Reference NumberP/RAM
TitlePapers of Edith Ramsay (1895-1983), educationalist and community worker
DescriptionThis collection contains papers of Edith Ramsay concerning her assistance to individuals and families around immigrant and housing issues in Stepney and Whitechapel area. The archive is an important source about Black presence in Tower Hamlets. There are case files on migrants (particularly seamen) from Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Somalia. Papers also cover other communities including Jewish, Irish and Scottish.

There are also records on adult education and local history, with articles, newspaper cuttings and her involvement with the media. The papers also provide rich material on contemporary concerns about vice in Stepney, especially prostitution, drug taking and cafes and clubs.

Some files contain personal information which relates to individuals who may be living. Identifiable personal information in title and description in this catalogue has therefore been redacted.

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Extent210 files
AdminHistoryEdith Ramsay was born in Highgate in 1895, where her father was the first minister of the local Presbyterian Church. After attending the North London Collegiate School and then the University of London she moved to Stepney to teach at the Old Castle Street Day Continuation School.

At the same time she stayed at local women's hostels to better understand some of the conditions found in the East End. She was appointed Head of Stepney Women's Evening Institute in 1931 and held the post until her retirement in 1960. In the 1950s she was very active in the campaign against vice (particularly prostitution) in the Metropolitan Borough of Stepney. During her time in Stepney she undertook voluntary social work, helping children, alcoholics and immigrants. She was concerned with the conditions of colonial seamen and served on a Colonial Office Advisory Committee. She was awarded MBE in 1947.

Edith Ramsay was elected to Stepney Borough Council as a Labour member, 1945-48, as an independent, 1959-62, and as a Liberal member, 1962-65. A devoted Christian, popular and greatly trusted, she was welcomed at churches of all denominations, synagogues and mosques.

In 1977 Ramsay lived at 2 Gwynne House, Turner Street, Whitechapel.

For further background see her own recollections in 'Life in Stepney' and 'Christmas Letters' (references: P/RAM/5/9-10).
Also see 'Edith and Stepney: The Life of Edith Ramsay'' by Bertha Sokoloff, library reference L8517, 100 SOK
CustodialHistoryThese records were donated by Edith Ramsay. Papers formerly referenced STE/660 were donated in November 1978 and May 1979. Photographs were donated in 1978 and June 1980.
RelatedMaterialPhotographs donated by Edith Ramsay were catalogued by Local History Library into the Local History Image collection. Known reference numbers are:


See records of Tower Hamlets Institute for Adult Education and its Predecessors (I/THI) which Ramsay was associated with.

Also papers of Denys Munby relating to the Stepney Reconstruction Group which Ramsay was involved in (P/MUN).

Ramsay worked closely with Father Joseph (Joe) Williamson MBE (1895-1988), Vicar of St Paul's, Dock Street, Whitechapel (P/WLM).

Photocopy papers of originals of Abby Levy of Flower and Dean Walk, Whitechapel, c.1974 - 1978, P/LEV

Records elsewhere:

Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick holds diaries, 1917-1930 of the social work pioneer Eileen Younghusband. The diaries are digitised. Full transcriptions are available online with contextual information, at

The diaries include entries relating to Ramsay from 1924 onwards, and Ramsay and Younghusband worked together in Whitechapel (London County Council Care Committee work) and Bermondsey (Princess Club) during the mid-late 1920s.
Access StatusOpen
AccessConditionsSome files contain personal information which relates to individuals who may be living. Redacted access copies are therefore being created through a volunteer project which began in 2020. Please contact staff for further details on consulting public access copies and their availability
RequestNO - This does not represent a physical document. Please click on the reference number and view list of records to find material available to order at file or item level.


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