 years since the death of Fr Robert Steuart SJ. Each of these occasions gave those working on the articles the chance to learn more about those places or individuals.

All of us working in the archives enjoy producing these articles, even if at times we are challenged to find material of relevance to a specific issue. One event that occurred a century ago, which we have not considered but has been celebrated nationally, was the increased voting rights brought about by the Representation of the People Act 1918, which included the right for some women to vote for the first time, although it was another 10 years before women gained electoral equality. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it has been difficult to find anything on this subject in the archives.

Despite the rest of the article written by Sydney Fenn Smith SJ (1843-1922) on ‘Women and the Priesthood’ reflecting contemporary views on the position of women, there is some recognition of women’s contribution to the recent war effort, which led to their inclusion in the electoral reform act:

…we may take as one illustration what the late war has brought home to us all so vividly, how each sex can contribute, and has of late contributed so gloriously, to the defence and security of their common country… and we all as we look back, feel that, if we have won the war, it is due to this co-operation of both sexes according to their different circumstances and capacities. (The Month, July 1919, p. 29)

On this eve of a new year, we look forward to 2019 and researching the anniversaries it will mark as well as wonder what events of 2018 will be commemorated in 100 years’ time. Hopefully the records we have collected and preserved will enable future archivists to do just that. If you are aware of any events in 2019 that you would like us to include in our upcoming blog posts, please do not hesitate to get in touch with your suggestions.

Happy New Year!

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