An Abundance of Riches: Item No.3 What I Saw in Korea

Beyond Coal: the SWCC and Its Concealed Seams

 “SWCC” stands for the South Wales Coalfield Collection. This internationally significant collection is housed at two locations: the Richard Burtons Archives and the South Wales Miners’ Library. The Archive holdings include written documents, manuscripts and photographs. The Miners’ Library is custodian of printed material (books and pamphlets), posters, Lodge banners, oral history recordings and a variety of press cuttings.

The SWCC has its origins in two major research projects conducted by the departments of History and Economic History at Swansea University. Between 1971 and 1982 researchers went out into mining and former mining communities to gather and preserve the written, visual and oral histories of the industrial communities of South Wales. With the ever increasing threat from the contraction of the mining industry, this material was in great peril: much of it was on the verge of being lost. Since then, the collection and preservation process has continued, and has welcomed donations from unions, educational institutions, media companies and individuals, to mention but a few. The SWCC is now one of the largest, most notable and unique archives in the United Kingdom.

This series of articles is aimed at highlighting non-coal or coal mining related printed materials within the SWCC, and to demonstrate the diversity and research value of these holdings. Individual items of particular interest will be showcased, evidencing the wider scope and contents of the SWCC, investigating its profuse and unprecedented nature and focusing upon its importance to a greater understanding and respect for the history, culture, society and politics of the South Wales coalfield.

 

Item No.3

What I Saw in Korea. Monica Felton, 1951

Location: The South Wales Miners’ Library. SWCC pamphlets, D. Francis Box 2

SEP What I Saw in Korea

“In January of this year the Korean women who attended the meeting of the Executive of the Women’s International Democratic Federation in Berlin gave an appalling account of the horrors that war was creating in their country…Korea today is a ruin so absolute that no one can see it without getting the most clear and terrible warning of what a third world war would inevitably mean.”

Monica Felton (1906 – 1970) was an estimable and often overlooked figure. In a period when British society side lined and institutionally disregarded women as being of substance or interest, Felton quietly pushed against the boundaries of perceived female normalcy. She was a writer, town planner, feminist, social activist and member of the Labour Party (holding the Labour Council seat of St. Pancras South West until 1947). Notable for her lack of self-aggrandizement, little has been written about her, therefore this article is a brief overview of an interesting and underrated woman.

Raised within a family of Primitive Methodists, her early exposure to the prime tenets of the role of lay people, simplicity of worship and political responsibility inherent within their Christianity would certainly have had an influence upon her direction and ethics. Felton studied both at the University of Southampton and the London School of Economics, where she was awarded a PhD. and later served on the board of governors.

As a town planner for the London County Council in the late 1930s until the outbreak of World War Two, when she worked for the Ministry of Supply, Felton was directly engaged with a traditionally male centred environment. Closely involved in post-war reconstruction, between 1947 and 1951 she served as the first chairman of the corporation for the construction of the new town of Stevenage, becoming Chair of the Stevenage Development Corporation in 1949.

Felton visited North Korea in 1951 as a member of the Women’s International Democratic Federation delegation, outlining her experiences and observations in a number of publications. As a result of her campaign against American and British involvement in the Korean war she lost her position with the Stevenage Development Corporation, was expelled from the Labour Party and was even threatened with prosecution for treason. Her pioneering work especially regarding the role of women in town planning was obfuscated by this perceptible fall from grace.

In 1951 Monica Felton was awarded the Stalin Prize for peace between peoples*. In 1953, undaunted by the reaction to her activism she continued her work of progressing international peace and cooperation by becoming a member of the World Peace Council, an anti-imperialist, anti-war international organisation of mass action.

(*The Stalin Prize for Strengthening Peace Among Peoples was awarded to individuals who were deemed to have “strengthened peace among comrades”. It was renamed the Lenin Prize in 1956 after Khrushchev’s de-Stalinisation campaign.)

 

Joanne E Einion-Waller, The South Wales Miners’ Library