Alma Williams papers

Identity elements

Reference code

US US kmk 2017-18.005

Level of description



Alma Williams papers


  • 1958-1985 (Creation)


0.66 Linear Feet, 2.00 Boxes

Name of creator


Biographical history

Alma Williams, O.B.E., is a long-standing contributor to the consumer movement in the United Kingdom and abroad, having worked in a myriad of capacities for a vast variety of organizations.  Born in 1928 to parents Alan and Edith Pratt at Wakefield in Yorkshire, she graduated university with double honors in French and Latin.  After two years of post-graduate research on a scholarship at Leeds University, she wed Michael Williams, with whom she had three children and remained happily married to until his death in 2010.  Following twelve years in language instruction and consumer education, Ms. Williams shifted entirely into the field of Consumer Affairs.
In 1962, she founded one of the first local consumer groups in her area, at Watford & District in Hertfordshire, and in time became chairman (and subsequent president) of the National Federation of Consumer Groups (now called the National Consumer Federation).  In 1964 she was elected as a member of the Council of the Consumers’ Association (now called Which?), on which she served for ten years, whereupon she became the Association’s consultant on consumer education and the editor of its school magazine, <emph render='italic'>Whichcraft</emph>, for five years.  As a consultant, she persuaded the Department of Prices & Consumer Protection to print the Council’s safety publication, “Dangers and Disasters,” and distribute it to all secondary schools in the United Kingdom.  This publication was the forerunner of the later European Union publication, “The Safety Pack.”
She served on the Independent Television’s Advertising Advisory Committee from 1966 to 1975 and the Independent Television’s Adult Education Advisory Committee 1968 to 1976.  She served as chairman of the Eastern Gas Consumer Council from 1975 to 1987, and on the Food Standards Agency’s Committee on Toxicity from 2000 to 2008.
Abroad, she served as chairman of the Education Committee International Organization of Consumers’ Unions (IOCU, now called Consumers International) for five years, and subsequently served as the IOCU’s permanent representative to UNESCO from 1975 to 1990.  She served on the consumer education committee for the Council of Europe from 1970 to 1978.  She worked as a consultant on consumer affairs to the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1980, and advised start-up consumer organizations in India, Jamaica, Thailand, and Malaysia.
She served Her Majesty’s Government with distinction abroad in various capacities with the European Union, first as United Kingdom consumer representative to the European Economic & Social Committee (EESC) from 1982 to 1990 and 1994 to 1998, and later became vice president of the Association of Former Members of the committee.  During her time on the committee, she proposed and authored a publication entitled “The Safety Pack,” which was translated, published, and distributed to all secondary schools in the European Union.  She also introduced the antecedent of the Product Safety Directive, and suggested the institution of an annual Consumer Rights Day.  She was the European Union representative for the EESC, a member of the United Kingdom’s delegation, and featured speaker at the third United Nations Decade of Women conference in Kenya in 1985; and also served as a member of the European Union delegation to consider the accession of Malta into the Union in 1995.
Ms. Williams was awarded the M.B.E. for services to the consumer movement and consumer education in 1975, and the O.B.E. for services to the European Union in 2003.
She has been a prolific writer, especially in the field of consumer education.  Her publications include: <emph render='italic'>The Elderly Consumer</emph> (1965), <emph render='italic'>Educating the Consumer: A Practical Guide</emph> (1975), <emph render='italic'>Reading and the Consumer</emph> (1976), <emph render='italic'>Using and Abusing Literacy</emph> (1977), <emph render='italic'>Your Choice? </emph>(1980), <emph render='italic'>Getting Married</emph> (1984), and <emph render='italic'>Projects: Skills and Strategies in Consumer Education</emph> (1984).
As of this writing, Alma Williams remains active in the consumer movement as the vice president of Which? (formerly called the Consumers’ Association), and a vice president of the Charted Institute of Trading Standards, where she works specifically on projects related to reshaping consumer protection for the 21<emph render='super'>st</emph> century.
Locally, she serves as President of the Ripon Centre Women’s Institute, and continues to serve on the Council of Outwood Academy Ripon, on which she has served since 1990.  She was a founder member of the Harrogate Foundation Trust Hospital for eight years (the maximum allowed), and now serves as a lay member of its Research and Development Group.  She also served as a founder committee member of the Ripon & District University of the Third Age, and now is a member its editorial team for <emph render='italic'>News & Views</emph>.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

Alma Williams, author of the 1975 book, Educating the Consumer: A Practical Guide, advocated for consumers around the world. Based in Great Britain, Williams was an active member of the International Organization of Consumers Unions (IOCU). Through her work with IOCU, she traveled extensively throughout Europe, Israel, Asia, and the Pacific Region to work with consumer advocacy organizations. Williams served as IOCU’s representative to UNESCO. Her collection includes numerous IOCU programs, proceedings, and reports as well as a questionnaire for consumer advocates and an outline of her tasks at an IOCU Regional Office.
Within Williams' collection, there is evidence of her work for IOCU’s Asia and Pacific Regional Workshop on Consumer Testing and Research. One organization she worked with was the Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development. Materials from this group include scripts for programs targeting consumer products such as shampoo, detergent, and acne preparations.
Williams’ involvement in other international consumer organizations is represented through a variety of documents including conference proceedings, correspondence, papers, consumer education materials, and reports. Some of the organizations she had ties with are the Hong Kong Consumer Council, the Council of Europe, the International Congress on the Children of the Fourth World, Consumers Association, and Consumer Assembly (based in Great Britain).
Williams’ focus on educating consumers is evident in her papers. There is a booklet about adult education and television, a consumer education kit for teachers in Penang, and a paper titled Definition of Consumer Education from Consumer’s Association in London which, interestingly, quotes Dr. Richard L. D. Morse.  Also of interest is correspondence from a House of Lords sub-committee member about her upcoming testimony to that group. On a lighter note, there is a caricature of Williams, as well as a handwritten score for a tune titled Consumer Rights, by Samuel Liew.
A letter in the donor file reveals that Williams remained active in the consumer movement in her later years continuing to represent IOCU at UNESCO, working with overseas consumer organizations, and developing a safety curriculum for the European Commission targeted at children in secondary schools. She noted the curriculum was for twelve countries and would be in nine languages.

System of arrangement

This collection is arranged in one series with folders in alphabetical order.  Folders with papers relating to specific organizations represented in quanitity in the collection (e.g. IOCU, the Council of Europe) have titles preceeded by the organization's name.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

No access restriction: All materials are open for research.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply.

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

    Language and script notes

    Finding aids

    Acquisition and appraisal elements

    Custodial history

    Immediate source of acquisition

    Acqusition Source: Alma Williams
    Acqusition Method: Richard L. D. Morse specifically asked Williams to donate her papers to the Consumer Movement Archives (CMA). A copy of that request is found in the donor file.
    An accession number was not recorded at the time of donation, but Williams sent her papers to the CMA from 1989 to 1990.
    Acqusition Date: 19890410

    Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information


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    Specialized notes

    • Citation: [Item title], [item date], Alma Williams papers, Box [number], Folder [number or title], Consumer Movement Archives, Morse Department of Special Collections, Kansas State University Libraries.

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    Description control element

    Rules or conventions

    Describing Archives: A Content Standard

    Sources used

    Archivist's note

    Finding Aid Author: Patrick C. Dittamo
    Processing Info: Patrick C. Dittamo, graduate student at Kansas State University, processed the collection, and archivist Jane Schillie reviewed it, in July 2017.

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