International Women’s Day: The Education of Women and Girls at Woolwich Polytechnic, Day Schools For Girls

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we here at Greenwich Archives have decided to write a blog post about the Needham sisters who attended Day School For Girls At Woolwich Polytechnic from 1922 to 1927.

  The Woolwich Polytechnic School was very unique in that it was the only School to run mixed-gendered classes. The Girls’ Technical School was established in 1906, after much opposition, but only to teach Dress Making and Domestic Science which included courses such as Cookery, Laundry Work, and Housewifery. The school was opened to girls between 13½ and 15½ years of age. The Dress Making course extended for two years and all girls who entered for that full period were then awarded with certificates at the end.

The family of the Needham sisters gave a collection of fashion designs and needlework samples done by Irene and Nona to the Greenwich Archive; this is one of our most visually interesting collections in the Archive. The collection contains their original lesson notes for the Dress Making Course. The lesson notes appears to have been categorized into three parts; (1) Design (2) History of Fashion from Ancient Egyptian through to the 19th century (3) Student’s own designs.

Here are some of Irene Needham’s scanned examples from the sheets.




Here are some scanned examples of Nona Needham’s work.





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