Women Students and Boat Racing

The women’s FA Cup final on December 5th 2021 was a reminder that the Football Association had effectively banned women’s football a century earlier by denying access to its pitches, a ban that remained in place until 1969. Football was felt to be an unsuitable activity for females.

It was thanks to the social historian Carol Dyhouse, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Sussex, that I became aware of a related sporting controversy at University College Reading. It concerned women and boating.

Dyhouse, who had been an undergraduate at Reading, included the College/University in her sample of higher education institutions for her book ‘No Distinction of Sex‘ (1995), an analysis of the place of women students and academic staff in British universities between 1870 and 1939. This in-depth research draws on an impressive range of sources including the archives of colleges and universities across England, Scotland and Wales.

In a section titled ‘Boat-racing, women and sport‘ (pp. 202-6), Dyson recounts how in 1917 W. M. Childs, Principal of University College Reading, set up a committee to investigate whether racing in boats was an appropriate activity for women students. Her account was so intriguing that I asked the Special Collections staff if they could track down the sources. Dyhouse’s original reference (Box no. 253) was no longer active but Sharon Maxwell, Archivist at MERL, discovered its location.

The first relevant document is an undated memo containing an extract from the minutes of the Academic Board of July 2 1917. It stated that a motion had been passed concerning boat racing and women students:

That a Committee be appointed to inquire into conditions which obtain in other colleges, as to the practice of rowing, racing and sculling, and as to the safeguards which are adopted in those Colleges in the interests of women students.

The Committee was to consist of:

  • Edith Morley, Professor of English Language;
  • Mary Bolam, Warden of St Andrew’s Hall;
  • Lucy Ashcroft, Censor of Women Students.

The first step was an explanatory letter and questionnaire from Professor Childs seeking opinions from eight colleges and universities. The letter, which I referred to in my previous post about the Women’s Sculling section, worded the issue as follows:

The question has arisen here as to whether our women students should be allowed to have rowing races. …. This is a question which obviously is not free from difficulty and about which more than one opinion has already been expressed.‘ (Dated 19th October 1917)

Among other things, the accompanying questionnaire asked:

  • whether women students were allowed to take part in rowing (as opposed to sculling or boating);
  • whether they were allowed to race;
  • if forbidden, for what reasons;
  • if permitted, whether medical certificates, certificates of swimming proficiency or ‘a special costume’ were required;
  • whether the boats had sliding seats;
  • the length of the course;
  • whether there were competitions against other colleges;
  • whether there was any annoyance from attendance by the general public;
  • and, finally, ‘whether in your opinion rowing or racing by women students is, or would be, prejudicial to health and welfare.

A memo from the Principal of 2nd November 1917 summarised the responses. Of the eight institutions canvassed, four were  positive and four were negative.

Even those expressing positive attitudes often required safeguards such as medical inspections (Bedford College) or other knowledge of the student’s good health (Westfield College). Westfield and Bedford Colleges sculled on Regents Park Lake which was so shallow that swimming proficiency was said to be irrelevant. A positive reply was received from University College, London that concluded, ‘..there is nothing prejudicial to their health or general welfare.‘ All three of the above colleges favoured shorter courses for women.

The most reassuring reaction, however, was from Dr Aldrich Blake, Dean of the London School of Medicine who pronounced rowing healthy and harmless and suggested that rowing clubs should be trusted to decide their own regulations.

The views of those opposed to racing included:

  • sculling and punting were fine, but for recreation only – attaining competitive standards would be bad for women (Royal Holloway College);
  • rowing is acceptable but, ‘I am inclined to think that rowing racing might occasionally be prejudicial to the health of women students’ (the Principal of Somerville);
  • rowing is allowed but, ‘racing would be prejudicial to the health and welfare of women students‘ (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford).

Of the negative responses, a supplementary letter (see below) was returned by Sir Isambard Owen, Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University, using his status as a physician to reinforce his opinion that female students should not be racing in boats.

Reply from the Vice-Chancellor of Bristol University, 12th October 1917 (University of Reading Special Collections)

At this point, the papers from 1917 concluded without any indication of the final outcome (no doubt a record exists somewhere but I haven’t found it). Nevertheless, if we jump to 1921, a letter to the Principal from an E. Verity, Secretary of the Women’s Sculling Section, provides some clues. In it she requests ‘permission for us to include racing amongst the other activities of the section.’ The key section is as follows:

We understand that in 1917 this was refused by the Academic Board but we beg to ask that this decision be reconsidered. We are not aware of the grounds upon which the previous refusal was based….‘ (Dated 28th February 1921)

The letter produced an unambiguous result: two months later a memo was circulated headed ‘Boat Racing for Women Students. Regulations of the Academic Board.‘ Written in pencil on the copy in the Special Collections is, ‘Copy sent to Miss Verity‘. The requirements in brief were these:

  1. A medical certificate attesting fitness for such exercise.
  2. Written permission from parents or guardian.
  3. Competing against a male crew was forbidden.
  4. The racing course for women should be no longer than half a mile.
  5. The certificate and written permission were to be submitted to the Censor of Women Students (Lucy Ashcroft) who would notify the relevant hall wardens.

These regulations, formulated during the era of the University College, were still in place after the Charter had been granted. Thus in 1931 Franklin Sibly, who had succeeded Childs as Vice-Chancellor, felt obliged to remind women boaters of the first two rules in a memo addressed to the Secretary of the Women’s Sculling and Rowing clubs and copied to the wardens of women’s halls. According to the final paragraph:

These conditions must be strictly observed. The rowing and sculling captains in each Hall will in future be responsible for collecting the certificates and permissions, and for handing them to the Warden of the Hall.‘ (Dated 11th November 1931)

The suggestion of hall teams in this extract is reveaIing. I don’t know when inter-hall competition started, but the image below of the St David’s crew shows that it was in place by 1924. According to Smith and Bott’s pictorial history of university education at Reading, St David’s were narrowly defeated on this occasion by Wessex Hall in the final of the Challenge Fours.

St David’s Women’s Rowing Crew, 1924 (University of Reading Imagebank)
Sources

Dyhouse, C. (1995). No distinction of sex? Women in British universities, 1870-1939. London: UCL Press.

Smith, S. & Bott, M. (1992). One hundred years of university education in Reading: a pictorial history. Reading: University of Reading.

University of Reading Special Collections, Uncatalogued papers, Reference UHC AA-SA 8.

Rowing and Sculling: a Difference of Gender?

When I bought my copy of Edith Morley’s reminiscences from Two Rivers Press, I never expected it to contain so much humour. Among the most amusing anecdotes are tales of Morley’s early sporting experiences playing hockey or ‘bicycling’.

This is yet another area in which Morley was a pioneer –  the 1890s was still a time when women were discouraged from taking part in sport or vigorous exercise. As she said herself:

‘[We] were … perpetually instructed that women’s bodies were not adapted by nature to strenuous exertion. Nor had it altogether ceased to be considered a mark of refinement to be “delicate” and to possess feet and hands that were disproportionately small and correspondingly useless…’ (‘Before and After’, pp. 60-61).

Although Morley gives an account of her membership of the King’s College Hockey Club and the Bicycle Club, she never mentions boating in any form, whether rowing or sculling. So when I noticed in the College Calendar of 1905-6 that the Secretary of Women’s Sculling was a certain Miss Morley, I doubted whether it was THE Miss Morley. But the following year initials were included (see image) and there was no mistaking her. Further investigation revealed that she held the post from 1904 until 1907.

The College Calendar 1906-7, p. 267, showing Edith Morley as Secretary of Women’s Sculling.

But why in the above extract is rowing for men and sculling for women? Surely the difference lies not in the matter of gender, but in whether a single rowing oar or two sculls are used to propel the craft.

Reports from the Athletic Club submitted regularly to the  College Magazine show that, while the men’s rowing reports between 1904 and 1908 gave lengthy detail about names and weights of crews, training, technique and competitions, the corresponding Women’s Sculling Section had extremely brief entries containing none of the above. Rather, they were preoccupied with membership, swimming tests and even picnics by the river. There is even a mention of punting.

The early ups and downs of Women’s Sculling can be traced in the Magazine like this:

  • 1904, Spring Term, Issue 1, p. 17:  Edith Morley records the founding of the Women’s Sculling Section. She notes that, ‘Regular practices will begin as soon as swimming tests have been surmounted, and schemes for picnics and river parties are also under discussion.
  • 1904, Spring Term, Issue 3, p. 18:  Morley complains that, ‘There has been so much slackness about submitting to the swimming test, that the captain is beginning to have doubts whether the proposed picnic will be able to take place this term.’
  • 1904, AutumnTerm, Issue 2, p. 16:  things are looking up! There are now 18 members and Morley states that, ‘some pleasant pulls have been had on Thursday afternoons.
  • 1905, Winter Term, Issue 2, p. 22:  between 10 and 12 women turn out every week. However, ‘It is rumoured that many people would like to join the club, but are unable to swim.‘ Swimming tests are planned for early next term (this entry is by B. M. Willmer, the Captain).
  • 1905, Autumn Term, Issue 1, p. 23:  a large number of students sign up for the club but unfortunately few can swim. Prospective members are urged to learn as soon as possible.
  • 1906, Winter Term, Issue 2, p. 23:  ‘The club has been unable to meet this term on account of the rule that members must pass a swimming test….’ The rule is amended so that a letter from ‘someone in authority‘ can attest to swimming prowess.
  • 1906, Spring Term, Issue 3, p. 24:  a successful swimming test has taken place and there are now ‘twelve quite enthusiastic members‘.
  • 1907, Spring Term, Issue 3, p. 21:  a daring development! ‘Some members are to vary sculling by occasional punting. This will prove a lively diversion as no one is efficient at present.
  • 1907, Autumn Term, Issue 1, p. 32:  the Sculling Section welcomes a Miss Ashcroft as a member. As no other new members were mentioned by name, I believe this was Lucy Ashcroft, Lecturer in Mathematics, who became the Censor of Women Students in 1911.
  • 1908, Spring Term, Issue 3, p. 30:  progress! There are now 30 members. Flooding of the Thames is the only problem.

From the above, which includes all the references to the Women’s Sculling up to Spring 1908, it is clear that racing played no part at all in the early days of women’s boating at Reading. This was confirmed nearly a decade later by a letter from Professor Childs to fellow college principals and vice-chancellors in which he wrote that, ‘such competitions as have taken place among women have been confined to tests of style and general efficiency‘.

Surprisingly, there is no mention of the ability to swim or of swimming tests in the notes from the Men’s Rowing Section!

In the next post I will show how Edith Morley’s expertise in this area was put to good use a decade later when the Principal set up a Committee of Inquiry into whether boat racing was a suitable activity for women students.

By Contrast:  Sculling in 2011 (University of Reading Imagebank)
Sources

Childs, W. M.  Letter to college principals and vice-chancellors, 9th October 1917. University of Reading Special Collections, Uncatalogued papers, Reference UHC AA-SA 8.

Morley, E. J. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

The Magazine of University College Reading, issues from Spring Term 1904 to Spring Term 1908. 

University College Reading, Annual Report and Accounts, 1911-12.

University College Reading. Calendar, 1905-6, 1906-7 & 1910-11.

The College Boat Club at Reading 1902-3

The recently published booklet ‘A History of Sport at University of Reading 1992-2018‘ was designed by Chris Lewis with research by Dr Margaret Houlbrooke. It records the foundation of the College Boat Club in 1895 that later became the Reading University Boat Club, and documents outstanding achievements in rowing and sculling by its many distinguished members, male and female.

As this and the following two posts will show, the history of boat racing at Reading was a gendered one from which women were excluded for many years. For the men, on the other hand, the foundations of competitive success were in place relatively early, although sometimes it may have been necessary to provide a bit more motivation.

In the ‘Spring’ Term of 1902 (our Summer Term: see note below), the section of the Reading College Magazine devoted to men’s rowing lamented:

‘Where are the Wet-bobs of the College, those who urged the need of a Rowing Section, and gave the scheme real support? Four boats—a Four, two Pairs, and a Tub-pair, are at the service of all who aspire to aquatic fame, and yet some half-dozen is the total of those who register the attendance at the river, and, to some of these, a slight cold, the prospect of a shower, or a little stiffness in the joints is sufficient excuse for shirking.’ (p. 17)

By the following autumn things had obviously improved because the newly titled ‘Magazine of University College Reading’ reported (p.17) that there was a prospect of a viable ‘four’, and that:

‘a goodly muster of enthusiastic men pay their tribute to Father Thames.’ 

‘Rowing Notes’ for Spring 1903 mentioned that a Coxed Four was in training and making good progress. Competitive events were planned and there were hopes of obtaining a coach from Oxford. Progress continued in the Summer Term with the news that coxed pairs and coxed fours were now racing, and culminated with the publication of the image below.

From the University College Magazine, Summer Term 1903 (final page)
  • Back Row:  W. H. Fearis (Hon. Sec.); J. H. Sacret (Coach)
  • Middle Row:  G. Canham (Captain) (Bow), 10 st. 1 lb.; C. H. Laver (Stroke), 11 st. 3 lbs.; T. M. Forster (no. 3), 11 st. 12 lbs.; A. F. Sandys (no. 2), 10 st. 4 lbs.
  • Front: H. Lloyd (Cox).

The next post will take a look at women’s boating at Reading at the beginning of the 20th Century.

Note

Reading College documentation divides the academic year into the Autumn Term, Winter Term and Spring Term (the Autumn, Spring, and Summer Terms of today) .

University College Reading officially adopted the modern system, but there are some documents that still use the original classification.

This has caused me some confusion.

Sources

University of Reading (2021). A history of sport at University of Reading 1892-2018.

Reading College Magazine, 1902, Spring Term, Vol. III.

The Magazine of University College Reading, 1902, Autumn Term, Vol III.

The Magazine of University College Reading, 1903, Spring Term, Vol I.

The Magazine of University College Reading, 1903, Summer Term, Vol II.

More about Caroline Herford

I devoted a previous post to Caroline Herford MBE who was Reading’s first Lecturer in Secondary Education and the former head of Lady Barn House School in Manchester. The school is still thriving but has moved from its original site to Cheadle near Stockport.

Herford took up the post  in 1909 and since writing the original post I have come across the entry below in the Official Gazette of University College Reading under the heading ‘Appointments’.

University College, Reading. Official Gazette. No 56. Vol. II. October 25 1909. (p. 64).

The content is illuminating because the second half contains details of her activities and responsibilities in the field of Education that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. There is no doubting her credentials for the post at London Road.

Edith Morley’s Sheep and Goats

In an earlier post about Community, I commented on Edith Morley’s opposition to the idea of a separate Common Room for women. In her Reminiscences this is how she describes the SCR at Acacias following the move to London Road in 1905:

An excellent and most attractive Senior Common Room could at once be established, opening on to delightful lawns which were reserved for the use of its members. …members of all faculties and departments, of both sexes and every status meet together, cement friendships, thrash out problems, argue, discuss and hear each other’s point of view. …everyone meets his colleagues naturally and on equal terms.‘ (pp. 102-3).

It seems that she carried the principle of non-segregation into her teaching. S. J. Curtis recalls the experience of her English class when training to be a teacher in 1911-14:

‘Special Method lectures were then given by members of the academic staff. Certain highlights of those times still stand out clearly in my mind. There was Professor Edith Morley who in her course on the teaching of English intensely disliked seeing the men occupying one side of the lecture room and the women the other, and who literally produced a mix-up by her injunction for the sheep and goats to mingle themselves. I have never been quite sure in my own mind as to which sex each epithet applied.’ (p. 23).

As noted in a previous post, S. J. Curtis went on to become Reader in Education at the University of Leeds and a distinguished expert on the History of Education and the Philosophy of Education. His textbook on the ‘History of Education in Great Britain‘, first published in 1948, ran to seven editions.

Acacias and the Senior Common Room, 1907. The path in the foreground has since been grassed over but traces can still be seen.  (University of Reading Special Collections)
Sources

Curtis, S. J. (1949). Early days. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 23-5). University of Reading.

Morley, E. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

University of Reading Special Collections, Photographic Archives.

George Lucking and the University of Reading War Memorial

The recent Armistice Day service in the Peace Garden at London Road reminded me of an image I had seen of George Lucking next to the bell of the clock tower. The photograph was probably taken in 1923, the year before the memorial’s dedication, when Mr Lucking was Head Porter at University College Reading.

The Clock Tower Bell (from ‘One hundred years of university education in Reading: a pictorial history’).

What makes the image particularly moving is that Mr Lucking had lost his only son, Walter Thomas Lucking, during World War I. Walter’s name can be seen below on the roll of honour.

The Roll of Honour on the War Memorial showing Walter Thomas Lucking.

George Lucking had worked for many years as a porter at London Road. The photograph below shows him on an early College postcard.

George Lucking (right) and colleague in the North Cloister  (University of Reading Special Collections).
Sources

Smith, S. & Bott, M. (1992). One hundred years of university education in Reading: a pictorial history. Reading: University of Reading.

University of Reading Special Collections, Photographic Archives.

A Day at the Seaside

During part of the 1920s, the Employee Social Club made an annual outing to Brighton by charabanc. Here are members outside the Great Hall on the morning of one of their excursions:

University of Reading Special Collections

I have seen several versions of this image in boxes of photographs in the Special Collections. The labelling on the back is inconsistent, but there is no doubt that the person reclining on the grass at the front is what was known as ‘the letter boy’ (he is variously referred to as Vandenburg, Vandenberg and R. Wallace). 

Maybe ‘boy’ reflected his status rather than his age, but there’s no doubt that before the days of email and the internet, his would have been an indispensable role, delivering the mail, telegrams, memos and parcels across the campus.

The image below, taken on arrival at Brighton sea front, is dated 1927. There’s no explanation as to why a police officer is in attendance.

University of Reading Special Collections

Book early for the next excursion!

Sources

University of Reading Special Collections, Photographic Archives.

 

 

Teacher Education, Albert Wolters and the ‘Criticism Lesson’

It comes as no surprise that Education students experience feelings of apprehension when starting their School Experience (formerly known as Teaching Practice). But at least they no longer have to undergo a form of torture known as ‘the Criticism Lesson‘.

I first learnt of this phenomenon from a short memoir written by Albert Wolters in 1949, part of a volume marking 50 years of Teacher Education at Reading.

Albert Wolters (1883-1961)

The name of Albert Wolters is widely known across Reading University thanks to the Albert Wolters Distinguished Visiting Professorships. These prestigious awards have been held by the following scholars of international acclaim: Ellen Bialystok (2015), Steven Pinker (2016), Noam Chomsky (2017), Elizabeth Loftus (2018), Daniel Dennett (2019) and Alison Gopnik (2021).

Wolters’ many talents and achievements have recently been extolled by Ingeborg Lasser in The Psychologist. He was a pioneer in the field of Psychology and responsible for enabling Psychology to become an independent department in 1921. He was its first head, was made Professor in 1943 and became Reading’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 1947.

Before the establishment of the Psychology Department, Wolters had contributed to the training of teachers following his appointment to University College Reading in 1908. He is listed among the staff of both Education and Philosophy where Psychology was located during this period. His involvement with teachers continued beyond 1921 and he is recorded by Charles Rawson, a PhD candidate, as contributing to the in-service training of teachers evacuated to Reading from London during World War II.

What is less well known is that in 1902 Wolters became a student at Reading’s Day Training College, preparing to be an Elementary School teacher. It is from this time that he recalls the ordeal described below.

The Criticism Lesson

In Wolters’ own words:

One feature of the course was pretty generally disliked. Once a week some twenty children were drafted into the College Hall for a “criticism lesson”. … Then one of us had to stand up and “give a lesson” to that class, while forty students looked on knowing that they had to comment on it afterwards, perhaps to be told that criticism need not be abuse. The children enjoyed it; they were out of school. We sometimes suspected that the Master of Method [J. H. Gettins] enjoyed it in a sadistic moment otherwise quite foreign to his character.’ (p. 19)

According to S. J. Curtis who was an Education student from 1911-14, the assembled staff of the Department and the head of the school were also present:

One ordeal dreaded by every student in the Department was the criticism lesson given before an audience consisting of the staff of the Department, the head-teacher, and, what was worst of all, before one’s fellow students. As one who passed through the fire, I can say that the actual experience was not nearly as terrifying as it appeared in prospect. This was entirely due to the way in which it was handled by Mr. Cooke [see photograph below]. However weak and faltering the lesson, providing the teacher was really serious about the business, Mr. Cooke would always find at least one praiseworthy item in it…‘ (p. 24)

The hall that Wolters mentions was the main hall of the College in Valpy Street (see previous post for map and photo). The events referred to by Curtis most likely took place in the Great Hall on the London Road Campus.

S. J. Curtis went on to make his mark as Reader in Education at Leeds University where he became a renowned expert on the History of Education and Moral Philosophy.

The Education Department in the time of Albert Wolters

The present Institute of Education at London Road can trace its origins back to 1892 with the training of Pupil Teachers and preparation of Uncertificated Teachers in Elementary Schools for the Certificate Examination (Armstrong, 1949). It was only in 1899, however, when Reading College obtained recognition as a Day Training College, that the real foundations of today’s Institute were laid. Edith Morley recalls that by the time she was appointed in 1901, things were well under way, with 80 full-time students pursuing a two-year course to become Elementary Teachers. In 1902, Albert Wolters enrolled as one of about 40 students in his year group, two-thirds of whom were women.

The photograph below shows the Education Department in the year before Wolters arrived. Many of these lecturers would have been his tutors. Some, like W. M. Childs and  H. S. Cooke,  would later become his friends and colleagues after his appointment to the Department in 1908.

The College Education Department, Valpy Street, 1901
Staff Identified by name in H. C. Barnard’s History of the Department
  1. H. J. Mackinder, College Principal.
  2. W. M. Childes, Vice-Principal; later Reading University’s first Vice-Chancellor.
  3. H. S. Cooke, Headmaster of the Pupil Teachers’ Centre; later Head of Department.
  4. J. M. Rey, Lecturer in French.
  5. Miss Bolam, Education Tutor and Warden of St Andrew’s Hostel.
  6. F. H. Wright, Registrar.
  7. J. H. Sacret, Lecturer in History.
  8. A. W. Seaby, Lecturer in Fine Art; later Professor of Fine Art.
  9. W. G. de Burgh, Lecturer in Classics; later Professor of Classics.
Sources

Armstrong, H. (1949). A brief outline of the growth of the Department. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 9-17). University of Reading.

Barnard, H. C. (Ed.). (1949). The Education Department through fifty years. University of Reading.

Curtis, S. J. (1949). Early days. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 23-5). University of Reading.

Morley, E. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

Rawson, C. P. (1943). Some aspects of evacuation. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Reading.

Wolters, A. W. (1949). Early days. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 18-20). Reading: University of Reading.

University College Reading. Calendar, 1919-20.

Thanks to:

Dr Gordon Cox for telling me about Professor Barnard’s book and lending me his copy.

Professor Carmel Houston-Price (Head of the School of Psychology & Clinical Language Sciences) for clarification about the Visiting Distinguished Professorships and biographical information about Albert Wolters.

‘That this House is in favour of Woman’s Suffrage’

In a previous post I mentioned how the Debating Society was one of the initiatives intended to foster a sense of community in the early days of the College.

From the Reading College Calendar 1900-01

Accounts of the debates can be found in the Reading College Magazine. The earliest motions recorded are:

  • ‘That this House views with pleasure the return of a Conservative Government to power.’ (Oct. 13th 1900. Votes for: 46; against: 48).
  • ‘That in the opinion of this House, education in rural schools should have a more direct agricultural bearing.’ (Oct. 27th 1900. The Chairman claimed that, ‘the Ayes have it’ but this was disputed and the House adjourned amid confusion).
  • The previous controversial result was revisited on November 10th 1900 with the Principal (H. J. Mackinder) in the chair. (Votes for: 22; against: 23).
  • ‘That this House is of the opinion that life in large towns is deleterious to National Character.’ (Nov. 24th 1900. Votes for: 38; against: 56).
  • ‘That this House is of opinion that the British Race and Empire at the commencement of the 20th Century exhibits greater promise of national achievement than it did before the commencement of the 19th.’  (Feb. 23rd 1901. Votes for: 28; against: 19).

A letter to the Magazine from a former member of the Debating Society objected to the grammar of the last motion and suggested that members:

‘….are in need of a little instruction, and would suggest that a competent nursery governess be engaged to supply the want.’ (Vol. II, p34).

The motion ‘That this House is in favour of Woman’s Suffrage’ was debated on February 19th 1901. The debate took place in the hall of Reading College, formerly the University Extension College and shortly to become University College Reading. The location was its original site in Valpy Street (see map), some four years before the move to London Road and about nine months before the appointment of Edith Morley. 

Part of a  map in the Calendar of 1905 showing the College in Valpy Street

According to the College Magazine (Vol. II, pp.19-20), the proceedings ran as follows.  The ‘hon. mover’, Miss E. Lawrence, took the view that the case for Woman’s Suffrage was already so well known that there was no point in repeating it. Instead, she addressed four common arguments against. There were:

  1. ‘That a woman becomes unwomanly by taking a part in politics’;
  2. ‘that she is ignorant in political matters’;
  3. ‘that she is intellectually inferior to man’;
  4. ‘that matters of state do not affect her life’.

Miss Lawrence responded by:

  1. asserting that, ‘…the life of Queen Victoria was a sufficient reputation’;
  2. insisting that, ‘The vote would educate and lead women to see that it was their duty to understand the affairs of the nation’;
  3. appealing to ‘a consideration of the work done by women in the scholastic, medical, and other professions’;
  4. pointing out that, ‘the state controlled education, and taxed women’s property’.

The quality of debate was probably not enhanced by the fact that the opposer, Mr J. Pryce, arrived late and missed the beginning of the mover’s speech.

Three assertions by Mr Pryce are recorded:

  1. ‘since woman (sic) could not fight as soldiers they should not vote’;
  2. ‘he pointed out the terrible fuss which would arise if man and wife held different political opinions’;
  3. ‘woman’s interests were so closely bound up with man’s that the man could vote for himself and his wife at the same time’.

A Miss Stansfield supporting the motion countered that, if the interests of the man and woman were so closely connected, the woman could vote for them both. According to the record, Miss Stansfield analytically dismissed Mr Pryce’s three arguments and a Miss Williams pointed out that ‘even a woman might be a formidable foe if armed with a rifle.’

A motion to close the debate was lost and the quality of discussion then declined until the House divided:

Reading College Magazine, Winter Term, Vol. II, 1901, p.20

It appears that the motion’s supporters won the argument but lost the vote. It would be interesting to know the gender of those present and how they voted, but unfortunately this information is not available. 

In consolation, the report confirms that:

‘There was no doubt that the ladies completely vindicated their right to express an opinion on political matters.’ (p.19).

To modern eyes that just adds insult to injury!

The old College buildings in Valpy Street (University of Reading Special Collections)
Sources

Reading College,  Calendar, 1900-1

Reading College Magazine, Autumn Term, Vol. 1, 1900 & Winter Term, Vol. II, 1901).

University College Reading. Calendar, 1905-6.

Thanks to:

Joanna Hulin (Reading Room Assistant) for her help and for accessing material for this and previous posts.

From Magic Lanterns, the Kymograph and Gramophone Records to the Amstrad Portable

London Road, 1987

When I joined the School of Education at London Road in 1987 I was impressed by the resources. Nothing fancy—no interactive whiteboards, no internet access, but overhead projectors, carousel slide projectors, VHS and revolving green ‘blackboards’. There was a Technical Support Unit with a studio, and computers in the Old Red Building with the SPSS statistical package.

Ground-floor Seminar Room, L16, London Road, September 1987 (now the G4 office area)

In July 1988, Dr Bridie Raban (now Professor Raban) organised the distribution of an Amstrad PPC 640 . The 640 was a folding portable computer with two disc drives and a small monochrome screen. It was extremely heavy and came with a rucksack.

The (Magic) Lantern

To the original College staff, all the above would have been a real luxury. In the 1890s and early 1900s Reading College and University College Reading didn’t even have its own magic lantern. The following item appears in the Reading College accounts for the first time in 1898-9:

‘Hire of Hall and Lantern for Popular Lectures’ (£8 7s 6d)

Similar entries were repeated for the College and the University College until 1901-2. The cost varied from a high of £22 1s 0d (1899-1900) down to £1 0s 0d (1901-20).

Lanterns came in many forms. Over time, light sources had progressed from candles to incandescent light bulbs, but we have no way of knowing what kind was in use during the early days of the College. Even though electric sources were available by this time, oil lamps and gas bags for oxygen were still used in the 1880s, as this catalogue shows:

Adverts for (Magic) Lanterns from a Slide Catalogue (Manchester 1881)

The ‘Lime Light arrangements’ refers to applying an oxy-hydrogen flame to calcium oxide. It needed bags of both oxygen and hydrogen.

The slides were usually bought or hired and, for a small additional cost, could be accompanied by a text to be read aloud. Some of the themes make uncomfortable reading nowadays. Presumably academics composed their own text and maybe, in some cases, produced their own slides.

Flier for Lantern Slides, 1884

The only reference I have found to a named person using a lantern concerns Edith Morley. The University College Calendar for 1908-9 announced that she was to give the College Hall Thursday Evening Lecture on Nov 19, 1908:

‘“In Shakespeare’s England” (illustrated by lantern views)’

There is nothing remarkable about this; the use of lanterns in education has a long history. Nevertheless, Morley was certainly no slouch when it came to technology and was even something of a pioneer.

The Kymograph

To see why, we need to jump 20 years from University College Reading to the University of Reading. According to the Proceedings for 1928-9:

‘The Professor of English Language [Prof Morley] reports that a start is being made in the study of practical phonetics. Equipment needed for this work includes a kymograph and a linguaphone and records.’ (p.33)

I wasn’t familiar with kymographs so I contacted Jane Setter, Reading’s Professor of Phonetics, who sent me a link to ‘Jane talking phonetics on the Alan Titchmarsh Show’. The kymograph, a device for measuring air pressure, is explained after 1:55, but the whole 5:40 sequence is well worth watching.

In Professor Setter’s opinion:

‘it was probably more useful in research, but could be used to train specific features of speaking.’

Let us consider the research angle first. Even though Morley was Professor of English Language, her publications were predominantly in the area of literature and I can find nothing in her annual returns that would suggest practical phonetics as an area of original research. It can’t be ruled out, however. She was certainly engaged in the field of phonetics and phonology: as far back as 1905-6, when she was in sole charge of English, the Report of the Academic Board states that classroom resources for English included ‘A physiological atlas and model larynx help with the study of phonology.’ And phonetics figured in the examination syllabuses for English, largely in connection with the history of language and its application to literary texts. Advised reading included the familiar names of Daniel Jones (‘The Pronunciation of English’) and Henry Sweet (‘The Sounds of English’).

Professor Setter’s suggestion that the Kymograph might also have been used to train features of speaking is consistent with a feature of the English examination syllabuses that appeared in the University’s first Calendar in 1926:

‘All examinations in English will include a test in reading aloud.’ (p.172)

The following year the ‘will’ was softened to ‘may’, but otherwise this wording remained in the syllabus right up to the 1977-78 academic year.

Gramophone Records

The theme of the sounds of English and gramophone records is resumed in the Proceedings of 1934-5 in the Vice-Chancellor’s annual statement:

‘Professor Morley’s proposal to have gramophone records made to illustrate the earlier stages of spoken English has been endorsed by a large number of teachers in British Universities and adopted by the Linguaphone Institute. A beginning is to be made with records of Anglo-Saxon, Chaucer and Shakespeare.’ (p.36)

Two years later we learn of the outcome of the project:

‘Professor Morley reports that the gramophone records of English pronunciation (Anglo-Saxon, Middle English and Eighteenth Century English) to which reference was made two years ago, are now on the market. They are in use in the Department and are proving of great assistance.’ (p.34)

There seems little hope that Morley’s original discs are still around. There is no reference to them in the University Library, the Edith Morley Archive or elsewhere in the Special Collections. If they still do exist they are likely to be 78 rpm, 10 inch (25 cm) flat discs made of brittle shellac.

A Set of Linguaphone Records from the 1930s

The Linguaphone Group did not respond to my enquiries so I contacted Professor David Crystal to see if he had come across anything related to Edith Morley when he joined the newly formed Department of Linguistic Science in the 1960s. (A graphic account of one of his own phonetics lectures at Reading can be found in his memoir ‘Just a Phrase I’m Going through’! pp.113-5). Given his own work on Original Pronunciation, who better to ask? His reply was illuminating and gave me the relevant search terms for the British Library Sounds Archive:

‘I don’t recall any mention of her when we arrived in Reading in 65….Your Linguaphone ref points very clearly to DJ [Daniel Jones], as he was at the forefront of those recordings of Shakespeare etc. They’re in the British Library archive now. But there’s no mention of Edith in the DJ biography I have here, nor in the BL archive.’

As far as I can see, the recordings Morley mentioned belong to the collection, English Pronunciation Through the Centuries: Selected Extracts from Anglo-Saxon, Middle English, and Later English’ published in 1935. Two of the recordings of Shakespearean English can be heard at the  British Library Sounds website. Morley’s exact role in their production, however, remains a mystery.

Sources

British Library Sounds: https://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/

Chapman Family papers: photographic catalogues and advertisements.

Crystal, D. (2009). Just a phrase I’m going through: my life in language. London: Routledge.

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books/about/Linguaphone_English_Pronunciation_Throug.html?id=z0uMXwAACAAJ&redir_esc=y (accessed 18 October 2021).

Morley, E. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

Reading College. Annual Reports, 1898-9 to 1900-01.

University College Reading. Accounts and Reports, 1901-2 & 1905-6.

University College Reading. Calendar, 1908-9.

University of Reading. Calendar, 1926-7 and 1927-8.

University of Reading. Proceedings, 1928-9, 1934-5, 1936-7.

Thanks

To Professor Jane Setter for her advice, and for the link to her appearance on the Alan Titchmarsh Show.

To Professor David Crystal for tracking down the recordings and giving me permission to quote from his emails.

To Adam Lines, Special Collections Academic Liaison Officer, for searching for references to the recordings.