Papers of Dora Esther Yates

Scope and Content

The papers of Dora Esther Yates held in Special Collections and Archives, University of Liverpool Library, contain correspondence, photographs and notebooks relating to the personal life and academic career of Dora Yates, excepting her work with the Gypsy Lore Society.

Administrative / Biographical History

Dora Esther Yates was born in Liverpool on 26 November 1879, the youngest child of a large Jewish family. She began her education at Dr T Lund's private school, in Croxteth Road, Liverpool, here as an avid reader, her curiosity in Gypsies and folk-lore emerged.

In 1896, at the age of sixteen, Dora enrolled as an Honours Student at Liverpool University College. During her undergraduate career Dora incorporated many social activities into her academic studies, holding the posts of Honorary Treasurer of the Student's Guild, Vice-President of the Women's Debating Society and Secretary of the Women's Athletic Society. In 1899, she was awarded her Bachelor of Arts by Victoria University, Manchester, when she gained a first class degree in English, Latin, German and Anglo-Saxon.

In 1900, she became the first Jewish woman to be awarded an M.A. degree by an English University. This degree in English Language and Literature including Gothic, Anglo--Saxon and Middle English, again showed her linguistic and philologic capabilities. These talents had shown themselves in childhood when by the age of four, Dora was able to read both Hebrew and English. She became fluent in speaking and writing German and French, which she put to use in her work with the Gypsy Lore Society and eventually, under the direction of John Sampson, became a master of Romani in all its main dialects.

After graduating from the then, Liverpool University College, Dora taught English, for a period of six years, in schools around Liverpool. She spent short periods at Hermann House School, Rock Ferry, Sandholm School, Waterloo, and South Liverpool High School for Girls, situated in Alexandra Drive. In 1906 Dora returned to the University, to serve it continuously until her retirement in 1945.

Her first post, in 1906, was as Tutor in English Literature, then in 1909 she gave up this post in the English Department to become a Class Libraries' Assistant in the Faculty of Arts. In 1937 Dora Yates became Class Librarian and later Supervisor of the 23 Class Libraries, a position held until 1945. >From 1938 Dora also held the positions of Curator of Special Collections (then housed in the Harold Cohen Library) and Honorary Lecturer in Bibliography. When the 3000 volume Scott Macfie Collection of Gypsy Literature was donated to Special Collections in 1935, Dora compiled a catalogue of the material, which is still in use today. Eventually after Dora's official retirement in 1945, she was appointed Honorary Curator of the Scott Macfie Collection of books on Gypsy Lore. In 1963 Dora was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Literature (Litt.D), in recognition of her services to the University and her academic achievement.

On 12 January 1974, Dora Esther Yates, in her ninety-fifth year, died peacefully at her home in Wavertree. During her lifetime she had continued her own studies in Gypsy Lore and become internationally known as a Romany scholar, while also working for the Gypsy Lore Society, both as a member since 1907 and an Officer for over 40 years.


The Dora Yates Archive is arranged into two groups: Personal Papers and Papers relating to the Academic Career of Dora Yates (1906 - 1973).

Access Information

Access is open to bona fide researchers

Acquisition Information

The papers of Dora E Yates were deposited upon her death on 12 January 1974, in Special Collections and Archives, Sydney Jones Library, University of Liverpool. Correspondence between Dora Yates and Mary Arnold were deposited by Anthony Kamm in November 1998

Other Finding Aids

A finding aid is available for consultation in the reading room

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright in the Dora Yates papers is the property of her representatives. Researchers must apply in writing to the Head of Special Collections and Archives to request permission to quote material from these papers. All correspondence will be passed to Dora Yates's representatives who will be responsible for granting permission to publish material from these papers.


There are no anticipated accruals

Related Material

The Gypsy Lore Society Archive [Ref. GLS] contains the correspondence of the society c. 1896-1974 plus papers relating to some of its most notable members.

The Scott Macfie Gypsy Collection [REf. Scott Macfie] contains manuscripts, newscuttings, photographs, books and other materials from the library of Robert Andrew Scott Macfie. Following its donation in 1935 by the Gypsy Lore Society the collection was developed by various members of the GLS (most notably by Dora Yates).

Collections relating to Dora Yates in the University Archive include: Tape recording of Commemoration Assembly held in the Senate Room, Senate House to commemorate the life and work of Dora Yates. Recorded 18 Mar 1974 (Ref. No. D78) and Tape recording of conversation of Miss Dora Yates with A R Allan, Assistant Archivist (ref. No. D.70). Recorded 2 Nov 1973.

Letters from Dora Yates to Charles Duff ref no. GLS Add. DY/CD. The letters are from Dora Yates in her capacity as Editor of the Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, to Charles St Laurence Duff requesting a review of Professor Wagner's work on the Romani element in Portuguese slang, published as an article in the JGLS in 1950 as Portuguese Gypsies and their Language.


Bradburn, ElizabethDr Dora Yates: an appreciationUniversity of Liverpool 1975