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McMILLAN, Margaret (1860-1931)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2121 Margaret McMillan
Held at: University of Greenwich
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Full title: McMILLAN, Margaret (1860-1931)
Date(s): [1860]-1977
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: Approximately 30 boxes
Name of creator(s): McMillan | Margaret | 1860-1931 | physical educator


Administrative/Biographical history:

The sisters Margaret and Rachel McMillan were Christian Socialists active in British politics and in campaigning for better education and health for poor children. They were born in 1860 and 1859 to a Scottish family, and educated in Inverness. In 1888 Rachel joined Margaret in London, where Margaret was employed as a junior superintendent in a home for young girls. She found Rachel a similar job in Bloomsbury. The sisters attended socialist meetings in London where they met William Morris, H M Hyndman, Peter Kropotkin, William Stead and Ben Tillet, and began contributing to the magazine Christian Socialist. They gave free evening lessons to working class girls in London, and in doing so became aware of the connection between the girls' physical environment and their intellectual development.

In October 1889, Rachel and Margaret helped the workers during the London Dock Strike. In 1892 they moved to Bradford, touring the industrial regions speaking at meetings and visiting the homes of the poor. As well as attending Christian Socialist meetings, the sisters joined the Fabian Society, the Labour Church, the Social Democratic Federation and the newly formed Independent Labour Party (ILP).

Margaret and Rachel's work in Bradford convinced them that they should concentrate on trying to improve the physical and intellectual welfare of slum children. In 1892 Margaret joined Dr James Kerr, Bradford's school medical officer, to carry out the first medical inspection of elementary school children in Britain. Kerr and McMillan published a report on the medical problems that they found and began a campaign to improve the health of children by arguing that local authorities should install bathrooms, improve ventilation and supply free school meals.

The sisters remained active in politics and Margaret McMillan became the Independent Labour Party candidate for the Bradford School Board. Elected in 1894 she was now in a position to influence what went on in Bradford schools. She also wrote several books and pamphlets on the subject including Child Labour and the Half Time System (1896) and Early Childhood (1900). In 1902 Margaret joined her sister Rachel in London. The sisters joined the recently formed Labour Party and worked closely with leaders of the movement including James Keir Hardie and George Lansbury. Margaret continued to write books on health and education, publishing Education Through the Imagination (1904) followed by The Economic Aspects of Child Labour and Education (1905). The two sisters were prominent in the campaign for school meals which eventually led to the 1906 Provision of School Meals Act.

Margaret and Rachel worked together in London to obtain medical inspection for the city's school children. In 1908 they opened the country's first school clinic in Bow. This was followed by the Deptford Clinic in 1910 that served a number of schools in the area. The clinic provided dental help, surgical aid and lessons in breathing and posture. The sisters also established a Night Camp where slum children could wash and wear clean nightclothes. The Girls' Camp was at 353 Evelyn Street, and the Boys' Camp at 24 Albury Street, Deptford. In 1914 the sisters decided to start an Open-Air Nursery School and Training Centre in Peckham, and within a few weeks there were thirty children at the school ranging in age from eighteen months to seven years. As the Deptford Clinic developed, so did the the training provision for teachers and in 1919 it was accorded recognition by the Board of Education as a training centre for nursery staff.

Rachel died in 1917. Margaret continued to run the Peckham Nursery and served on the London County Council. She continued to write on teaching and schools, producing a series of influential books that included The Nursery School (1919) and Nursery Schools: A Practical Handbook (1920). The teaching at Deptford continued to expand and, with financial help from Lloyds of London, new buildings in Creek Road, Deptford, were opened to continue to train nurses and teachers. The Rachel McMillan Teacher Training College, named in honour of her sister, was opened on 8th May, 1930. Students took a three year full-time course leading to a Froebel Certificate. In 1961 London County Council took over management of the College and an annexe on New Kent Road previously occupied by Garnett College was opened. Courses at the annexe focused on nursery, infant or junior teaching, leading to a London University Certificate in Education after a four-year part-time course. In 1976 the College was incorporated into Goldsmiths' College, and courses were moved from Deptford to Goldsmiths' main building at New Cross. Courses at the New Kent Road annexe became part of the Polytechnic of the South Bank. From 1980 onwards Goldsmiths' Science Departments were moved to the old Rachel McMillan building, which was refurbished and converted into laboratories. When Goldsmiths' became a School of the University of London in 1988 Science teaching was transferred to Thames Polytechnic, and the Rachel McMillan building was given over to the Polytechnic.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records relating to the Nursery School, Camp School, and Rachel McMillan College, [1860]-1977, comprising copy photographs of Deptford Health Centre, School Clinic and patients, views of Albury Street and residents, scenes of Girls' and Boys' Camps, Rachel McMillan Nursery School, visits by Queen Mary to the School, [1910-1929]; legal and financial papers, including wills and deeds, bequests, shares and bonds, off site properties and accommodation; Camp School Committee and Nursery School Committee minutes, [1910s]; College log books, 1923-1929; Nursery School log books, 1923-1928, 1954-1963;

student teaching practice and course notes, [1938];

Nursery School and Camp School pupil events and activities; visitations and inspections; publications and prospectuses; press cuttings; recollections of former students;

minutes of Rachel McMillan College Governors' meetings, 1930-1977; minutes of the Academic Council, 1957-1977; papers relating to the transfer of the College to the Inner London Education Authority, [1960s], and to Goldsmiths' College, [1970s] ;

photographs of the nursery school, School Clinic, nurse at work in the School Clinic, exterior and interior views of Albury Street, Deptford, the first Deptford Health Centre/School Clinic, [1910-1911].

Papers relating to Margaret McMillan and and the McMillan family, comprising copy correspondence, notes and articles, photographs, including of Rachel and Margaret McMillan and other family members, [1860-1917], press cuttings (originals at Lewisham); reminiscences of ex-students and friends about Margaret McMillan; books and pamplets by Margaret McMillan (most of this material is copied from originals held at Lewisham Local Studies Centre).

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

The papers are organised as follows: College documents; Publications and prospectuses; Other publications; Books; Former students.

Conditions governing access:

Researchers wishing to consult the archives should contact Ann Murphy, Head of Information Services, University of Greenwich

Conditions governing reproduction:

Photocopying is permitted at the discretion of the Librarian.

Finding aids:

A list is available at the University of Greenwich Woolwich Campus Library.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The archive was formed from the Margaret McMillan Collection compiled by the Librarian at Goldsmiths' College, Miss M Meredith, during the 1970s.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Papers relating to Albert Mansbridge's book about Margaret McMillan, 1931-1932 (reference: Add MSS 65331, 65345) and correspondence with Albert Mansbridge, 1917, 1919 (reference: Add MSS 65196, 65257A) held by the British Library, Manuscript Collections; correspondence with John and Katharine Bruce Glasier, held by Liverpool University Special Collections and Archives; correspondence with the ILP, 1897-1910, held by London University: British Library of Political and Economic Science (reference: BLPES/ILP/Section 4 passim).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: 'Spartacus' website:; The Origins of South Bank University Maxwell Smith and Tommy Geddes [London, 1992]; Historical Manuscripts Commission On-line National Register of Archives; British Library Public On-line Catalogue; An Illustrated History of the University of Greenwich Thomas Hinde (University of Greenwich, 1996). Compiled by Julie Tancell as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
July 2002

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