Records of the Committee for Promoting the Higher Education of Women

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 5CHE
  • Former Reference
      GB 106 FL587/2; box 82
  • Dates of Creation
      9 Jan 1869-8 Jan 1871
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      0.5 A box

Scope and Content

The archive consists of minutes of a working committee to arrange courses of lectures on academic subjects. [Chairman - Lady Monteagle. Treasurer - Revd. George B Legge]. With card noting addresses of Revd. Warlow and Octavia Wilberforce. Also in volume: List of characters and title of a play 'The Sneezer'; Pencil sketch of knight on horseback.

Administrative / Biographical History

See the corporate history for Committee for Promoting the Higher Education of Women, 1869-1871

The creation of the Committee for Promoting the Higher Education of Women (1869-1871) was part of a wider debate about gender and education. 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 her own schools for girls with more academically demanding curricula. Despite the failure of Martindale's exercise, Mary Francis Buss followed in her footsteps, however, when, at the age of twenty-three she founded the North London Collegiate School for Ladies with similar aims while in 1858 Dorothea Beale became Principal of Cheltenham Ladies College and transformed it into one of the most academically successful schools in the country. In 1865 Beale began collaborating with Emily Davis, Barbara Bodichon, Helen Taylor, Francis 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. At the same time, they also began researching the question of the 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, despite most universities' continued general refusal to open their degree examinations to women. In the South, other small groups were formed to work for the entrance of women into tertiary education. One of these was the Committee for Promoting the Higher Education of Women, which met from 1869. Its committee included Lady Monteagle, Mrs Blunt, Mrs Brookfield, Mrs Stair-Douglas, Misses Foude, Crawford and Legge and the Rev Blunt. Amongst its activities it carried our social lobbying and, more practically, organised a series of lectures on subjects such as science and the classics. It may have been the establishment in 1871 of the residence of Newnham College for women who were attending lectures at Cambridge by Henry Sidgewick that prompted the cessation of that particular group's activities in that year, though the overall movement for educational parity continued well into the twentieth century.

Access Information

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Acquisition Information


Other Finding Aids

Fonds Description (1 folder only)