The Case of Mary Candler

An example of the ambivalent treatment of women is provided by Mary Candler. Candler joined the Copyright Section as a shorthand typist in 1928 and quickly proved herself irreplaceable taking on duties far beyond the remit of the job. Her Confidential Report for 1931 included a request from her manager, Dick Howgill, that she be regraded as she was ‘definitely in the Assistant category’.[1] Shortly afterwards, there was a discussion about who should be Number Two in the Copyright Section, Miss Candler or a man. As neither had specific musical knowledge, Candler’s greater experience won her the job, although she maintained her ?5 weekly wage. It was made quite clear though that, should a suitably qualified man be found, he would be placed above her. In the meantime, however, ‘Miss Candler should get her chance’.[2] In April 1933, having performed the job well, Candler was promoted to the salaried grades on ?280 a year.

However, in June 1933, Hamilton Marr, a barrister with musical expertise was appointed to the Section. Although Marr was to be Candler’s senior, he had no knowledge of copyright, a subject she was expected to teach him. Candler was justifiably perturbed by this, especially as she imagined him to be earning ?400 (she was correct) whereas the roof of her Grade, ‘E’ was ?300. In a meeting with the Establishment Officer, Douglas Clarke, in which her attitude was described as ‘in general excellent and entirely reasonable’ she requested that her maximum salary should be raised to be at least equal to his starting salary.[3] The following year her salary rose from ?280 to ?300, the roof for her grade, which prompted Candler again to request regrading.[4] In this she was supported by her manager, Howgill, who confirmed that her qualifications and expertise were greater than those of Marr.[5] Yet, although Candler was recognised as ‘the main spring of the section’, she was not regraded ‘D’ until 1936, rising to Grade ‘C’ (with a salary roof of ?600) in 1937, the same grade as Marr.[6] When Marr left the Corporation in 1939, Candler’s obvious superiority saw her assume the position of Head of Copyright Section the following year. In 1942 she rose to be Copyright Director and in 1948 became the BBC’s Head of Copyright, a position she held until her retirement in 1959.

Despite Candler’s justifiable frustration at her treatment, there is no indication that she discussed the issue with female colleagues. Salaries and grading were a personal matter at the BBC. As far as we know, no salaried woman at the BBC was a member of a trade union, and even if there had been a staff association, it is unlikely these irritations would have been shared. Unlike their counterparts in teaching and the Civil Service, the Corporation’s salaried women never felt sufficiently angry to protest, especially as sexual inequality was largely private and so unspoken. BBC women did not identify themselves as female workers with a shared grievance, rather they identified themselves with BBC men, as public servants involved with the crucial job of broadcasting. In their work they viewed themselves as equal even though, behind the scenes, many were not.

  • [1] BBC/WAC:L1/799/1, Mary Candler Staff File 1 (hereafter MCF), ConfidentialReport 1931.
  • [2] MCF, Confidential Report 1931.
  • [3] MCF, Clarke to Nicolls, 1 August 1933.
  • [4] MCF, Candler to Howgill, 21 March 1934.
  • [5] MCF, Howgill to Nicolls, 6 April 1934.
  • [6] MCF, Confidential Reports, 1936, 1937. In April 1939, Candler earned ?450, Marr?580.
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