Hidden Lives Revealed. A virtual archive - children in care 1881-1981 * Image of handwritten text

The Happy Birthday League

Happy Birthday League Birthday Card
Happy Birthday League Birthday Card
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The Happy Birthday League was started by the Waifs And Strays' Society founder Edward Rudolf in October 1903 to raise funds for the rebuilding of the Society's St Nicholas' Home at West Byfleet, Surrey. Funds were then used for a new St Nicholas' Home at Pyrford, Surrey that opened when the West Byfleet home closed in 1908.

To become a member of the League (in 1903) 'all that will be required to do is to make a small gift (of One Shilling and upwards) on your birthday, as a thanks-offering for your preservation during the year that is past.' Would-be members were required to send their name, address and date of birthday to Edward Rudolf.

The League was adopted by the Northern Branch of the Children's Union, a fund-raising organisation for the Society, and had the aim of paying off the debt on the Bradstock Lockett Home in Southport. The League continued after St Nicholas' opened at Pyrford and the total raised each year by the League was noted in the Children's Union Annual Reports. For example the League raised £377 in 1907 (about £21,600 at today's prices).

By the 1920s, a card was sent to League members on their birthday and also to remind them of their undertaking to send a birthday gift to the Society. By the 1940s donations from the League were helping to support children at St Nicholas' and St Martin's Orthopaedic Hospital in Pyrford, but after the Second World War the Children's Union ceased to support homes for children with disabilities and supported nurseries instead. As a result St Nicholas' and St Martin's closed in 1948.

From 1947 money donated by League members was used to provide for 10 of the 20 children at the Harvey Goodwin Nursery in Cambridge. By 1955 the Happy Birthday League was raising around £2,500 per year for this purpose (over £43,000 at today's prices).

By the 1960s League members had to send a donation of two shillings or more on their birthday, and received a birthday card in return. In the 1970s the cost of membership was 15p. In 1972 the Harvey Goodwin Home in Cambridge had ceased to be a Nursery and the League was now supporting Charnwood House at Woodhouse Eaves, Loughborough in Leicestershire, which cared for children with physical disabilities.

League members signed their names in the Happy Birthday League Book, which was renamed 'The Princess Elizabeth Birthday Book' in 1937 (Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II in 1952). In 1979 it was agreed that there should be a separate volume for each of the five fund-raising regions into which The Children's Society was then divided. These were to have copy signatures of the Royal Family taken from the Birthday Book kept at Head Office.

The Children's Union ended in 1979 and its work became part of The Children's Society's Youth Department in the Appeals Division. The Happy Birthday League was renamed the Birthday Fund and continued until 1983.

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