A few facts

You Can’t Beat a Woman was designed as an urgent oral history project offering a valuable opportunity to salvage and record, through the memories of an ageing group of women active in founding them, the story of how refuges for abused women were established in the East of England and East London in the 1970s and 1980s. Already some founders had died and others could not be traced. Additional valuable information was collected by speaking to women who, though not engaged in the first year or so, were deeply involved in refuge life during the formative years of the movement.

The project was primarily concerned with the collection of qualitative material. However, the interviews contained information which allowed for a description of some general characteristics of early refuge workers.

The interviewees

Total number of interviewees = 35

Geographical distribution & opening dates of refuges

Eleven refuges were represented: 8 White British refuges in East Anglia and 3 British Asian refuges*

*The opportunity also arose to interview women who were involved in setting up the Panah refuge in 1988 and the Angelou Centre in Newcastle in 1993.

Ages of interviewees

Total number of interviewees = 35

The average age of the interviewees was 60. The youngest in the sample was 50, the oldest, 82.

The average age of the White British interviewees was 66, making them somewhat older than the British Asians, whose average age was 56. All but one of the White British refuges were started in the 1970s whereas most British Asian refuges got off the ground in the 1980s. This possibly explains the age difference of their founders.

Proportion of Refuge Founders to early engagers in refuges

Marital status of interviewees at their first engagement with refuges

White British Interviewees No. = 25

Married or with long-term partner

Neither married nor with long-term partner


We had not planned to ask whether our interviewees were already married. During interview, however, it became apparent that, especially in East Anglia, most of our interviewees were married when they became involved in campaigning for a refuge and/or working in a newly established one. This information suggests that a corrective to some of the popular 1970s stereotypes of white feminists as raucous and man-hating, might be in place.

Accessing the original interviews

Digitally-recorded interviews for all the women who participated in this project together with transcripts of these interviews have been deposited in two archives and will be available to the public from 2019. For contact details see below.

Essex Record Office

Contact: Sound and Video Archivist

Address: Essex Sound and Video Archive
Essex Record Office
Wharf Road

Hours: Tues to Thurs 10am – 5pm (late opening one Tuesday a month)
Fri and Sat 9am – 4pm (once a month)

Telephone: 033301 32122

E-mail: [email protected]

Website: www.essexrecordoffice.co.uk

See the Essex Record Office website for directions and information on how to get a County Archive Reader Network (CARN) card to access the interviews. Please check the opening hours on the website before visiting.

Eastside Community Heritage

Contact Name: Judith Garfield

Address: Eastside Community Heritage
326 High Road
Ilford IG1 1QP

Telephone: 020 8553 3116

E-mail: [email protected]