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Williams, Alma (1928-) | Morse Department of Special Collections

Name: Williams, Alma (1928-)

Historical Note:

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, Whichcraft, 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: The Elderly Consumer (1965), Educating the Consumer: A Practical Guide (1975), Reading and the Consumer (1976), Using and Abusing Literacy (1977), Your Choice? (1980), Getting Married (1984), and Projects: Skills and Strategies in Consumer Education (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 21st 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 News & Views.

Sources: Alma Williams.  Personal communications with Jane Schillie.  August 2017.  E-mail.
Note Author: Patrick C. Dittamo

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