A bit of a Miss-tery

In a discussion of changing social customs and forms of address, Edith Morley recalls that:

‘In my undergraduate days, women – even students and colleagues – carefully ‘miss-ed’ each other in public unless they resorted to nicknames. Christian names were used only in private and then only between close friends. Men called each other by their surnames, and little boys at prep schools forbade their parents to address envelopes with their Christian names ….’ (Morley, 1944/2016, p. 94)

I had never encountered the verb ‘miss’ in this sense. I imagined that Morley had coined it herself. After all, who better than the Professor of English Language to do this? A check in the Oxford English Dictionary, however, turned up citations from 1824 and 1863 with the meaning ‘To address as ‘Miss”. The usage is described as ‘obsolete‘.

On the award of her professorship in 1908, her correct title became one of many sources of friction:

‘…. for months after its conferment some of the College clerks, probably with the connivance of their superior officer, persistently refused to use the title on official communications sent to me, until I was forced most reluctantly to take note of the omission.’ (p. 118).

Like all women on the staff, she appeared in the College Calendar as ‘Miss’. This continued even after she became Professor Morley, using ‘Professor’ more as a job description for a Head of Department than a title:

Miss & Prof
University College, Reading Calendar 1910-11

The ‘Miss’ was dropped from the Calendar from 1914-15 onwards, but, unlike male colleagues, her initial was replaced by her first name:

No miss
University College, Reading Calendar 1914-15

In spite of the change of policy for the Calendar, however, the use of ‘Miss’ continued erratically elsewhere in official documents. For example, in 1940 the University Gazette announced her impending retirement, describing her as ‘Miss Edith J. Morley, M.A., Oxford; F.R.S.L.; Professor of English Language.’ (p.11).

It was Edith Morley’s retirement and inconsistencies in the report in the Proceedings of the University, however, that provoked this post in the first place. Note the differences between these two ‘tributes’, both of which are contained in the same volume for 1939-40.

Pres
From the Report of the President of the Council (Proceedings of the University, 1939-40, p.2)
VC
From the Annual Statement by the Vice-Chancellor (Proceedings of the University, 1939-40, p.34)

The first, by George Mowbray, President of Council, uses her professorial title and is a brief, but glowing tribute to Morley’s contribution to the growth of the College and University, her teaching and her ‘researches’ (see note below).

The second, by Franklin Sibly, Vice-Chancellor, is even briefer; her title is ‘Miss’ and it focuses on her length of service with no mention of her academic achievements. It has a distinct air of ‘faint praise’.

I know of no acrimony between Sibly and Morley. In fact, Morley is warm in her praise of him; of Sibly’s retirement in 1946 she wrote, ‘His wise council and genial personality will be sorely missed.’ (p.124).

Nevertheless, retirement was an uncomfortable prospect for Morley and probably caused some friction, particularly as she was aware that her Chair of English Language was to be abolished, and both Language and Literature placed in a unified English Department under Professor Dewar. The extent of her distress at this prospect is expressed in her ‘Reminiscences’:

‘It was a galling and unhappy result of my insistence on my position and one which I could never forget.’ (p. 117).

Postscript

Following her retirement, the University’s Proceedings of 1940-41 recorded that Morley had been awarded the title of ‘Professor Emeritus … in virtue of the conspicuous services rendered by her to the College and University as Professor of English Language.’ (p. 1).

Emeritus
Calendar 1941-42, p. 29.
A Note on ‘Researches’

The plural ‘researches’ in the first tribute caught my attention. Its occurrence as a count noun in formal written contexts is rare nowadays; its use by our international students is often corrected and, together with words like ‘informations’, is a common feature of English in multilingual contexts (English as a Lingua Franca) and of second-language learners of English.

Nevertheless, it is nothing new; the Oxford English Dictionary has citations of the plural from 1748 onwards, two of which are from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Sources

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

Oxford English Dictionary

Reading University Gazette, Vol. XIII. No1. July 31, 1940.

University of Reading, Calendar, 1941-42.

University of Reading. Proceedings of the University, 1939-40 & 1940-41.

Edith Morley and the Letter to The Times

In my post about the opening ceremony of the Great Hall, I expressed surprise that Edith Morley treated the exclusion of women, including herself, with amusement rather than anger.

Another of these ‘lighter incidents’ that was given similar treatment in her ‘Reminiscences’ (p. 143) concerns her first letter to The Times. Here’s how she starts the story:

‘Nor must I forget ‘my’ first letter to The Times. Mrs [Emmeline] Pankhurst wanted publicity for some aspect of the suffrage question and wrote a letter which she thought my title might get accepted. So signing it with my initials only, I obediently copied and sent it off.’

As a result, on the day of publication a Times journalist turned up at the London Road Campus wanting her opinion on the issue in question. The interview never took place however:

‘When he heard that I was the Professor Morley he had taken so much trouble to track down, his language was not exactly parliamentary: ‘Sold again’ and a bang on the table were his parting shots as he stormed out of the room without troubling to elicit my opinions.’ (p. 143).

1st page enlarged
Title page of the most heavily annotated of Morley’s three original typescripts of her memoir. On this one she has added the subtitle by hand (University of Reading Special Collections)

As well as the way this incident is treated so lightheartedly, it is one of several occasions in the memoir where I am surprised by what  Morley neglects to tell us. Even though she insists that her memoir is not an autobiography, and self-deprecatingly refers to it as ‘these rambling reminiscences of my activities’ (p. 182), I would have expected her to say something about the details of the letter, the year of publication, the precise topic, and (if I have identified it correctly) the reaction that it provoked.

The Times Digital Archive contains all the letters addressed to the editor of The Times during Edith Morley’s lifetime, but I was puzzled by her statement that she had signed it with her initials only. If the published letter only ended with E.( J.) M., how had the journalist identified her so quickly? I searched the archive using both her name and her initials, and the earliest letter that I could find was published on 2nd May 1914. It concerned the Home Secretary’s proposals in The Criminal Justice Administration Bill and it ended with Morley’s full signature:

‘E. J. MORLEY (Member of the Penal Reform Association). University College, Reading, April 30.’

The letter draws attention to alleged flaws in four clauses of the bill. These raised issues concerning women in general and for militant activists in particular. It is, therefore, exactly the kind of topic that Emmeline Pankhurst might have asked Professor Morley to give her name to.

The claims by Morley/Pankhurst are these:

    • Clause 10 enabled fines to be paid from the sentenced persons’ belongings, or from money they had on them at the time of arrest. It was therefore ‘aimed at passive resisters’ because they would be ‘deprived of the right to refuse to pay a fine, the imposition of which they consider to be unjust.’ (NB The numbering of this clause was an error; In the final Act of Parliament Clause 10 dealt with Borstal Institutions; the relevant clause was Clause 4).
    • Clause 13 would allow prisoners sentenced to jail terms of 10 days or less to be held in police cells rather than a prison. The letter argues that such cells were often ‘dark, unventilated, insanitary, and verminous.’ Furthermore, there were rarely women attendants on duty at night, and male officers were in the habit of entering women’s cells, allegedly to prevent suicide.
    • Clause 14 would allow magistrates to deal with malicious damage to property up to the value of £20 (instead of the previous £5), thus depriving  many of those charged of the right to trial by jury.
    • Clause 17 would give the Home Secretary the power to have prisoners subjected to surgical operations without their consent. This had the potential for serious abuse.

The letter ends:

‘Thus under cover of some very necessary reforms, an attempt is being made to smuggle through certain dangerous innovations in what is miscalled “criminal justice administration.”‘

The Home Secretary of the time, Reginald McKenna, was sufficiently provoked by the Morley/Pankhurst criticism that he immediately arranged for a certain S. W. Harris of the Home Office to issue a rebuttal. It is worth noting that women prisoners were a sensitive matter for McKenna; only the previous year he had been savagely mocked by a gruesome cartoon in The Daily Herald that depicted him force feeding an unnamed, bound and blindfolded suffragette, referring to him as ‘Forcible-Feeder-in-Chief to the Cabinet’.

The Harris/McKenna letter appeared in The Times on 6th May 1914, four days after the one signed by Morley. It addresses each of the four points in turn, and accuses Mr. E. J. Morley of having ‘misread the clauses he discusses.’ The letter asserts that:

    • the provision would not apply to “passive resisters” (Clause 4);
    • allowing money to be removed from someone’s person to pay a fine merely corrected a legal anomaly (Clause 4);
    • that  imprisonment would not be in ordinary police cells but in specially certified accommodation like the Liverpool Bridewell with female attendants for women prisoners (Clause 13);
    • the magistrates’ jurisdiction over wilful damage up to the value of £20 was an extension of existing powers and terms of imprisonment for such offences were to be reduced (Clause 14).
    • with regard to non-consensual surgical operations, the claim was denied, stating that the Home Secretary would have no more than the power to authorise removal to a hospital where an operation could be carried out more efficiently .

It will come as no surprise that Morley and/or Pankhurst were less than impressed by these statements; five days later on 11th May 1914, their second letter appeared, again signed E. J. Morley of University College, Reading. I am not aware of the extent of Pankhurst’s involvement, but their arguments were that Harris/McKenna has adopted a much too narrow definition of ‘passive resister’ and the provision would indeed apply to them; that police cells were not ‘suitable places’ for prisoners detained for more than one or two nights; that there was no explicit requirement in the bill for the availability of female attendants; that Harris/McKenna had failed to respond to the matter of trial by jury –  furthermore,  prisoners in magistrates’ courts received convictions based on unreliable police evidence; and that if the Home Secretary was not empowered to authorise operations on prisoners, why weren’t the words ‘with the consent of the prisoner’ included in the bill?

I have been unable to find any further correspondence on the legislation either from Morley, Pankhurst, or Harris. There are, however, letters about the arrest, imprisonment and maltreatment of Sylvia Pankhurst, and in June of the same year S. W. Harris submitted another rebuttal on behalf of the Home Secretary with the title: ‘The militants:  the motive of suffragist crime.’ This again concerned women prisoners and the matter of force feeding. It contained a denial that prison doctors were not willing to do everything possible to prevent the death of suffragettes from starvation.

Post Script

The Criminal Justice Administration Act was passed in August 1914. The introductory text describes it as:

‘An Act to diminish the number of cases committed to prison, to amend the Law with respect to the treatment and punishment of young offenders, and otherwise to improve the Administration of Criminal Justice.’

I have not been able to access earlier drafts of the Bill and cannot therefore give precise details of any changes that were included in the final Act of Parliament. Nevertheless, I can confirm that in the final version, Clause 13 allowed detention in police cells, bridewells and other places, ‘Provided that no place so certified shall be used for the detention of females unless provision is made for their supervision by female officers.’

In addition, Clause 17 appears to presuppose the prisoner’s agreement to hospital treatment or surgical operation by the inclusion of the word ‘consent’.

Thanks

To Charlie Carpenter, Academic Liaison Librarian, who discovered Edith Morley’s second letter and helped me negotiate the Times Digital Archive.

Sources

Criminal Justice Administration Act 1914. (c.58). [Online]. London: HMSO. [Accessed 15 June 2022]. Available from: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Geo5/4-5/58/enacted

Harris, S. W. (May 6, 1914). Criminal Administration: Home Secretary’s reply to criticisms of the Bill [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40516, p. 4.

Harris, S. W. (June 17, 1914). The militants: the motive of suffragist crime [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40552, p. 10.

Lawson, M. (June 18, 1914). The case of Sylvia Pankhurst [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40553, p. 15.

Morley, E. J. (May 2, 1914). The Criminal Justice Administration Bill: the Home Secretary’s proposals [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40513, p. 4.

Morley, E. J. (May 11, 1914). The Criminal Justice Administration Bill: the Home Secretary’s proposals [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40520, p. 3.

Morley, E. J. (1944). Looking before and after. Reminiscences of a working life.  Original Typescript, University of Reading Special Collections, MS 938/7/4, Folder 3.

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

Murray, F. & Schutze, H. (March 19, 1914). Mrs. Pankhurst’s imprisonment: a medical statement of injuries [Letter to the editor]. The Times, Issue 40475, p. 5.

The Great Hall: The Opening Ceremony

Lord Haldane, Secretary of State for War, performed the official opening of the Great Hall on the 27th October 1906. Most women were banned from attending for fear of disruption by suffragettes.

In an account  of women’s suffrage, The Fabian Society and her own feminism, Edith Morley explains her position on acts of violence and illegality. While she disliked these on principle, she concedes that, without them, the struggle would have taken much longer. She points out that the violence was not one-sided and that  women ‘suffered much worse than they inflicted or could inflict‘ (‘Reminiscences, p. 142).

Having dealt with serious matters of such significance, it seems strange that the following paragraph labels her exclusion from the opening ceremony of the Great Hall as one of ‘Several lighter incidents‘ instead of railing against the injustice of it. This is all she has to say on the topic:

In the thirty-nine years of my active connection  with Reading College and University, once – and only once – was I absent on an important ceremonial occasion. This was when Lord Haldane, the Secretary for War, came to open the Hall in October 1906. He consented to officiate on condition that no woman, whether staff or student, was present at the ceremony; for no Minister at that time felt safe from suffragette interruptions.‘ (p. 142).

In fact, not all women were excluded, but those who did attend belonged to a certain level in society or were connected by marriage to the college – among others:  Lady Wantage, Lady Saye,  Lady Elliott, Mrs G. W. Palmer and Mrs Childs. A lowly English lecturer, or run-of-the mill members of staff or the student body were clearly too much of a threat!

Extract
Extract from a  map published in the Students’ Handbook (1907-8) showing the location of the Hall

The occasion was reported at length in The Times in an article that runs to well over 2,000 words. Haldane’s speech praised the College, the Hall and the new London Road site. Much of it was reproduced verbatim. Major themes were the inter-relationships between science and industry, wealth and the humanities. Speaking as a Minister of the State, he was concerned with the ‘Educational Needs of the Army‘.

Following his speech Haldane was presented with an inscribed silver inkstand by the architects, Messrs Ravenscroft and C. S, Smith. This was followed by a vote of thanks from the Principal, W. M. Childs, during which he announced to cheers that Lady Wantage had agreed to supply a Hall of Residence for male students.

This is how the article refers to the Great Hall:

The scheme of the new college embraces buildings both old and new. The principal feature of the new buildings is the great hall, the foundation-stone of which was laid by Lord Goschen last year. It was in this hall that the ceremony took place on Saturday. It is a handsome building, and will hold 1,000 people. A range of seven cloister buildings, which will later on be connected with the hall by other buildings, has also been erected.’

South side
The south side of the Great Hall (University of Reading Imagebank)

Two things are missing from The Times report – any mention of the exclusion of women, and Haldane’s predication that in fourteen years time the College would become the University of Reading.

Notes

1.  Wantage Hall was opened in 1908 and provided accommodation for 76 male students. In their book ‘Reading’s Influential Women‘ Terry Dixon and Linda Saul inform us that Lady Harriet Wantage was ‘a prominent anti-suffragist, active as president of the North Berks Anti-Suffrage League.‘ Of Lady Wantage and Edith Morley they note that, ‘We assume they weren’t friends.‘ (p. 16).

2.  This wasn’t Haldane’s only visit to the campus. He returned on 30 April 1909 in his official capacity as Secretary of State for War in order to address the male students about forming a College branch of the Officer Training Corps (more about this in a future post).

Sources

Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

Dixon, T. & Saul, L. (2020). Reading’s influential women. Reading: Two Rivers Press.

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 Reading University College Review, Vol. I, 1908-9, pp. 154-7.

University College Reading,  Annual Report and Accounts, 1905-6.

University College, Reading. Calendar, 1910-11.

University College, Reading. Speech by Mr Haldane. (1906, October 29). The Times, p. 3.

University College Reading (1907). Students’ handbook. First issue: 1907-8. Reading: UCR.

The Great Hall: Laying the Foundation Stone

On the 7th June 1905 Viscount Goschen, Chancellor of Oxford University, laid the foundation stone of the Great Hall. The event was attended by the dignitaries of the town as well as the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire and the High Sheriff. It is no exaggeration to describe the ceremony as an extravaganza.

It is also possibly the first event of the College or University that involved the use of electric vehicles!

Why start the new campus with the hall?

Resources had been limited when the move from Valpy Street to London Road began. There were ambitious plans for the site (see Architects’ sketch below), but the Principal gave priority to building a ‘hearth and home‘ in the form of the Great Hall. His reasoning was as follows:

Should it [the hall] be built now or later? The answer depended upon our conception of our undertaking. If the College was to be no more than a mechanism to produce teaching and research, it could do without a hall. If it meant to be a real society, an association of comrades, a hall was a necessity.‘ (Childs, 1933, p. 56)

The decision was not universally popular, as shown by Edith Morley’s account:

Money was, as always, very short, and it was necessary to balance conflicting claims. To many it was an unexpected decision to begin with a Great Hall which could become a central meeting place for the whole college. There were many criticisms from disgruntled teachers in cramped and unsuitable quarters, but there can be little doubt that the plan of campaign adopted showed strategic wisdom.‘ (Morley, 2016, p. 109)

Shows ambitious plan for campus
The architects’ ambitious concept of the future campus including a driveway for carriages opening onto London Rd
The Order of Proceedings

The booklet containing the programme for the ceremony was in keeping with the extravagance of the occasion itself.

Front cover

Among its contents were:

    • The architects’ drawing shown above.
    • A map of the best route from Valpy Street to the new site.
    • A detailed plan of the seating arrangements.
    • The programme of events.
    • A note on the buildings, the Palmer family and the design of the Hall.
    • Train timetables to and from Reading.
The Sequence of Events

In total, activities lasted for over four hours. They were planned with military precision, beginning with the arrival of Viscount Goschen:

    • 1.08:  Official reception at the railway station.
    • 1.00-1.30:  Reception in the town hall.
    • 1.30:  Luncheon at the invitation of the Mayor and Mayoress accompanied by a programme of musical items performed by the Scarlet Viennese Band (Conductor R. S. Coates). Toasts and speeches follow.
    • Following luncheon, guests progress to Broad Street where ‘special Electric Cars‘ are waiting to take them to London Road.
    • 3.30-3.55:  THE ASSEMBLY – Guests take their places according to the colour of their tickets.
        • 3.55:  Procession of the dignitaries from the Main Entrance to the Academic Platform.
        • Trumpets.
    • 4.00:  THE CEREMONY
        • Speeches.
        • The architects (Messrs.Ravenscroft & Smith) hand the Chancellor the Trowel and Mallet.
        • The Registrar reads out the inscription on the stone.
        • The College Treasurer deposits a vessel containing Records.
        • As the stone is lowered, the Students’ Choir sings ‘O God, our help in ages past‘ (conducted by J. C. B. Tirbutt).
        • The cement is borne by the builders (Messrs. T. H. Kingerlee & Sons).
        • The Chancellor sets the stone, ‘testing it with the Level and Plumb Rule‘.
        • The Chancellor declares ‘the Stone to be well and truly laid.’
        • Prayers, speeches, signing of the Record of Proceedings.
        • The Chancellor and his Procession leave.
        • Trumpets.
    • 4.45-5.15:  THE GARDEN PARTY
        • Reception on the lawn of the College Garden.
        • The Reading Temperance Prize Band performs a selection of music.
        • GOD SAVE THE KING
        • Guests are invited to view the Horticultural Gardens, the College Library in the Acacias Building, and the Old Red Building.
Show the Assembly
The Ceremony (University of Reading, Special Collections)

Did all this go according to plan? I was only able to find one eye-witness account of the ceremony – an anonymous article in the College Magazine.  In spite of bad weather, the ceremony was clearly a success and a milestone for the College:

When Viscount Goschen laid the foundation stone of our new buildings he did not merely inaugurate a new home for the College, but also wrote the opening words of a new chapter in its history.’ (p. 4)

And:

The heavy stone was raised to allow of the mortar being spread beneath it, then re-lowered to the place it is to occupy for so long, covering and guarding the vessel containing the records of the ceremony. Lord Goschen tested it and declared it to be “well and truly laid.”‘ (p. 6)

Shows stone today
The foundation stone on the north wall in 2022

While preparing this post I couldn’t help reflecting on the contrast between the magnificence of this event – the obvious importance of the College to the town of Reading – and Edith Morley’s comment about the College on arriving for her interview at Valpy Street:

When I arrived at the station no-one was able to direct me to the College, so insignificant and unknown it still was to the man in the street.‘ (p. 97)

So either the College had come a long way in the four years since Morley’s arrival, or her account was tainted by the embarrassment of arriving late for her interview. Maybe a little of both. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that when the extension to the buildings in Valpy Street were completed in 1898, they had been opened by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) to the accompaniment of much street decoration and flag waving.

Post Script

The booklet of the Order of Proceedings is held by the University Library. It is available on request from the off-site store (R.U. RESERVE–378.4229-UNI).

Sources
Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.
Morley, E. J. (2016). Before and after: reminiscences of a working life (original text of 1944 edited by Barbara Morris). Reading: Two Rivers Press.

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

University College, Reading. The Magazine. 1905, Vol IV, Spring Term. no. 3.

University College, Reading (1905). Order of the proceedings at the laying of the foundation stone of the new buildings of University College, Reading, by the Right Hon. Viscount Goschen, D.C.L., F.R.S., Chancellor of the University of Oxford, 7 June, 1905. Reading: Holybrook Press.

The Day Training College and the Master of Method

In my post about the Normal Department I noted that the origins of Teacher Education at Reading University could be traced to the founding of the University Extension College in 1892. In 1898 this became Reading College, soon followed by recognition as a Day Training College. This extended its field of operations and laid the foundations for what would eventually become today’s Institute of Education.

According to Carol Dyhouse’s ‘Students: a gendered history‘, day training departments in colleges and universities were introduced by the government in 1890 and were responsible for a significant increase in student numbers, particularly of women. Reading and Southampton followed in the steps of 13 other institutions in gaining recognition in 1899.

 

Shows college recognition
Reading College Calendar 1899-1900: Childs was still Lecturer in History & English Literature; he became Vice-Principal in 1900, Principal in 1903 and Vice-Chancellor of the University in 1926

By the time of Edith Morley’s appointment in November 1901, the Day Training College was preparing 80 full-time students for the Elementary Teachers’ Certificate on a course lasting two years. These students formed the bulk of full-timers in the arts and sciences.

The provision was innovative in at least two ways. First, from the outset most students were accommodated in halls of residence (rendering the phrase ‘day training’ inappropriate). And second, thanks to the cooperation of heads of the other departments, they were admitted to degree courses. The latter initiative raised some eyebrows in Whitehall but it seems to have been a success in as far as the trainees became fully integrated members of the student body and helped to secure the future of a group of subjects that became the nucleus of the Faculty of Letters. In other words, Education was at the very centre of academic activity.

A half century later, in 1949, Sir Frank Stenton, the University’s third Vice-Chancellor, paid tribute to the role of this early Education department in helping to overcome fears that the College was doomed to provide little more than technical instruction:

For this, all who are interested in the University of 1949 owe gratitude to the little group of teachers and students who formed the miserably housed and infelicitously named Day Training College of fifty years ago.‘ (p. 4)

Admission to the Day Training Department

Those eligible for admission were:

    1. Candidates who had obtained a first or second class pass in the Queen’s Scholarship Examination;
    2. Certified teachers who hadn’t received 2 years training;
    3. Graduates;
    4. Candidates over the age of 18 who had passed an examination approved by the Government Education Department.

Candidates in categories 2 and 3 only had to complete one year of the course.

Acceptance was subject to a health check conducted by the Medical Officer, Dr J. B. Hurry, and a declaration that it was the candidate’s bona fide intention to teach in a state school.

The College received £20 per student in fees (£10 from the student and £10 from the Government Education Department). Grants for maintenance for Queen’s Scholars consisted of £20 for women and £25 for men. Students not living at home paid a maintenance fee of £15 (women) or £12 (men).

The Course

As the first-year timetable below suggests, students were kept busy six days a week with a combination of subject knowledge and lectures on teaching method. These were interspersed with just four short slots for private study or tuition.

Illustrates timetable
The first published timetable for the Day Training Department (Reading College Calendar 1900-01, p. 119)
The Master of Method

The creation of the Day Training Department also marked the appointment of the first official Lecturer in Education. As can be seen from the first Calendar extract above, this was J. H. Gettins who served as ‘Master of Method‘ until 1907 when he was succeeded by H. S. Cooke.

Professor Albert Wolters, the subject of a previous post on this blog, had been a student in the Day Training Department in 1902. Nearly half a century later, he still had fond memories of Gettins:

The staff consisted of Mr. J. H. Gettins, who, harassed but cheerful, worked from morn to night, giving lectures and supervising school practice, knowing all the time that by reason of the training being concurrent with academic studies his Department was a nuisance.‘ (p. 18)

During Wolters’s time as a student, teaching practice was a mere three weeks per session and took place at the Swansea Road Board School. Further schools became involved later, including Redlands.

The Next 50 Years

In the half century following its establishment as a Day Training College in Valpy Street, the Education Department went from strength to strength and was responsible for a number of key innovations. A previous post has already mentioned the Department’s early contribution to educational research and to the schooling of evacuees during World War II, following which it was fully engaged in the government’s Emergency Training Scheme.

One particular initiative excited wide interest.  This was the University College’s ‘Farm School‘ at Shinfield, an experiment that took place between 1912 and 1926. It was attended by as many as 120 children annually from the borough including pupils from Redlands School (by then the Department’s ‘demonstration school’). Sadly, the scheme was abandoned as priorities changed when the University College became the University of Reading, but the tradition of Outdoor Education is still maintained today through the work of Dr Helen Bilton, Professor of Outdoor Learning at Reading’s Institute of Education.

Post Script

There were Mistresses of Method as well as Masters, though none of the lecturers in education at Reading ever had the title.

In Edith Morley’s chapter on women at universities, she includes training teachers as one of four kinds of opening available to women:

These posts, which are remunerated on about the same scale as other University lectureships are well suited to those whose interest lies mainly in purely educational matters. Girls who have obtained good degrees, but do not wish to devote themselves entirely to scholarship, will find here an attractive and ever-extending sphere of influence.’ (p. 19)

And:

Mistresses of Method are well aware that the ideal type of training has not yet been evolved: they are seeking new ways of carrying on their work and experimenting with new methods at the same time as they are guiding others along paths already familiar to themselves.‘ (p. 19)

During the 50 years between 1899 and 1949 there were 32 full-time Education staff at Reading. Seventeen were women (these figures omit academics such as Edith Morley who were in other departments but contributed subject-specialist expertise to Education courses).
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. (1949). A note on the term “Day Training College. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (p. 8). University of Reading.

Campbell, I. E. (1949). The farm school, 1912-1926, and the development of courses in rural science for intending teachers. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 33-6). University of Reading.

Dyhouse, C. (2006). Students: a gendered history. Abingdon: Routledge.

Morley, E. J. (2014). Women at the universities and university teaching as a profession. In E. J. Morley (Ed.), Women workers in seven professions: a survey of their economic conditions and prospects (pp. 11-24). London: Routledge. [Edited for the Studies Committee of the Fabian Women’s Group].

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

Reading College. Calendar, 1899-1900 & 1900-01.

Reading College. Report of the Academic Board, 1898-9 & 1899-1900.

Stenton, F. (1949). Vice-Chancellor’s foreword. In H. C. Barnard (Ed.), The Education Department through fifty years (pp. 4-6). 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.

A Postcard Home

During the early days of the London Road Campus, a wide range of picture postcards was produced showing scenes of the College grounds and buildings. Many of these have been preserved in the University’s Special Collections and they include views of the cloisters, the front entrance, porters’ lodge and Green Bank. There are also interior shots of student hostels and halls.

Very occasionally a card turns up that has been written on, sent home and, at some stage in its long history, has been returned to the University and retained in its archives.

One such example is this card posted in 1907 that shows the sender’s room in St Andrew’s Hostel.

St Andrew’s Hostel (University of Reading, Special Collections)

The reverse of the card reveals that it was sent by someone called Alice to a Mrs Knapp in Penarth near Cardiff. 

The written message reads as follows:

Many thanks for letter & “Enclosure”. You will like to have this card of our room. I wish you could see a little more of it, it is rather like the photo on the wall! Did you like the hockey group? You did not mention it in the letter. Thank you for sending the Recorder. The concert went off well last night. I got an encore!!! Your photo is very prominent in the picture is’nt [sic] it!  The Principal has got “influ” – also Miss Morley & M. Salmon. My cold is much better. Much love Alice.’

Alice’s Postcard. The stamp shows Eward VII who ascended the throne on the death of Queen Victoria in 1901. (University of Reading, Special Collections)

The three members of academic staff with ‘influ’ were:

  • The Principal:  W. M. Childs who became Reading’s first Vice-Chancellor in 1926;
  • Miss Morley:  Edith Morley who became Professor of English Language in 1908, the first woman to hold an equivalent position in the UK;
  • M. Salmon:  Professor Amédée V. Salmon, Professor of French.

So who was Alice? It seemed logical to assume that she was writing to her mother or close family member and I was convinced that I had seen the name Alice Knapp somewhere in the College records. 

Lists of graduates were published in the college calendars so it was a simple matter to discover that  Alice graduated in 1907 with a second class honours BA in English and French (hence the references to Edith Morley and Amédée Salmon).

The following year she was made an Associate of  University College Reading (with Distinction) by virtue of her honours degree.

Lists of committee members of College societies in the Calendars show that Alice was a student who enjoyed extra-curricular life to the full.

  • In 1906-7 she was:
    • Deputy-Captain of Women’s Sculling,
    • Lady Lay Member of the Hockey Club,
    • Lady Captain of Tennis,
    • Member of the Debating Society Executive Committe Calendar.
  • In 1907-8:
    • Vice-President of The Women Students’ Union (founded in 1906),
    • President of the Women’s Branch of the Students’ Christian Union.
  • And in 1908-9:
    • Secretary of the Debating Society.

I wondered why she was still on committees after the award in her degree. The answer is in the lists of Education students – she was training to be a teacher, and in 1908 she passed the one-year postgraduate ‘Certificate (Theoretical and Practical) of the Teachers Training Syndicate, Cambridge‘.

ST ANDREWS HOSTEL

With regard to Alice’s accommodation, note that the words ‘My room in Old St Andrews London Rd. 1907‘ above the addressee indicate that Alice was lodging in the original hostel in London Rd rather than St Andrew’s Hall on Redlands Rd (see map below). The site for the latter was offered to the College by Alfred Palmer in 1909 and formally opened in 1911 (see Childs’s memoir, p. 176). Originally called ‘East Thorpe‘, it is now occupied by the Museum of English Rural Life and the University’s Special Collections.

Detail from a Map of 1906 showing St Andrew’s Hostel in London Rd, and East Thorpe on Redlands Rd next to the College campus.

The hostel in London Road was run by Mary Bolam, Censor of Women Students, as shown by the Student Handbook of 1908-9. 

Extract from the Student Handbook of 1908-9 (p. 37)
POST SCRIPT

I don’t know what happened to Alice Knapp when she left Reading. All I can find is the announcement of her BA in The Englishwoman’s Review (see below) under the heading of University and Educational Intelligence. It seems that the Review recorded the academic qualification of every woman graduate.

THANKS

To Professor Viv Edwards for locating the census records of the Knapp family in Penarth.

SOURCES

Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

The Englishwoman’s Review of Social and Industrial Questions, Vol. XXXIX, No. 1, January 1908.

University College Reading. Students’ handbook. Second issue: 1908-9.

University of Reading. Calendar,  Issues from 1906-7 to 1910-11.

University of Reading Special Collections, Photos in MS5305: University History, Halls, Great Hall.

The Censor of Women Students

Lucy Ashcroft, Censor of Women Students at Reading, was mentioned in previous posts about Women’s Sculling and women and boat racing. These references prompted an enquiry about the role of the Censor.

My source of information about colleges and universities outside Reading is Carol Dyhouse’s ‘No distinction of sex‘, a history of women in British universities. Dyhouse points out that:

University authorities were in loco parentis, and felt that women needed special protection and chaperonage that could only be discharged by a woman. The 1880s and 1890s were, after all, decades in which controversy still raged over the potentially deleterious effects of intellectual exertion on women’s minds and physiology.’ (p. 59)

Essentially, the Censor was responsible for the welfare of women students, but the title varied between institutions:

  • Tutor (or Senior Tutor) to Women Students
  • Lady Superintendent
  • Lady Tutor
  • Dean of Women Students
  • Advisor (or General Advisor) to Women Students

Details of the role varied too. There were issues about whether the person appointed should be an academic and the extent to which they should be involved in academic matters. Sometimes the duties led to conflict – responsibilities such as the acceptance or rejection of applicants could have unpleasant consequences.

There was scepticism about the usefulness of the position in some quarters, but it was robustly championed by the Headmistresses’ Association, at least partly to appease parents who were anxious about their daughters going on to higher education.

Edith Morley mentions the role as a career opportunity for women in her edited volume of 1914, ‘Women workers in seven professions.’ In one of the chapters she authored herself, ‘Women at the universities and university teaching as a profession,‘ she classifies it as an administrative post but insists strongly that it should be filled by an academic:

This post [Dean or Tutor of Women Students] is usually  and should always be held by a woman of senior academic standing, whose position in the class-room or laboratory commands as much respect as her authority outside. The Dean or Tutor is responsible for the welfare and discipline of all women students, and is nowadays usually a member of the Senate or academic governing body.’ (p. 17)

CENSORS AT READING: MARY BOLAM

Reading had both a Censor of Discipline (male) and a Censor of Women Students (female). As far as I have been able to discover, the first mention of the latter is in a late notice inserted into the Reading College Calendar for 1901-2 after it had been printed:

Late insert in the Calendar of 1901-2 announcing the appointment of Mary Bolam.

Mary Bolam was Censor from 1901 to 1911. From the outset, her address is given as St Andrew’s Hostel and it seems that her position of Censor was inextricably linked with that of Warden. She remained Warden of St Andrew’s until she retired in 1927. In his memoir, Childs recalls that:

Beginning in 1890 with two or three students in private rooms, she [Mary Bolam] lived to preside for many years over one of the largest and best appointed women’s halls to be found in any English university, old or new.‘ (p. 182).

She was clearly a dynamic force, described by Childs as ‘the merciless enemy of the slovenly‘. And Childs devotes a glowing testimonial of nearly a page and a half to Mary Bolam’s personality, skill and effectiveness: 

She had organising genius, strong will, clear purpose, north-country toughness under trial and benevolence of heart.‘ (p. 182).

The image below showing Bolam and Childs in 1901 is an enlarged section of the photo of the Education Department from Professor Barnard’s book of 1949 that was shown in full in my earlier post about the ‘Criticism Lesson’.

Mary Bolam (left) in 1901 seated with W. M. Childs, Vice-Principal of Reading College and the University’s first Vice-Chancellor.

Mary Bolam is also praised in Holt’s history of the University of Reading, though not quite as effusively. He reports that she had been ‘the doyenne of the women wardens‘ (p. 64), that ‘her own students adored her‘ and that ‘She was indefatigable and she was a Tartar’ (p. 65).

Her status was undoubtedly enhanced by being a graduate and having teaching responsibilities. Successive editions of the Calendar record teaching duties in Geography, ‘Preliminary Studies’ and in Primary Education (she had previously been an assistant at Cheltenham Ladies College under Dorothea Beale). Holt notes her membership of Senate as the first ‘statutory woman’ (p. 275). 

LUCY ASHCROFT

I am not sure exactly when Lucy Ashcroft succeeded Mary Bolam as Censor. She is not described as such in the Calendar until 1913-14, several years after Bolam had relinquished the role. 

Like Bolam, Ashcroft was a graduate with teaching experience in schools. She first appears in the College Calendar of 1907-08 as Assistant Lecturer in Mathematics. A brief profile (including her address) can be found in the Student Handbook of 1908-09:

Lucy Ashcroft’s qualifications and experience published in the Student Handbook of 1908-9, p. 70

Given her experience of teaching mathematics in schools, it is not surprising that the Calendar of 1913-14 lists her not only as Censor of Women Students but also Lecturer in Secondary Education, following in the steps of Caroline Herford, the first holder of that position. Between 1921 and 1922 Ashcroft was also acting Warden of Wessex Hall. 

Lucy Ashcroft is mentioned by name in Reading’s Charter of Incorporation (1926). The position of Censor entailed membership of the University Court. She remained in post until she retired in 1942.

The above has focused on women censors at Reading. My next contribution will be about the male Censor of Discipline, Herbert Knapman.

POST SCRIPT

According to the Ashcroft family,  Lucy was the aunt of the actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft (1907-1991) – my thanks to Sharon Maxwell for this information.

SOURCES

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

Childs, W. M. (1933). Making a university: an account of the university movement at Reading. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

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

Holt, J. C. (1977). The University of Reading: the first fifty years. Reading: University of Reading Press.

Morley, E. J. (2014). Women at the universities and university teaching as a profession. In E. J. Morley (Ed.), Women workers in seven professions: a survey of their economic conditions and prospects (pp. 11-24). London: Routledge. [Edited for the Studies Committee of the Fabian Women’s Group].

Reading College. Calendar, 1901-02.

University College Reading, Calendars, 1902-3 to 1913-14, and 1921-22.

University College Reading, Student Handbook, 1908-09.

University of Reading. Charter of Incorporation, 17 March 1926. 

Evacuees and Reading’s first PhD in Education

THE EVACUEE ARCHIVE

The University of Reading’s Special Collections contain a wide variety of material relating to World War II evacuation. In addition to books, interviews and documents, the archive includes 25 boxes of memoirs collected by Dr Martin Parsons, formerly Senior Lecturer in History Education at Reading and Director of the Secondary PGCE Programme. 

Currently a team of volunteers led by Joanna Hulin, Reading Room Assistant at MERL, is assisting with the cataloguing process in order to make the content of these memoirs more accessible to readers.

The memoirs contain many recurring themes, but one which is particularly striking to anyone who has worked in Education is the disruption to schooling experienced by children of all ages. Colin, for example, who was evacuated from London to Essex in September 1939, had no schooling for a month after his arrival. His Geography teacher gave him and fellow pupils the task of mapping the village to keep them out of mischief (D EVAC A/1/488).

The lack of suitable school premises meant that, on arrival, many classes had to be held in the open air.  And the severe winter of 1939-40 further disrupted attendance. Frequently school buildings had to be shared between local children and evacuees on a half-day basis. Sometimes, homesick children returned home early only to find that their schools had closed. In the Liverpool area alone it was reported that thousands of children went without lessons for 10 months.

Nothing speaks more poignantly of the plight of some of the children, however, than this comment from an anonymous respondent (D EVAC A/1/546) who had been evacuated from London to Somerset:

University of Reading Special Collections
THE UNIVERSITY’S FIRST PHD IN EDUCATION

It was interesting to discover, therefore, that the first Education PhD listed in Professor Barnard’s history of the Education Department at Reading addressed some of the issues referred to above. What made it even more interesting was its focus on the town of Reading and, in particular, that it was a contemporary account or an investigation conducted while the evacuation was still in progress.

The thesis by Charles Preston Rawson was completed in 1943 and has the title ‘Some aspects of evacuation.’ Its structure and presentation is very different from any thesis I have seen before. And the format is not what would be expected in the Institute of Education today. However it contains a wealth of detail, documentary analysis, a questionnaire survey and an account of an intervention conducted by the author himself. It also presents a considerable amount of raw data.

In total, there are five volumes plus an envelope of supplementary material.

Rawson’s thesis (available from the Whiteknights Library off-site store)

I believe this to be a valuable resource for historians of the period, so it is worth saying a little more about the content.

  1. Volume 1:  deals with ‘Preparations for Evacuation’. Following a detailed analysis of official documents, Rawson concludes that, ‘It may be that I have shown the meaning of “Schooling in an Emergency”‘ (p. 11). There is also a case study of Springfield School (in Hackney?) consisting of a detailed diary of events leading up to evacuation.
  2. Volumes 2, 3, & 4:  provide the results of a survey consisting of 19 mostly open-ended questions about ‘conditions in the London reception area up to Midsummer 1941.‘ The questionnaire went out to 112 evacuated schools and 104 were returned – an impressive response during a national emergency. For two years, Rawson also maintained close contact with 77 evacuated schools that were housed in or around Reading. He reports that, during this period, the school population of Reading increased by 55%.
  3. Volume 5:  reports what is referred to as ‘The Reading Experiment.‘ This intervention was a personal initiative by Rawson conducted with the approval of the London County Council Inspectorate.  It was an ambitious project that bypassed the problem of shared school premises and half-day education by hiring accommodation and borrowing equipment.
  4. Supplementary Materials:  include spreadsheets, statistics, maps, graphs and diagrams meticulously produced by hand using different coloured inks.
Rawson’s Thesis with the Supplementary Materials

The schools surveyed are not specified by name in the description of the sample which simply tabulates the type of school, the name of the head teacher and the area to which it was evacuated. However, they are identifiable because they are all named in the handwritten spreadsheet of school rolls (see below), and many are mentioned by name in the results section. Given the large size of the sample of London schools, it is inevitable that they would include some of those mentioned in the Special Collections’ evacuee memoirs.

Rolls of Evacuated Schools (Supplementary Material Accompanying Rawson’s Thesis)

One area addressed in the survey is ‘Has it been possible to carry on normal full-time education?‘ (Q7a). The answer is complex: by 1943 the situation had stabilised and, at least in terms of the number of hours of education, most schools were providing an equivalent of whole-day schooling. With regard to the combination of quantity and quality of the curriculum, however, there were reservations expressed by nearly half the schools in the sample.

THE UNIVERSITY OF READING AND THE EVACUATION

It is worth noting that the University of Reading has a number of other connections to evacuees and evacuee studies. Towards the end of Volume 5 of Rawson’s thesis there is a tribute to the University’s provision of courses of lectures and field excursions for evacuated teachers. These were co-ordinated by Reading’s Education Department and contributions were made by professors and lecturers from across the University. According to H. Armstrong’s account of the Education Department, students still in training also did their bit by helping out in local schools that were struggling with overcrowding and staff shortages.

Following her retirement in 1940, Edith Morley spent a year as a billeting officer in Reading. This is how she describes her role:

…I helped with work among the evacuees, taking children to their billets, visiting the billetees and their hosts, distributing dinner tickets and doing odd jobs of clerical work at a community centre and the like.‘ (p. 161).

Following this, she devoted her attention to helping refugees where she could make use of her foreign language skills.

 It is also interesting that, prior to her appointment at Reading, Magdalen Vernon, pioneering experimental psychologist who became the first female Head of Psychology at Reading, conducted a study of the consequences of evacuation for adolescent girls. The investigation includes the effects on academic working habits, social relationships, leisure activities and attitudes to careers.

FINALLY

It would be neglectful to conclude this post without mentioning a second Education PhD that was completed in 1943. This was Isabella Erskine Campbell’s investigation into abstract thinking and language development in children of ‘average intelligence’. 

Campbell’s thesis, set out in a format more like that of today, was written in the context of secondary school reorganisation. The results have implications for issues that are still relevant: selection at eleven plus,  testing and examinations, curriculum, equal opportunities and the place of vocational education.

This PhD is a landmark because Isabella Campbell was a lecturer and tutor in the Department of Education, and the first member of staff in that department to be awarded a doctorate by the University of Reading.

PS

Sadly, I can find no record of Charles Rawson publishing his research.

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.

Campbell, I. E. (1943). A study of abstract thinking and linguistic development with reference to the education of the child of ‘average’ intelligence. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Reading.

Evacuation – a mammoth operation to move 200,000 to safety. (1957, November 19). The Liverpool Echo, p. 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.

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

University of Reading Calendar 1939/40 to 1943/44.

University of Reading Special Collections, Memoirs of Evacuated Children during World War 2 – D EVAC A .

Vernon, M. D. (1940). A study of some effects of evacuation on adolescent girls. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 12, 114-134.

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.