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Female Education: (Autograph Letter Collection)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0106 9/04
Held at: Women's Library
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Full title: Female Education: (Autograph Letter Collection)
Date(s): c. 1850-1951
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Various
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Until the end of the nineteenth century, most middle-class girls were educated at home by the family, unlike their brothers who routinely attended university, and the schools which did cater for them were generally of a very poor academic standard, with emphasis on 'accomplishments' such as embroidery and music. However, some, such as Louisa Martindale, tried to start their own schools for girls with more academically demanding curricula. Despite the failure of Martindale's exercise, Frances Mary Buss followed in her footsteps when, at the age of twenty-three, she founded the North London Collegiate School for Ladies with similar aims. In 1858 Dorothea Beale became Principal of the already extant Cheltenham Ladies College and soon transformed it into one of the most academically successful schools in the country while at the same time working to improve teaching standards through her work with the Head Mistresses' Association and The Teachers' Guild. In 1865 Beale began collaborating with Emily Davis, Barbara Bodichon, Helen Taylor, Frances Buss, and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, in forming a debating society which became known as the Kensington Society. There, these women, who would be crucial in the development of these schools, met for the first time to discuss this and other topics such as women's franchise. Nor did they confine their attentions to the education of girls but also researched the question of the subsequent entrance of women into higher education. The Queen's College in London had already opened in 1847 to provide a superior level of education to governesses and had proved a success without being an accredited institution of higher education itself. In this context and influenced by the London group, a large number of Ladies' Educational Associations sprang up throughout the 1860s and 1870s. Those in Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Sheffield, etc, were brought together in 1867 by Anne Clough as the North of England Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women and its members included Josephine and George Butler as well as Elizabeth Wolstenholme-Elmy. This council began setting up a series of lectures and a university-based examination for women who wished to become teachers and which would later develop into a University Extension Scheme. However, universities generally still refused to open their degree examinations to women. In 1871, Henry Sidgwick established the residence Newnham College for women who were attending lectures at Cambridge where Clough would become principal in 1879 when it was recognised as an academic college. Girton was established by Davis as the College for Women at Hitchin in 1869 and moved to Cambridge as the first residential higher education college for women four years later. After the campaign to establish these institutions, it remained necessary to continue the campaign to extend their levels of excellence to the general state of female education and to open up other avenues of achievement to them.


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection consists of a letters written on the question of women's education. Writers include John Hullah, Emily Davis, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Rev. F. D. Maurice, Mrs Grote, Helen Taylor, Mr W Cowper, Eliza Orme, Sir Edward Ryan, Professor J R Seeley, Frances Martin, Helen Gladstone, Anne Clough, Miss C F Gordon-Cumming, Prof Morley, Mr Henry Sidgwick, Mrs Eleanor Sidgwick, Elizabeth Wordsworth, Miss Helen Stoehr, Frances Power Cobbe, Lady Stanley of Alderley, Lady Frances Balfour, Sarah Lyttleton, Gertrude M Wilson, Maria Grey, Miss C L Maynard, Emma Cons, Dr Sophie Bryant, Dr Maria Montessori, Archbishop of Canterbury, Elizabeth Haldane, Bertha Johnson, Mr H A L Fisher, Margaret McMillan, Dame Emmeline Tanner and Ethel Strudwick.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in chronological order.

Conditions governing access:

The collection is open for consultation. Intending readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:

Abstracts of individual letters in the autograph letters collection were written and held alongside the letters. This work was done from the 1960s by volunteers including Nan Taylor. In 2004 Jean Holder completed a 3 year project to list the letters, copy-type the abstracts, and repackage the letters to meet preservation needs. In 2005 Vicky Wylde and Teresa Doherty proof read and imported the entries to the Special Collections Catalogue. The original card index of all correspondents, including date of letter and volume reference, is available on the microfiche.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Other collections within The Women's Library Strand 9 which may be of interest include 9/01 Women's Suffrage, 9/02 General Women’s Movement, 9/03 Emancipation of Women, 9/09 Suffrage and Women in Industry, 9/22 Scholars and Learned Ladies.

Further papers of Emily Davis are held by Girton College, Cambridge.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Described by Liza Giffen, The Women's Library. Catalogue by Jean Holder, Vicky Wylde and Teresa Doherty 2005. Edited for AIM25 by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, 1995; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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