Founded in 1960 in response to a letter received by ‘The Guardian’ newspaper’s women’s page, our founding principles are as relevant today as then. Members enjoy conversation, intellectual stimulation and friendship through taking part in our informal and social local, regional and national events.

Watch and listen to our 60th Anniversary celebration interview with founding member Maureen Nicol

Find out more about NWR through the decades by clicking on the timeline dots below…


Squeezed like Sardines in Suburbia

  • The Guardian Women’s Pages editor Betty Jerman writes an article in February of this year, entitled Squeezed Like Sardines in Suburbia. It is published by the editor Mary Stott and strikes a chord with Maureen Nicol (pictured with Mary Stott), a young Cheshire housewife who writes to the paper: ‘Perhaps housebound wives with liberal interests and a desire to remain individuals could form a national register so that whenever one moves one can contact like-minded friends.’
    She is overwhelmed by requests from women wanting to join 'her' register and the National Housewives' Register is born.
  • Maureen Nicol becomes self-appointed National Organiser
  • Groups begin to form and are encouraged to make their own decisions about activities
  • Enthusiastic members help answer letters and make introductions on a local or regional basis
  • Enquirers are asked to pay a registration fee to their area organiser
  • The first national Newsletter, a duplicated sheet, is produced, giving news of group activities, spread of membership and profiles of members. Some areas produce local newsletters. At first these appear every few months, but eventually a regular pattern of spring and autumn Newsletters is established
  • Membership reaches 2,000
  • Annual subscription is 1 shilling



The register is no longer an experiment, but income is uncertain and the next National Organiser, Brenda Prys-Jones (replacing Maureen Nicol), inherits a ‘bankrupt, disorganised success’


Our first newsletter

  • The first professionally printed Newsletter is produced. Its format grows and develops eventually becoming The Register magazine, and later in 2014, NWR Magazine
  • Membership reaches 6,000


National Housewives' Register

The organisation becomes known as the National Housewives' Register (NHR)


First National Conference

The first National Conference is held in Buxton attracting 300 members.


Overseas groups

  • The first overseas groups are formed in Australia and Canada. By 1980 there are nearly two hundred groups in five continents (Africa, Asia, Australia, North America, Europe) however an accurate international register is impossible to maintain, with many overseas groups folding over time

  • Standardised publicity is used for the first time


Harrogate National Conference

The National Conference is held in Harrogate (NHR Newsletter No. 2 pictured)


Switch to the Seventies

  • NHR celebrates its 10th anniversary (NHR newsletter no. 10 pictured)
  • The National Conference – Switch to the Seventies – is held in London
  • NHR's increasing size makes it imperative that joint National Organisers are appointed and paid a small honorarium in recognition of the responsibility
  • Membership rises from 10,000 to 15,000 as a result of widespread publicity
  • Annual subscription is 5 shillings


'Stress' in Southport

  • The National Conference is held in Southport. The by now 'National' Newsletter is the accepted forum for discussion of register matters and includes informative and controversial articles written by members


Policy making

  • The National Conference is held in Bromley
  • Research begins into how other organisations deal with policy making


Looking at our heritage


Women Working

  • The National Conference – Women Working – is held in Nottingham
  • The first Correspondence Magazine is established by Matilda Popper of the Swansea group
  • A special business meeting at Crewe discusses the results of the research, culminating in the basis of the present organisation


National Group is created

  • The National Conference – Population Explosion – is held in Bristol
  • The first National Group (the organising body of NHR, pictured) is elected at the Bristol Conference. The National Organiser, the Treasurer, the Newsletter Editor and the PR Officer are appointed within this group
  • The number of one-day local conferences increases dramatically
  • There are now 800 groups
  • Membership reaches circa 19,000


Open minds

  • The National Conference – Open Mind – is held in Edinburgh
  • The first overseas newsletter – Register Worldwide – is produced and sent to groups in 13 countries
  • A postal ballot for National Group elections is introduced
  • Annual subscription is £1


Overwhelmed with enquiries

  • NHR celebrates its 18th anniversary (1978 newsletter no. 25, pictured)
  • The National Conference – Living or Existing, WhoCares? – is held in Manchester
  • Election to the National Group is now by postal ballot of every paid-up member
  • National and international publicity produces an overwhelming number of enquiries and both membership and the number of groups increase


Realising human potential


Destiny 2000

  • An ‘International’ conference – Decades of Decisions – Destiny 2000 – is held in Buckinghamshire
  • The National Conference is held in Bradford
  • Charitable Status is granted and three trustees appointed: Maureen Nicol (founder), Betty Jerman (journalist and author, pictured) and Mary Stott (past Women's Page editor, The Guardian).
  • Affiliation is introduced for overseas groups
  • A sixth Correspondence Magazine is established
  • The 1,000th group is formed
  • Membership reaches circa 22,000


21st anniversary

  • NHR celebrates its 21st anniversary
  • The National Conference – What Price Progress? – is held in Warwick
  • The Lively-Minded Women, a book about the history of the first 20 years of NHR by Betty Jerman, is published by Heinemann
  • A European conference is held in Brussels
  • The register is computerised


The Power Game

  • The National Conference – The Power Game – is held in London
  • Office premises are acquired to cope with an ever-increasing workload
  • There are affiliated groups in 28 countries overseas
  • Membership reaches 24,000
  • Annual subscription is £2


A Question of Priority

National Conference – A Question of Priority – is held in Newcastle


First fulltime employee

  • The National Conference – 1984 – is held in Sheffield
  • Lesley Moreland, former National Organiser, is appointed fourth trustee
  • The first fulltime Office Administrator is employed


25th anniversary

  • NHR celebrates its 25th anniversary
  • The National Conference – Hatching and Despatching – is held in Southampton
  • Widespread publicity leads to 2,500 enquiries and the formation of over 50 new groups
  • The Silver Jubilee National Conference is held in Southampton with a record 540 members attending
  • Past members organise a celebratory luncheon at the House of Commons


Charitable status

  • The National Conference – The Other You – is held in Birmingham
  • NHR becomes a Charitable Company Limited by Guarantee
  • Strictly controlled advertising appears in the Newsletter
  • The Research Bank and the subsidised workshop scheme are established


A new name

  • The National Conference – Face to Face with Reality – is held in Edinburgh
  • Following a postal ballot of all members, a resolution is passed at the AGM to change the name to National Women's Register (NWR)
  • Annual subscription is £3.50


A fifth trustee

  • The National Conference – Mind Over Matter – is held in Nottingham
  • Liz Williamson, former Treasurer, is appointed fifth trustee
  • Community Service Announcements are made in several ITV regions


Falling membership

  • The National Conference – Communication – is held in Brighton
  • Falling membership (17,600) leads to the appointment of management consultants to analyse NWR and identify possible future directions


Widespread publicity

  • NWR celebrates its 30th anniversary
  • The National Conference – To Boldly go into the 90’s – is held in Warwick
  • Members decide that NWR should build on its original aims, update its image and investigate a regional structure
  • Widespread publicity brings many enquiries
  • The National Office moves to Norwich
  • Lesley Moreland retires as trustee
  • Annual subscription is £4



  • The National Conference – Who’s Afraid of Leonardo? – is held in Lancaster
  • NWR's Strategic Plan is published
  • NWR’s 'new image’ – resulting from the Strategic Plan – is launched at the National Conference
  • Mary Stott retires as trustee and is made the first Honorary Life Member
  • Jean Stirk, former National Group Chairman, and Gill Vine, former National Organiser, are elected trustees (pictured).
  • First phase of regionalisation begins with the introduction of volunteer Area Organisers (AOs)
  • The first Annual Report is produced
  • There are approximately 900 groups
  • Annual subscription is £6.50


Trading Places

  • The National Conference – Trading Places/Continental Drift – is held in Keele
  • The National Group is restructured in phase two of regionalisation to include four Regional Organisers (ROs) responsible for all groups within eight newly created regions
  • ROs work with AOs to increase members’ awareness of the national organisation and promote the advantages of the membership
  • Several Community Service Announcements are broadcast, resulting in hundreds of enquiries


A handbook is produced

  • The National Conference – Freedom – is held in Southampton
  • Maureen Nicol retires as trustee at the National Conference in Southampton and is made Honorary Life Member
  • The Newsletter is given the name The Register and is direct-mailed to members
  • The Local Organiser (LO) Handbook is completed and given to all LOs


The three-year plan

  • The National Conference – Links in Life – is held in York
  • Sponsorship allows NWR to send the Annual Report to every member
  • Trustees and National Group meet with Strategic Plan Adviser devising a simplified three-year plan to halt membership decline



  • NWR celebrates its 35th anniversary
  • The National Conference - Power – is held in Leicester
  • Founder Maureen Nicol (pictured) is awarded in Queen's birthday honours for her services to women in founding NWR (NHR) in 1960
  • The first national Telephone Treasure Trail is organised by Abbots Langley, thanks to member and PR/Editor on the National Group Caroline Bloomer, with 231 groups taking part


The website is born

  • The National Conference – To See Ourselves As Others See Us – is held in Edinburgh
  • Trustees' letter goes out to all members expressing their concern about the lack of volunteers to run the organisation and the declining membership
  • The Working Party is set up to look at The Way Forward
  • NWR goes on the Internet with a website by Letchworth member and ex National Group Treasurer Jackie Harber


The Way Forward

  • ‘Consultation Days’ are arranged with seven taking place nationally to discuss The Way Forward – 24% of groups attend
  • Three final options are presented and voting papers mailed to all members. The choice is: (a) Winding down, (b) Appointing a professional Executive Officer or (c) A board of five Trustee Directors and 2-3 National Coordinators, with larger honoraria and the buying-in of expertise. Option (c) is chosen by the 39% of members who return their voting slips
  • Nominations are being sought for new Trustee Directors


Two paid staff

  • The National Conference – Transition – is held in Exeter (Exeter committee, pictured)
  • Members vote to decide future of the running of NWR as a result of insufficient volunteers coming forward to maintain the National Group
  • Members vote for two paid staff (Coordinators) to be interviewed by the Board of Trustees
  • The National Group is dissolved at the AGM
  • Last National Organiser Mary Dodkins continues until Coordinators are selected
  • In July Membership Coordinator Eilis Thorn and Marketing Coordinator Mary Dodkins are in post
  • Liz Williamson and Betty Jerman retire as trustees with Vivienne Eardley and Beverly Purvis joining the Board


Ruby Anniversary

  • NWR celebrates its Ruby Anniversary with many groups celebrating throughout the year
  • The National Conference – Ruby – Responsibility, Unity, Balance, You – is held in Durham
  • Founder, Maureen Nicol, OBE, attends Durham Conference and cuts celebratory Ruby cake
  • A Millennium quiz takes place in January involving over 300 UK groups with some overseas groups participating
  • An NWR tea towel/wall hanging (pictured) composed of squares made by groups in response to what the organisation means to them is produced
  • Eilis Thorn and Mary Dodkins (Membership and Marketing Coordinators) set off on a week’s Ruby Road Show visiting groups and setting up stands in the Midlands
  • Eight ‘Consolidation Days’ held for groups to review new structure with Coordinators and trustees
  • An article appears in The Guardian to commemorate our origins
  • Nearly 1,200 enquiries and increasing interest in NWR
  • The Register magazine and the Annual Report are produced in full colour for the first time
  • Telephone Treasure Trail attracts 380 entries
  • Annual subscription is £11


Fast Forward

  • The National Conference – Fast Forward – is held in Nottingham. Speakers are Jean Townsend on the changing face of our monarchy; Sharon Cheetham on obesity; Erin Pizzey on relationships; Frankie Janeson Marvellous Monologues; Robert Holland on Great Undertakings: working with an air disaster team; and Alan Mason on his book Gardens Without Borders
  • Eighteen Area Meetings are held – all are attended by the Coordinators
  • A target is set to start 20 new groups
  • Enquiries average 100 per month
  • Gill Vine and Jean Stirk (pictured along with Gill Vine and Liz Williamson) resign after ten years as trustees and are made Honorary Life Members
  • Five trustees in total (three new) – Julie Baker, Karen Redner and Janet Reynolds – join Vivienne Eardley and Judy Ross on The Board of Trustees
  • Membership is circa 7,800


A tribute to Mary

  • NWR's first Honorary Life Member Mary Stott – one of the three original trustees and past Editor of the Women’s Pages in The Guardian – dies at the age of 95
  • The National Conference – Colours – is held in Guildford
  • Members from English and European groups meet up in Luxembourg for a weekend about ‘Space to be EU’
  • The New Neighbours project distributed NWR publicity to new homeowners in the Home Counties
  • Annual subscription is £12


Mary Stott Award

  • The National Conference – Exploring Diversity – is held in York
  • The NWR Archive is professionally catalogued and can be viewed on request at the Women's Library
  • The annual NWR Woman of the Year Mary Stott Award is instituted in memory of one of NWR's founders and the editor of The Guardian Women's Pages in the 50s and 60s. It is proposed to be awarded in 2004 in Swansea (2015 winner Linda Messham,left, with Gill Chivers pictured)
  • The first National Themed Evening is Italy with 250 groups taking part
  • 150 groups join in NWR's Great British Women debate


A Literary Year

  • The National Conference – Women of the World – is held in Swansea
  • The first presentation of The Mary Stott Award for the NWR Woman of the Year is awarded to Ann Scarborough (pictured), MBE, of the Bradford-on-Avon group
  • The National Themed Evening is India
  • The Coordinators hold NWR's first Themed Year 'A Literary Year' with 175 groups taking part in a national debate on the best woman writer of the 20th century
  • Judy Ross retires at AGM with Area Organiser Janet Tuffs being co-opted as trustee
  • Janet Tuffs resigns later this year
  • Annual subscription is £14


USA Sapphire Year

  • NWR's celebrates its 45th Sapphire anniversary
  • Groups are given a list of 45 blue themes and a ‘45-Pack’ of ideas and quizzes for meetings
  • The National Conference – Nothing to Declare but our Genius – is held in Reading
  • The second presentation of the Mary Stott Award (NWR Woman of the Year) is awarded to Margaret Lavelle (pictured), Area Organiser for the South West Region and member of the Kingsbridge and District Group
  • The themed evening is the United States of America Sapphire Year
  • Annual subscription is £14


Making a difference

  • The National Conference – Making a Difference – is held in Manchester. Geneticist Professor at University of Manchester, Dian Donnai is one of the speakers
  • The Mary Stott Award is awarded to Horrabidge member, Mary Coslett (pictured) for her voluntary work with pregnant women in Tibet
  • The annual theme is ‘Travel Year’ and the themed evening is China


A Murder Mystery

  • The National Conference – Midsummer Medley – is held at Keele University and includes a Murder Mystery written for NWR by local author Priscilla Masters
  • The Telephone Treasure Trail  highlights the revamped website (pictured) by adding a compulsory online question
  • The Mary Stott Award goes to Barbara Lang for participating in the Tall Ships programme
  • The themed evening is France
  • NWR’s annual theme is ‘Year of Gardens and Gardening’ with many groups discussing the effects of climate change
  • The Programme Competition is open to all members


Third World Women

  • The National Conference – Is the Past our Future – is held at the University of Bath
  • The annual theme is ‘Third World Women’ and the themed evening is Mexico
  • The Mary Stott Award is awarded to New Milton member Rosemary Lavies (pictured) who set herself the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
  • A ‘members only’ section is created on the website
  • Membership Coordinator Eilis Thorn, retires in March after working for NWR for almost nine years
  • Kathryn Buckman becomes the new Membership Coordinator in June
  • Membership is 7,300


Leading the Way

  • The National Conference – Leading the Way – is held in Leeds with inspirational speakers including Vanessa Lawrence, the first female Director General and Chief Executive of Ordnance Survey; Ann Daniels, Polar Explorer; and Liz Burnley the Chief Guide. The conference culminates with a display by the Northern Theatre Ballet
  • The annual theme is ‘The Industrial Revolution’ and the themed evening is Thailand
  • The Mary Stott Award (NWR Woman of the Year Award) goes to Twickenham and St Margaret’s member Liz Waite for the national recognition of her dedication and achievement of her personal goal as a committed fundraiser
  • The website continues to grow and generates an increasing number of enquiries
  • Trustees Gaynel Munn and Johanna Maidment retire after serving four years as trustees with Irene Hughes, Pamela McKee and Kathleen Tanner being elected as new trustees
  • Eight new groups are formed


Golden Anniversary

  • NWR celebrates its 50th anniversary and Golden Year
  • Members gather for a variety of Golden events countrywide and two ‘Golden Gatherings’ – one in York and the other in Reading – offering past trustees and members of the National Group (volunteer committees that used to run NWR up to 1999) the chance to meet up
  • A special Gold logo (pictured) is designed and used throughout the year and an NWR Golden hemp bag is designed and sells very well
  • The annual theme is Gold and the themed evening is a Sixties evening
  • The National Conference – Golden Opportunities – is held in Warwick featuring our founder Maureen Nicol OBE as an honoured guest. She is presented with a Collection of Thoughts and Thanks from many members of NWR as well as a golden rose and a citrus tree
  • The conference begins with an animated Armchair Treasure Hunt. Speakers are: Jo Cameron; Beverley Graham (Head of the Alyssa School); Dr Michael Leach (an internationally acclaimed wildlife photographer); Lesley Smith (curator of Tutbury Castle); well-known antiques expert David Barby, on the topic of ‘where th’as muck tha’s brass’; and Ian Wykes on the discovery of the Staffordshire Hoard
  • NWR’s photo competition attracts 200 plus entries of high standard These go on display at the National Conference and the winning entries are chosen by members’ vote
  • Many groups hold ‘Golden Evenings’, tea parties and reunions and invite past members, some of whom rejoin their group
  • Annual subscription is £17


Website makes headway

  • The National Conference – Space to be You – (the last to be held as a full weekend event) takes place in Hatfield. Speakers are: Dr Peter Lovatt who runs the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire; Professor Ian Wright, taking us into the world of virtual reality; Sue Nelson, Radio 4’s science presenter, unveiling the story behind the forgotten female astronauts 'The Mercury 13'; Dr Margaret Knight on Women Photojournalists; Dr Stu Clarke outlining the history of Science and its contribution to our understanding
  • The annual theme is ‘Around the World’ and the themed evening is Sweden
  • The Mary Stott Award is awarded to Tadley member Penny O’Bee (pictured with previous year's winner, Rita Fowler)
  • Our website is finalised as a fixed width format and the homepage is updated and improved
  • The Telephone Treasure Trail is held in November and is set by Rossendale Group with Bookham Group being the overall winner
  • Postal Book Group organiser Muriel Lloyd retires at the end of 2011 after 18 years, with Catharine Woodliffe volunteering to take over
  • Marjorie Briggs retires from the Board of Trustees after more than five years’ service, with Basingstoke member Gill Chivers and Southsea member Liz Valette being elected as new trustees
  • Trentham Group are the first to guest edit The Register magazine with the Editor Mary Dodkins


NWR goes social

  • This year sees the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and London hosting the Olympics inspiring the NWR theme ‘Taking the Challenge’
  • The Themed Evening is Greece
  • The first one-day National Conference – Inspired – is held in Birmingham. Speakers are: Lucinda Hawksley; Guy Pringle; Lesley Smith (in the guise of Nell Gwynn)
  • The members' area on the website is rebuilt to be more secure, attractive, and useful and online forums are introduced as a new interactive feature
  • The Telephone Treasure Trail in November is set by Kilbarchan Group with a female theme and Goostrey Group is the overall winner
  • A Short Story Competition is organised by member Sarah Akhtar of Trentham Group and judged by the Postal Book Group members attracting 56 entries
  • NWR’s Big Read event engages over 50% of the membership
  • Trustee Liz Valette, pioneers the organisation’s foray into Facebook and by the end of the year NWR has a Facebook page and several discussion groups
  • A photograph competition is held as part of collaboration with the Canal and River Trust. ‘Women and Water’ is the theme and prizes are kindly donated by the Trust
  • The winter edition of The Register is guest-edited by Sheffield Fulwood Group with Mary Dodkins


Ebb and Flow

  • The National Conference – Ebb and Flow – The Pool of Life – is held in Liverpool. Speakers are: Gail Naylor, RGN RM MBA Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Patient Experience at Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust; Jane Davies, MBE, Founder of The Reader Organisation; Ellie Moffat, Curator of Merseyside Maritime Museum; Gemma Bodinetz, Artistic Director, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse Theatres
  • The Themed evening is Ireland
  • The Telephone Treasure Trail in November is set by the Bridge of Don Group with NWR Whitstable being the overall winning group
  • Marketing Coordinator Mary Dodkins (pictured) retires after 18 years, first as Editor then as National Organiser. She is awarded Honorary Life Membership
  • Trustee Kathleen Tanner retires from and Josephine Burt is co-opted onto the Board
  • Annual subscription is £18


New website and magazine

  • The National Conference – Building Bridges and Crossing Boundaries – is held in Bristol. Speakers are: Jasvinder Sanghera speaking about forced marriages; Dr Philippa Bayley speaking on Bristol Green Capital Partnership; Astrid Molyneux on cycling around the world; author Nathan Filer talking about his book The Shock of the Fall
  • The country theme is Belgium
  • Pam McKee finishes her term as trustee and Chair; Jeanette House and Josephine Burt are appointed new trustees
  • Kath Latham joins NWR in October as Website and Publicity Coordinator in her role to manage the website look and content, the social media platforms as well as editing the magazine
  • The Register moves away from the newsletter format and is replaced with NWR Magazine, adopting a new magazine format with a contemporary look and feel. NWR Magazine is a 24-page full colour magazine serving its members and for use as a publicity tool
  • The website gets an overhaul and a new look
  • A focus group comprising of 50 members is started in order to have a test group to bounce ideas off and ask about different aspects of NWR
  • Kathryn Buckman’s title of Membership Coordinator changes to Business Manager


It's all relative

  • The National ConferenceRelatively Speaking – is held in Brighton. Speakers are: Peter James (best-selling Brightonian crime novelist), Olivia Pinkney (Chief Constable of Hampshire) speaking about the relationship between women and the police force
  • The general theme is ‘It’s All Relative’ inspired by the 100th year since the publication of Einstein’s general theory of relativity
  • The country theme is Germany
  • Gill Chivers finishes her term as trustee at the AGM in June
  • Kath Latham returns to her post as Website and Publicity Coordinator after completing her maternity leave
  • Ilana Levine stays on for another six months in the new temporary role of Web, Marketing and Social Media Officer
  • The website continues to be modified with time, reflecting the needs of the members
  • Jennifer Johnson is appointed as new trustee
  • There are over 400 groups and over 7,000 members
  • Annual subscriptions rise to £20 in April


Accessibility and Hardship

  • This year NWR made a commitment to our members to improve our accessibility as an organisation, including our responsibilities under the Equalities Act and financial accessibility, and to become and remain a Carbon Neutral organisation.
  • One initiative, launched in April, is the NWR members’ hardship fund. This is designed to ensure that members are never forced to leave NWR due to financial issues, illness etc. It also allows potential new members to receive subsidised membership, should hardship otherwise prevent them from joining.Our first hardship fund applicant came almost immediately via Susan, an LO.
  • Susan explained that a longstanding member, Belinda, had become seriously unwell and, when group subs renewals came around, found herself in difficulties. Her group felt — as I would — that it would be inappropriate to approach Belinda or her husband. So, what to do? Previously Belinda’s membership would have lapsed, along with that all-important connection with other women through our organisation’s local groups, regional events and conferences, regular newsletters and magazines and, of course, our very popular national conferences. Fortunately, LO Susan knew about our new hardship fund and approached me directly. We discussed what NWR meant to Belinda and the nature of her illness. I decided to grant a three-month membership subsidy. Three months rolled by and Susan and I spoke again. Belinda had approached the group to ask about remaining a member and, to our delight, she said “Of course I want to stay!” Happy Days!
  • However, this isn’t about NWR or about one NWR group losing a member: it’s about making sure that women who want or need to be connected to like-minded women may do so - regardless of financial restrictions. Sitting at home today you might not consider that the loss of one member, long-term or new, matters - but it matters to them and it matters to me.
  • I am delighted to be with NWR to celebrate the diamond 60th anniversary and I am excited to see what we can do to involve as many women as possible in the years to come. So, as you peruse the magazine and attend your meetings, please think “What can I do, in my group or as an individual, to make sure that the objectives of NWR — to connect, to educate and intellectually stimulate women in my community — are honoured?” We all need to be thinking back over the past (nearly) 60 years and asking “What did I need?” and “What can I do now?” Happy 59 and a halfth anniversary, and I look forward to seeing you all next year!


NWR celebrates its Diamond Anniversary

60th year celebrations take place across Britain, albeit impacted by the pandemic