Glimpses of Girton – Norah Jolliffe


This Glimpses of Girton article was written by a visiting researcher to the College Archive, Dr Amara Thornton. Amara is a Research Officer at the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, University of Reading.


Norah Jolliffe: Curator, Excavator, Teacher

I had only been at Reading about a week when I came across a reference to Norah Jolliffe.  It was during one of my first forays into the Ure Museum‘s archive, and my eye alighted on a half-sheet of University of Reading letterhead paper, with handwritten text that began “The Romano-British Museum was started under the joint direction of Professor Stenton + Professor Ure in 1914…”

A short document, probably written by Annie Ure, with a history of the “Romano-British Museum”. (Ure Museum archive D/12). Photo: Matthew Knight, courtesy of the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology.

A short document, probably written by Annie Ure, with a history of the “Romano-British Museum”. (Ure Museum archive D/12). Photo: Matthew Knight, courtesy of the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology.

By the penultimate sentence of the short text, the Museum history had reached the late 1920s, when, between 1927 and 1934 “the museum was in the charge of Miss N. C. Jolliffe, lecturer in the Department of Classics.” It’s now a well-established part of the Ure Museum’s history that its first curator was a woman – Annie Ure. But here was evidence of another female curator at Reading – and one of a different (and as it turns out not unrelated) museum.

I was quite excited. I had no idea who “Miss N. C. Jolliffe” was at that point, but searching for her online quickly revealed that her personal papers are now held by Girton College, Cambridge – her alma mater and her final employer.

In May, I visited Girton and spend a time looking through some of Norah Jolliffe’s papers.  Among them is a file of testimonial letters written by various Reading colleagues, including Professor of Classics Percy Ure and Professor of History Frank Stenton, and her teachers from alma maters Cheltenham Ladies College and Girton (Janet Ruth Bacon, Girton’s lecturer in Classics) in support of Jolliffe’s application for Classics Lecturer positions at Royal Holloway and St Hugh’s College Oxford.[1]

The letters are nothing less than dazzling in explaining and praising Norah Jolliffe’s qualifications, research interests, abilities and character.  On leaving Cheltenham Ladies College Jolliffe had entered Girton to study Classics, finishing her Tripos with first-class honours in both parts in 1918 (this was before Cambridge granted women degrees and thus full membership of the university). She had a special interest in archaeology, and studied for the University Diploma in Archaeology between 1921 and 1922. All this she completed to brilliant standard in a third less time than the norm.

Norah Joliffe, taken from the 1918 first year photograph (archive reference: GCPH 10/6/13)

Norah Joliffe, taken from the 1918 first year photograph (archive reference: GCPH 10/6/13)

Accolades and diploma in hand, she went to Italy. As a Girton-funded Gilchrist student at the prestigious British School in Rome, she worked closely with the School’s Assistant Director, Eugenie Sellers Strong (who had completed her studies at Girton forty years before). One of the highlights of the collection of Jolliffe’s papers at Girton (for me anyway) is her ID card from her time at Rome, complete with a photograph of her attached to the rather elaborately decorated card giving her access to museums and galleries in the city.

Norah Jolliffe’s ID card, giving her access to the museums and galleries in Rome, 1922-1923 (archive reference: GCPP Jolliffe 1/4pt)

Norah Jolliffe’s ID card, giving her access to the museums and galleries in Rome, 1922-1923 (archive reference: GCPP Jolliffe 1/4pt)

Norah Jolliffe’s ID card, giving her access to the museums and galleries in Rome, 1922-1923 (archive reference: GCPP Jolliffe 1/4pt)

One product of her time spent in Rome was an article co-authored with Strong on a group of unusual pre-Christian Roman stuccoes; it was published in the Journal of Hellenic Studies in 1924. The stuccoes had only been discovered a few years before during the First World War, when a railway line being constructed caved in, revealing a shaft leading to the then-unknown basilica and its intriguing art. It was a site of religious practice built, Sellers and Jolliffe stressed, in exactly the same manner as early Christian basilicas. It had a significant impact on Jolliffe’s research interests.

Norah Jolliffe came to Reading initially as a temporary lecturer in Classics in 1926. She was replacing Vivian Wakefield (later Vivian Wade-Gery) in the role as Wakefield had been granted a leave of absence for research. It was Percy Ure’s wish to have in the Department of Classics a Research Fellow in Roman Archaeology, and Jolliffe fit the bill.[2]

Norah Jolliffe's calling card from Reading, circa 1926 (archive reference: GCPP Jolliffe 1/4pt)

Norah Jolliffe’s calling card from Reading, circa 1926 (archive reference: GCPP Jolliffe 1/4pt)

During her time at Reading, she continued her research into religious life, focusing particularly on Romano-British religion and “the religious cults of Ancient Britain” which Percy Ure noted in his testimonial. Between 1930 and 1933, she took part in excavations at Colchester (Camulodunum), under the direction of Christopher Hawkes from the British Museum and Mark Reginald Hull from the Colchester and Essex Museum (Colchester Castle Museum).  By 1930 a temple to the god Mithras was uncovered at Colchester, giving Jolliffe access to another intriguing religious space. Her special interest in Romano-British religion led eventually to a publication in the Archaeological Journal on the goddess Brigantia.

Alongside her regular teaching duties, she curated the Romano-British Museum at the newly-created University of Reading. I am currently in the early stages of researching the history of this Museum but in his report to the Faculty for the 1930/31 session Percy Ure recorded that Jolliffe had “spent a considerable time in cleaning and studying the Romano-British pottery” it held.[3]  Frank Stenton, jointly responsible with Percy Ure for managing the “Romano-British Museum” declared in his testimonial letter that her curatorial role enabled her to become “familiar with a considerable collection of materials covering the whole of this field, and illustrat[ing] the transition from Roman to Anglo-Saxon England.”[4]

Alongside this she was involved in University life to a dizzying degree; in his testimonial Reading’s Dean of the Faculty of Letters William de Burgh gave an outline of what she did beyond lecturing, excavating and curating: “Senior Steward of our Staff Common Room, on the Committee of the Association of University Teachers, and Secretary of the branch of the Federation of University Women.  …She has also shared in literary and other activities of students, and is at the present time the chief officer of our University Literary and Dramatic Society, the Gild of the Red Rose, and in that capacity is organising dramatic and other kindred activities among the students.”[5]

Jolliffe accepted the post of Classical Lecturer at Royal Holloway in 1934, and moved from there two years later back to Girton, where she remained for the rest of her life.  There are several photographs in her papers held at Girton showing her standing in front of groups of students, eager to learn.

As my research into Jolliffe and her role at Reading continues, I know there will be more to say about her and her place in the history of archaeology and archaeological collections in Britain. The best, I hope, is yet to come.

There is a temporary display at the Ure Museum, ‘Hidden Women in the Archive: Collectors, Curators and Cataloguers’, which features Norah Jolliffe, alongside Annie (Hunt) Ure, Hilda (Urlin) Petrie, Ellen (Exall) Barry, Gertrude (Hill) Hurry, Meta Williams, Julia Katherine (Wickes) Steele, Anne Mary Wickes, Henrietta Lawes, and Nora (Kershaw) Chadwick. The display will be on until 10 September 2019.

Published: 22 July 2019

Dr Amara Thornton

Dr Amara Thornton’s research centres on the history of archaeology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her first book Archaeologists in Print: Publishing for the People (UCL Press, 2018) is a history of popular publishing in archaeology. She has been Research Officer at the Ure Museum since February 2019.  She regularly blogs on her work at the Ure at https://research.reading.ac.uk/curiosi/ure-routes/.


References:

Footnotes:

[1] GCPP Jolliffe 1/1.

[2] University of Reading Ann Report 1926/27; 1927/28.

[3] Report of the Department of Classics 1930-1931. Ure family archive.

[4] GCPP Jolliffe 1/1.

[5] GCPP Jolliffe 1/1.

The “annual” has been a staple of Christmas stockings for generations, with a history dating back to the 1820s. Even before the end of the nineteenth century, the genre was sufficiently well-established to provoke discussions of its history; for example, Arthur T. Pask’s article, “The evolution of Christmas annuals”, in the July 1895 issue of The Windsor magazine: an illustrated monthly for men and women.

Within the Library, the Gamble collection – at the core of which are the books bequeathed to the College by Jane Catherine Gamble in 1885 – has been augmented over the years by donations of books illustrating the reading of women of that period, including a number of annuals aimed at both children and adults. One of the U.K.’s earliest annuals was Forget me not, published by Rudolph Ackermann and edited by Frederic Shoberl. We are lucky to have three volumes, from 1832, 1834 and 1842.

Title pages of the 1832 and 1834 volumes of Forget me not. Reference: Gamble 826 F76 (059391-059392)

Title pages of the 1832 and 1834 volumes of Forget me not.
Reference: Gamble 826 F76 (059391-059392)

As can be seen, the earlier volumes were beautifully produced, fairly diminutive at under 16 cm in height, and clearly intended to be bought as gifts. (Arthur R. Pask describes his 1825 volume thus: “Now this book is remarkably well bound in red silk; the letterpress is neatly printed; the steel engravings are of a far higher and more artistic character than any that have been since produced in a similar fashion.”)

"Presented to" frontispieces of the 1832, 1834 and 1842 volumes of Forget me not. Reference: Gamble 826 F76 (059391-059393)

“Presented to” frontispieces of the 1832, 1834 and 1842 volumes of Forget me not.
Reference: Gamble 826 F76 (059391-059393)

By 1842 and the 20th volume, however, the high standards of binding and engraving had to be dropped, although the preface makes clear that “in spite, however, of all fluctuations and vicissitudes… it shall be my strenuous endeavour… to uphold the character which it early acquired – that of being, in point of literary merit, as in age, the first of the Annuals.”

From just three years later we hold a single volume (the seventh, according to the preface) of Peter Parlay’s annual: a Christmas and New Year’s present for young people. At a chubby 14.5 cm high it is certainly child-sized and contains a mixture of factual articles and didactic fiction, with numerous black and white illustrations.

Title page, first page of the contents listing and pages 70-71 of Peter Parlay's annual. London, 1845. Reference: Gamble 826 P44 (059715)

Title page, first page of the contents listing and pages 70-71 of Peter Parlay’s annual. London, 1845.
Reference: Gamble 826 P44 (059715)

Moving on about 20 years, we have Warne’s home annual: a collection of original stories, games and amusements. Its content – with stories, puzzles and games, all illustrated with black and white images in the text as well as black and white plates – helps make it feel more modern. It includes articles by famous authors, including Charlotte Mary Yonge, whose contribution is listed in the contents as: Harvest home in Normandy (with Illustrations), Unpublished Tale, translated by the author of the “Heir of Redclyffe” from “Mde De Witt” (née Guizot).

Title page, page 1, pages 18-19 and page 92 of Warne's home annual. London, [1868]. Reference: Gamble 826.2 Y8 (063402)

Title page, page 1, pages 18-19 and page 92 of Warne's home annual. London, [1868]. Reference: Gamble 826.2 Y8 (063402)

 

Title page, page 1, pages 18-19 and page 92 of Warne’s home annual. London, [1868].
Reference: Gamble 826.2 Y8 (063402)

Periodicals that didn’t produce an annual could still bring out a special Christmas issue. Two examples are bound with our volume of Warne’s home annual.

Title pages of the Christmas issues of Oranges & lemons and The quiver. London, 1869 and 1870 respectively. Reference: Gamble 826.2 Y8 (063402)

Title pages of the Christmas issues of Oranges & lemons and The quiver. London, 1869 and 1870 respectively.
Reference: Gamble 826.2 Y8 (063402)

Also aimed at children, but perhaps appearing more plain to modern eyes, is our collection of Aunt Judy’s Christmas volumes from the 1860s-1880s. These annuals contained reprinted items from the monthly Aunt Judy’s magazine, which was founded in 1866 by the children’s writer Margaret Gatty and continued by her daughter, Juliana Horatia Ewing. Contributors over the years included Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll and Hans Christian Andersen. The 1868 annual was reviewed in The British quarterly review of January 1869, which described it as “one of the brightest and most graceful of our annuals for juveniles.”

Front cover of the volume for 1869, title page and pages 158-159 of the volume for 1972 of Aunt Judy's Christmas volume. Reference: Gamble 829.96 G22 (095868-095869)

Front cover of the volume for 1869, title page and pages 158-159 of the volume for 1972 of Aunt Judy’s Christmas volume.
Reference: Gamble 829.96 G22 (095868-095869)

Within the Blackburn Collection, the 1903 bequest of Helen Blackburn’s “memorial library” of material relating the worldwide position of women in the nineteenth century, is the first (and only?) volume of the Pioneer’s Xmas annual. The Pioneer Club was a London club founded for women of all classes who were interested in the advancement and enlightenment of women – although presumably only for those women who could afford the annual membership fee of 2 guineas, which might be almost a month’s wages for a female worker in a textile factory – by the social worker and temperance campaigner Emily Massingberd.

Front cover and opening page of the Pioneers' Xmas Annual. London, [1893] Reference: Blackburn 396.05 (072729)

Front cover and opening page of the Pioneers’ Xmas Annual. London, [1893]
Reference: Blackburn 396.05 (072729)

From the early 20th century is our volume of The Empire annual for girls. It features the usual combination of factual articles and fiction, this time illustrated with plates in both black & white and colour. Among these is an article entitled “A day in my life at Girton” by A. Cunningham – probably Audrey Cunningham, an historian who was a student at Girton from 1900 to 1903. The article runs to six pages and comes complete with a plate showing two student rooms!

Front cover, page 111 and plates opposite page 114 of The Empire annual for girls. London, 1910. Reference: Gamble 827.1 B85 (054346)

Front cover, page 111 and plates opposite page 114 of The Empire annual for girls. London, 1910.
Reference: Gamble 827.1 B85 (054346)

Two of the more modern annuals in the collection are from the same publisher: The infants’ magazine (1905) and Partridge’s children’s annual. Both include stories by Mabel Quiller-Couch, a well-known children’s author of her time and younger sister of the literary critic Arthur Quiller-Couch. The writing in both volumes tends to have a very moralising tone, with many items on the theme of the boy who cried wolf, but they share a mixture of poetry and prose and wide range of styles of illustration, although a penchant for cats is more noticeable in The infants’ magazine. Our volume of Partridge’s children’s annual is clearly much loved (or, at least, much used) but the lack of a title page makes it harder to date. The title was published between 1909 and 1935 and the bright printing of this volume vividly demonstrates the evolution of the genre from its early days in the mid-1800s to annual of today.

Cover, frontispiece, title page, opening pages and pages152-154 of The infants' magazine. London, 1905. Reference: Gamble 829.97 W69 (080102)

Cover, frontispiece, title page, opening pages and pages152-154 of The infants' magazine. London, 1905. Reference: Gamble 829.97 W69 (080102)

Cover, frontispiece, title page, opening pages and pages 152-154 of The infants’ magazine. London, 1905.

Reference: Gamble 829.97 W69 (080102)

Front cover and two double page spreads from Partridge’s children’s annual. London, [n.d.].
Reference: Gamble 829.97 P25 (080205)

Published: 25 February 2019

This year marks the centenary of The Representation of the People Act of 1918, which gave the national vote to women over 30 who met a property qualification, or who were married to male rate payers. The 1918 Act was the culmination of many decades of campaigning by both men and women. The histories of the British campaign for women’s suffrage and of Girton College – the first residential institution offering university-level education for women – are closely connected.

Photograph of Emily Davies, circa 1870 (archive reference: GCPH 5/4/9)

Photograph of Emily Davies, circa 1870 (archive reference: GCPH 5/4/9)

The British campaign for women’s right to vote was very active in the 1860s. A key event took place in 1866 when two of Girton’s founders, Emily Davies (1830—1921, later Mistress of Girton, 1872—1875) and Barbara Bodichon (1827—1891), among other notable women, helped to draw up a petition to be presented in Parliament asking that women who met the property qualifications required of men should be included in the national electorate. They gathered 1,499 signatures. On 7 June 1866, Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett (1836—1917) took the petition to the House of Commons to give to J. S. Mill (1806—1873), MP for Westminster and a supporter of women’s suffrage. Printed copies of the petition were also made and given to certain newspapers and individuals, including members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Two of the four known printed copies of the petition are held in Girton College – one in the Blackburn Collection in the Library (classmark: Blackburn 396.6 W84), and one in Emily Davies’ papers in the Archive (archive reference: GCPP Davies 17/51).

A report on the first meeting on the Girton College Suffrage Club in The Girton Review, Michaelmas Term 1907 (archive reference: GCCP2-1-1pt)

A report on the first meeting on the Girton College Suffrage Club in The Girton Review, Michaelmas Term 1907 (archive reference: GCCP2-1-1pt)

Activities in support of women’s suffrage quietened in the 1870s and 1880s. But with the approach of the new century came renewed momentum. New leaders and organisations emerged; memberships of older suffrage societies grew; some groups – the suffragettes – adopted more militant tactics and many provincial towns witnessed the birth of suffrage associations. By the time of the General Election of 1906, the campaign was one of the prevailing topics and was avidly reported in the national press. A number of Girtonians felt that the time was ripe for the foundation of a Girton College suffrage society: the Girton College Women’s Suffrage Club was in existence from Michaelmas Term 1907 until the end of the Lent Term of 1916. The inaugural meeting of the Club, was held in the College Dining Hall on 30 November 1907, suggesting a large turn-out. The Club was run by an annually renewed five-member committee led by a President and Secretary. A member of the resident College Staff (the fore-runners of today’s Fellows) was always on the Committee. The first staff member was Helene Reinherz (1875—1947), a former student, and Resident Junior Bursar, who was succeeded in 1914 by the young Director of Studies in History, Eileen Power (1889—1940). Students and former students became members of the Club, and after only one term that membership had reached 70. Its highest claimed number of members was 117 in March 1909 (when there were 152 students in residence).

Photograph of Helene Reinherz in 1905 (archive reference: GCPH10/24/4)

Photograph of Helene Reinherz in 1905 (archive reference: GCPH10/24/4)

The Girton College Suffrage Club organised a wide variety of events in and beyond College.  These included frequent speaker-meetings addressed by visitors from Cambridge and elsewhere, political discussions, concerts, plays, and ‘Polyglot recitals’, at which students hidden behind a screen delivered speeches in a foreign language while the paying audience tried to guess their identity. During regular ‘Special Effort Weeks’, volunteers offered tasks such as ‘skirt brushing’ and ‘hockey stick oiling’ in return for donations of a few pence. Other things on sale included the services of a ‘Shampoo Salon’ and ‘fortune-telling’ conducted in the Tower. Some years saw suffrage ‘Bazaars’, complete with stalls selling ‘fancy concoctions’, or advertising the services of a ‘veiled palmist’. The Club also subscribed to suffrage journals, placed on a special shelf in the Girton Reading Room alongside the ‘standard works on the suffrage movement’. Competitions to compose the best suffrage song, weekly ‘suffrage reading’ meetings, and a ‘detective competition’ in search of hidden items all attest to a very active, popular society that drew on the enthusiasm of many Girtonians. (Quotes taken from successive editions of The Girton Review, 1910—1915).

Reports on the activities of the Girton College Suffrage Society and the Girton College Anti-Suffrage League in The Girton Review, Lent Term, 1909 (archive reference: GCCP 2/1/1pt).

Reports on the activities of the Girton College Suffrage Society and the Girton College Anti-Suffrage League in The Girton Review, Lent Term, 1909 (archive reference: GCCP 2/1/1pt)

However, not everyone in Girton supported women’s suffrage. The College authorities thought it best to keep ‘politics’ of this kind at a distance. Some students explicitly opposed the cause of votes for women. In November 1908, Miss Carey, Branch Organising Secretary of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League, spoke in College, and it was decided to form a Girton branch of that national organisation. The Girton College Anti-Suffrage League was in existence until Lent Term 1913, although it was less active in its later years. The first President was Rosemary Lubbock (Girton 1906), a third year reading Natural Sciences; the first Secretary, Eleanor Duckett (Girton 1908), a first-year Classicist. Unlike the Suffrage Club, no member of the College Staff was ever listed as a Committee member. By the end of 1909, the Girton League had 31 members. A subscription was taken out to ‘The Anti-Suffrage Review’ and copies were placed in the Reading Room. But the society’s main activity was to organise speaker meetings. One, held in February 1909, was addressed by the well-known novelist and anti-suffragist Mrs Humphrey Ward (Mary Augusta Ward) (1851—1920). Members of the Suffrage Club often attended these rival meetings, sometimes ‘blazing with red and white’ suffrage ‘badges’, and would raise their hands and voices with ‘numerous cries of “Question”’. (The Girton Review, Lent Term 1909).

Photograph of Mabel Hardie as a first-year student at Girton College in 1887 (archive reference: GCPH10/1/28)

Photograph of Mabel Hardie as a first-year student at Girton College in 1887 (archive reference: GCPH10/1/28)

In 1914, the Girton Suffrage Club followed the decision of the majority of suffrage associations nationwide, and announced that for the duration of the war it would put aside campaigning for the vote, and instead focus on ‘war relief work’ (The Girton Review, May Term 1914). From then until 1916, when the society ceased to exist, its activities were centred on talks about women’s work in wartime, and on raising money for relief work, in particular for the Girton and Newnham Unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. These mobile hospitals, staffed by women volunteers, had been founded by a group of pioneering Scottish medical women and pre-war suffragists. The Girton and Newnham Unit, funding by money collected by the two College communities, was first sent to Troyes, in northern France, later to Macedonia. It helped hundreds of wounded soldiers, despite extremely challenging conditions. Several Girton women volunteered to serve in the Unit and in other hospitals close to the front. They included two pioneering doctors and suffrage campaigners, Mabel Hardie (Girton 1887) and Octavia Lewin (Girton 1888).

Photograph of Octavia lewin as a first-year student at Girton College in 1888(archive reference: GCPH10/1/29)

Photograph of Octavia Lewin as a first-year student at Girton College in 1888 (archive reference: GCPH10/1/29)

The war work undertaken so bravely and so determinedly by thousands of British women, including many Girtonians, added substantially to the case for women’s suffrage. This highly visible labour and sacrifice helped ensure that, in the 1918 Act, the right to vote was finally extended to large numbers of women.

The Girton College Working Women’s Summer School (WWSS) was run for a fortnight in August in 1945 and 1947. Newnham College had run similar schools biennially since 1922 and had so many applications in 1944 that it was suggested that Girton might run a school in alternate years.

The WWSS aimed to provide, for women whose formal education had ended at the age of fourteen, an opportunity to fit themselves to enjoy more advanced work and to open the way to new interests and a wider outlook on life.

The Girton stalwarts who organised the WWSS included: the historian, M. G. Jones (1880-1950); Mary Cartwright (1900-1998), a mathematician and later Mistress of Girton; the biologist, Ann Bishop (1899-1990); medieval historian, Helen Cam (1885-1968); Rosemary Syfret (1914-1998), who served as a Tutor, Registrar and Fellow of the College; Helen McMorran (1898-1985), Librarian and later Vice-Mistress of the College; Bertha Jeffreys (1903-1999), Director of Studies in Mathematics and later Vice-Mistress; and the classicist, Alison Duke (1915-2005), who later acted as a long-serving Tutor of the College.

Printed prospectus for the 1947 Working Women’s Summer School, to be held on Saturday 2 August 1947 until Saturday 16 August 1947. A blank application form is attached to be returned by 15 May 1947 (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 1/5/2pt).

Printed prospectus for the 1947 Working Women’s Summer School, to be held on Saturday 2 August 1947 until Saturday 16 August 1947. A blank application form is attached to be returned by 15 May 1947 (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 1/5/2pt).

WWSS students were offered a range of subjects, all taught by members of Girton, including Citizenship and Government, the International Situation, Physiology, Music, English Literature, and Economics in Everyday Life. In addition, all had to take written and spoken English taught by, amongst others, Miss A. P. Pearce (1920-2006) [Philippa Pearce, later a writer of children’s books, including Tom’s Midnight Garden].

Each Summer School catered for around thirty women ranging in age from their late teens to their sixties. Enthusiasm for study was the main criterion for acceptance. Many were so keen to take up a fortnight of study at Girton that they gave up most or all of their precious annual leave to do so.

The occupations of WWSS participants included nursing, clerical work, factory work, housewives, secretaries, a hairdresser, a high speed wireless operator and a baker’s roundswoman. Although the two schools were advertised in exactly the same way (via employers, the Workers’ Educational Association, women’s organisations, factories, colleges for working women and hospitals), the largest group in 1947 were housewives. A report on the 1947 WWSS attributes this to the ‘return to more normal conditions’, presumably meaning the ending of many work opportunities for women after the end of the Second World War (reference: GCIP WWSS 1/2).

An article from the College magazine, The Girton Review, Michaelmas Term 1945, entitled ‘My Impressions of the Summer School, By Student’, page 14 (archive reference: GCCP 2/1/3).

An article from the College magazine, The Girton Review, Michaelmas Term 1945, entitled ‘My Impressions of the Summer School, By Student’, page 14 (archive reference: GCCP 2/1/3).

Members of the WWSS shared the life of those Girton students who were resident for the Long Vacation Term in all except their work. A notice posted on College boards for the 1947 school informs them of arrangements for post and telephone, times of bells and chapel services, and mealtimes, including ‘Elevenses’ in Old Hall (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 1/10).

As well as formal teaching, there was time for private reading and study and organised general activities and outings. These included concerts, theatre productions, a trip to Ely, lantern lectures, and tours of Cambridge colleges. Several of these activities were subsidised by members of Girton.

The 1945 WWSS was widely reported in the press, including an illustrated article in Picture Post, 29 September, entitled ‘What Mother Looks Like When She’s Learning’ (reference: GCIP WWSS 4/1). Margaret Freeman, one of the 1947 students, wrote up her experience in the form of a diary in ‘The Democrat’, quarterly publication of the Norfolk Workers’ Educational Association, describing herself as homesick for Girton on her return home (reference: GCIP WWSS 4/2).

Mary Cartwright’s summary of accounts for the 1945 Working Women’s Summer School (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 2/2/1pt)

Mary Cartwright’s summary of accounts for the 1945 Working Women’s Summer School (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 2/2/1pt)

As a serious experiment in adult education, it was felt that every participant gained something in knowledge from the WWSS and that the majority had foundations and inspiration on which to build future reading and learning. Many of the students sent letters of thanks after attending the school: most indicate as a minimum that they felt more self-confident and had more enjoyment from leisure hours, and some indicate their intention to progress into different and more challenging work (reference: GCIP WWSS 3/6/1-2). The 1947 students donated a magnolia tree by way of appreciation (reference: GCIP WWSS 1/2).

The committee recommended another school in 1949 ‘if persons could be found to take responsibility’ but the 1947 school was the last (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 1/1/3). The accounts remained open until 1956, but the remaining balance of £52 10s was then donated to Hillcroft College in Surrey, a residential college for working women with aims similar to those of the Girton WWSS.

The catalogue of the archives of the WWSS has recently been reworked and is available on the Janus website: https://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0271%2FGCIP%20WWSS

Published: 22 October 2018

In the spring

 

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;

In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

 

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;

In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

 

Excerpt from Locksley Hall by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Tennyson’s protagonist was unlucky in love, spurned by his childhood sweetheart, but Girton College Library is luckier in its holdings.

Among Jane Catherine Gamble’s bequest to the College (see https://old.girton.cam.ac.uk/news/1153-glimpses-of-girton-jane-catherine-gamble) was her father’s first edition of Thomas Bewick’s History of British birds, the first volume published in 1797 and the second in 1804.

Reference: Gamble 662A B46 (082153)

Reference: Gamble 662A B46 (082153)

Reference: Gamble 662A B46 (082154)

Reference: Gamble 662A B46 (082154)

Looking specifically for the three birds listed by Tennyson, we see:

The robin (now classified as Erithacus rubecula) is described by the RSPB as the UK's favourite bird and Bewick himself says "This general favorite is too well known to need a very minute deſcription" – volume 1, page 204.

The robin (now classified as Erithacus rubecula) is described by the RSPB as the UK’s favourite bird and Bewick himself says “This general favorite is too well known to need a very minute deſcription” – volume 1, page 204.

The lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) also known as the Peewit after the sound of its display call, is now on the RSPB's endangered list. Its distinctive crest described by Bewick as "a tuft of long narrow feathers iſſues from the back part of its head, ſome of which are four inches in length , and turn upwards at the end – volume 1, page 324.

The lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) also known as the Peewit after the sound of its display call, is now on the RSPB’s endangered list. Its distinctive crest described by Bewick as “a tuft of long narrow feathers iſſues from the back part of its head, ſome of which are four inches in length , and turn upwards at the end – volume 1, page 324.

It's not clear to which member of the Dove family Tennyson was referring, although I like to picture the iridescent green neck of the stock dove (Columba oenas), described by Bewick as "gloſſy green and gold" – volume 1, page 267.

It’s not clear to which member of the Dove family Tennyson was referring, although I like to picture the iridescent green neck of the stock dove (Columba oenas), described by Bewick as “gloſſy green and gold” – volume 1, page 267.

In contrast to the glorious colour illustrations in Audubon’s Birds of America 30 years later, which were printed from engravings on copper and coloured by hand, Bewick’s illustrations could seem small and plain. In fact, they are seen as the pinnacle of the art of wood engraving, as much admired today as they were then, and the books were deliberately designed to be affordable for all but the poor.

Reading A memoir of Thomas Bewick, by himself, it is clear that Bewick had had the habit from childhood of filling any available space (on slates or schoolbooks) with small illustrations. Among the books he credits for his interest and knowledge of natural history are the works of Thomas Pennant, Count de Buffon and Gilbert White, all of whom are represented in the Library’s holdings.  Also part of the Gamble bequest was Bewick’s first book, A general history of quadrupeds.

Reference: Gamble 662B B46 (082156)

Reference: Gamble 662B B46 (082156)

Bewick’s work was known to Tennyson, who wrote half a dozen lines of verse in the copy of History of British birds in Lord Ravenscroft’s Library.  Tennyson himself presented his complete works, in seven volumes, to Girton College Library in 1883. This was reported in the March 1883 edition of The Girton Review:

There have been one or two additions to our library, the most important being a large edition of Tennyson, presented by the poet himself. Unfortunately, the author’s autograph, instead of being written in the volumes themselves is only inscribed on the labels, which considerably damages the effect.

Reference: Gamble 826.0 T25 (097321-7)

Reference: Gamble 826.0 T25 (097321-7)

It is no surprise that Tennyson’s poetry was well-known and discussed by the early members of the College. Among the first donations to the Library when the College opened in 1869 were six volumes of his work, presented by the Mistress, Charlotte Manning. The Library also holds Emily Davies’ own copies of Enoch Arden, Idylls of the King, Maud and other poems, and The princess: a medley. It is equally no surprise that The princess, in particular, struck a chord.  First published in 1847, and the inspiration for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida, this narrative poem in blank verse tells of Princess Ida, who establishes a great college for women from which all men are barred on pain of death. The Archive contains letters to Barbara Bodichon from Bessie Rayner Parkes discussing the poem[1] as well as photographs of the students’ performance of The princess in 1891[2].

The Tennyson volumes are now also part of the Gamble collection, housed securely in the purpose-built environmentally-controlled Store in the Library & Archive’s Duke Building.

References and further reading


[1] Girton College Archive reference: GCPP Parkes 5/19, 5/20, 5/50

[2] Girton College Archive reference: GCPH 10/1/31-34

 

Girton College Library’s Special Collections contain a wonderful selection of books which touch on the vibrant world of folklore and myth in Scandinavia.

The Land of the Midnight Sun,written by the explorer Paul du Chaillu in 1881 and now held in the Travel Collection, which is one of the Library’s Special Collections. Paul du Chaillu describes the elves, fairies and dwarves that populate Scandinavian folktales. He writes about the ‘Elfdans –  a dance of the elves… In old times the people said that this dance always took place over the spots where good people had been buried, and where their spirits dwelt’. The tale is accompanied by a beautiful illustration of dancing elves:

 Illustration by G. E. Fischer from Paul du Chaillu’s Land of the Midnight Sun, facing page 719.

Illustration by G. E. Fischer from Paul du Chaillu’s Land of the Midnight Sun, facing page 719.

 

Front cover of the Land of the Midnight Sun by Paul du Chaillu.

Front cover of the Land of the Midnight Sun by Paul du Chaillu.

This book was presented to the College in 1919 by Gwendolen Crewdson, a student from 1894 to 1898, and later a staff member, who served as Librarian (1900-02) and then Junior Bursar (1902-05). Gwendolen was also the niece of Alfred Waterhouse, the architect who designed many of the College’s early buildings. She gave her name to Crewdson Field, the College sports grounds next to the Girton Road, which she purchased in order to prevent it from being built on.

Fridtjov Nansen, a Norwegian explorer and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wrote an account of his travels in Scandinavia, In Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early Times, which is filled with myths from the lands he visited. It waspublished in 1911 andis held in the Travel Collection. His writing is brought to life by small woodcuts such as those shown below:

A woodcut from Fridtjov Nansen’s In Northern Mists: Arctic ExploA woodcut from Fridtjov Nansen’s In Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early Times.ration in Early Times.

A woodcut from Fridtjov Nansen’s In Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early Times.

Many of the books in the Library’s Special Collections about Scandinavian myth and folklore originally belonged to Dame Bertha Surtees Phillpotts, a student of the College (1898-1902), Librarian (1906-09), and later Mistress of Girton (1922-25) and University Lecturer in Scandinavian Studies (1926-32). She travelled to Iceland in particular many times and gathered a collection of books and pamphlets about the country, which she bequeathed  to Girton and which now form a special collection in their own right, the Newall Collection.

Girton Archive also holds a collection of Dame Bertha’s personal papers (archive reference: GCPP Phillpotts) – for the catalogue of her papers see: https://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0271%2FGCPP%20Phillpotts.

Dame Bertha Phillpotts’ bookplate in one of the volumes which form part of Girton Library’s Special Collections.

Dame Bertha Phillpotts’ bookplate in one of the volumes which form part of Girton Library’s Special Collections.

One of the volumes that belonged to Dame Bertha was Iceland: its Scenes and its Sagas by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), an Anglican vicar and scholar, published in 1863. The book illustrates Iceland’s mythic history through retellings of the sagas. His words are enlivened by copies of watercolours by Sabine Baring-Gould himself, such as the picture of Grettir’s Saga below:

Watercolour by Sabine Baring-Gould illustrating the setting of Grettir’s Saga, from his book, Iceland: its Scenes and its Sagas.

Watercolour by Sabine Baring-Gould illustrating the setting of Grettir’s Saga, from his book, Iceland: its Scenes and its Sagas.

Another book bequeathed by Dame Bertha was Icelandic Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil, written by Frederick W. W. Howell – a traveller and early photographer of Iceland. It was published in 1893 and is now in the Library’s Travel Collection. The work is filled with a wonderful series of sketches of Iceland’s landscape, history and mythology, including this lovely illustration of a Viking ship sailing above the text of Chapter 1:

Sketch of a Viking ship by Frederick W. W. Howell from his book, Icelandic Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil.

Sketch of a Viking ship by Frederick W. W. Howell from his book, Icelandic Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil.

Also in the Travel Collection is Pen and Pencil Sketches of Faröe and Iceland by Andrew Symington, published in 1862. It contains a section of short narratives drawn from Faeroese and Icelandic folklore, such as ‘The Goblin and the Cowherd’ and ‘The Goblin’s Whistle’. The book is illustrated throughout with exquisite wood-cuts by W. J. Linton, such as the one accompanying the title page shown below:

Frontispiece by W. J. Linton in Pen and Pencil Sketches of Faröe and Iceland by Andrew J. Symington.

Frontispiece by W. J. Linton in Pen and Pencil Sketches of Faröe and Iceland by Andrew J. Symington.

A northerly world of fairies, goblins, heroes and adventure awaits on the shelves of Girton Library’s Special Collections.

Bibliography

Baring-Gould, Sabine, Iceland: its Scenes and its Sagas (London: Smith, Elder and Son, 1863).

Du Chaillu, Paul, The Land of the Midnight Sun: Summer and Winter Journeys through Sweden, Norway, Lapland and Northern Finland (London: George Newnes, 1899).

Howell, Frederick W. W., Icelandic Pictures Drawn with Pen and Pencil (London: Religious Tract Society, 1893).

Nansen, Fridtjov,  In Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early Times, translated by Arthur G. Chater (London: W. Heinemann, 1911).

Symington, Andrew J., Pen and Pencil Sketches of Faröe and Iceland, illustrated by W. J. Linton (London: Longman, Green, Longman, and Roberts, 1862).

 

 A portrait of Jane Catherine Gamble by Alfred Edward Chalon, dating from 1838 (Archive reference: GCPH 4/4/1)

A portrait of Jane Catherine Gamble by Alfred Edward Chalon, dating from 1838 (Archive reference: GCPH 4/4/1)

Jane Catherine Gamble is today remembered in Girton College as an early and generous benefactor, but she was also an author, heiress and traveller, with connections that spanned across international borders. The rich variety of her life is reflected in her collection of personal papers, which are preserved in the College Archive.

For the catalogue of Jane Gamble’s personal papers (archive reference: GCPP Gamble) see: https://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0271%2FGCPP%20Gamble.

Jane was born in England in 1810 to a family originally from Virginia, and she returned briefly to the States following her mother’s early death. However, after her father’s remarriage, she was sent back to London to be raised alongside the son of her wealthy aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Dunlop, who provided her with a good education and a secure childhood.

Jane composed a journal called Fragments of a Life which is preserved in the Archive, written by hand onto unbound quires (reference: GCPP Gamble 1/35). It seems to have been created towards the end of Jane’s life, although based on diaries she kept from 1837 onwards, and provides a retrospective account of her activities. The journal describes Jane’s many encounters as a young woman with well-known artists and authors, such as Samuel Coleridge, Washington Irving, and Sir Walter Scott. There are letters from both Irving and Scott addressed to the Dunlops among Jane’s papers preserved in the Archives (archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/2/2 and 3/2/3). These letters are a reflection of the literary circles in which the Dunlops moved and in which Jane was brought up.

The watercolour accompanying Alfred Edward Chalon’s signature in Jane Gamble’s autograph book, dating from circa 1831 to 1841 (Archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/13pt).

The watercolour accompanying Alfred Edward Chalon’s signature in Jane Gamble’s autograph book, dating from circa 1831 to 1841 (Archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/13pt).

Jane kept an autograph book, dating from 1831 to 1841, in which she collected the signatures of her distinguished acquaintances, including Charles Robert Leslie, John James Chalon and Alfred Edward Chalon, each accompanied by a tiny watercolour by the artist (archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/13). In 1838, the latter painted the only portrait of Jane to survive (reference: GCPH 4/4/1). Perhaps inspired by the creative environment in which she grew up, Jane eventually published her own play in 1846 under the pseudonym, Miss D. Nutt. In the 1880s, she would publish a further eighteen plays under the same nom de plume. The Archive also holds manuscripts of Jane’s poetry and translations from Italian, French and German, attesting to her learning.

By 1851, Jane’s aunt, uncle, and cousin had all passed away, leaving her an heiress with the freedom to travel. Jane had been courted by a wealthy American, Henry Wikoff, who had followed her from London across Europe. The matter came to a head in Italy, where Henry was put on trial for conspiracy to force Jane to marry him. A report on his trial printed in The Athenæum Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts on the 13th of March 1852 refers to it as the ‘extraordinary trial at Genoa, which has excited so great a sensation all over the Continent’. Henry was convicted and imprisoned. Shortly afterwards, Henry published his own account called My courtship and its consequences in 1855, which proclaimed his innocence. Jane, on the other hand, remained resolutely silent and no mention is made of the episode in her journal. Instead her account of her travels in Italy is filled with picturesque vignettes, such as sailing through the canals of Venice accompanied by a singing Gondolier.

Relics from site of site of Battle of Waterloo, acquired on 29th of August 1825 by Jane Gamble (Archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/17). Photograph courtesy of the Digital Content Unit, Cambridge University Library.

Relics from site of site of Battle of Waterloo, acquired on 29th of August 1825 by Jane Gamble (Archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/17). Photograph courtesy of the Digital Content Unit, Cambridge University Library.

Jane’s later years were also filled with travel and adventures abroad. The Archive holds many varied and wonderful mementos gleaned from her journeys, including oak leaves and wood from Torquato Tasso’s oak in Rome, dated to the 19th of November 1852 (archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/12). There is also charcoal and cannon shot from the Battle of Waterloo, wrapped in paper with a note in Jane’s handwriting, stating that it was ‘Brought from La Belle Alliance, Monday 29 August 1825  Waterloo’ (archive reference: GCPP Gamble 3/17). Jane also acquired artefacts from her international network of friends and acquaintances, such as a piece of George Washington’s coffin, accompanied by a handwritten note that reads ‘Part of the Coffin of Washington lately removed at Mt. Vernon to me by Mrs. Lewis. GSN’. Mrs. Lewis, also known as Eleonora Curtis, was George Washington’s adopted daughter and part of Jane Gamble’s circle of acquaintance.

Pieces of George Washington’s coffin with outer wrapper labelled: ‘Part of the Coffin of Washington lately removed at Mt. Vernon to me by Mrs. Lewis GSN’ (Archive reference: 3/18).

Pieces of George Washington’s coffin with outer wrapper labelled: ‘Part of the Coffin of Washington lately removed at Mt. Vernon to me by Mrs. Lewis GSN’ (Archive reference: 3/18).

It is not entirely clear quite why Jane Gamble chose to leave her residuary estate to Girton, comprising about £19,000, as well as several possessions and her sizeable library. Her intelligence and learning may have made her sympathetic to the College’s purpose. Nevertheless, the bequest made Jane the first major benefactor of the College and enabled its expansion: the College used the bequest to finance the construction of Tower Wing, as well as allowing the College to purchase the adjoining seventeen acre field. This field, which sat between the fork of the Huntingdon Road and Girton Road, doubled the size of the College site. The College could now house one hundred and four students.[1] Jane Gamble’s generosity to the College is commemorated by the fireplace which now stands in front of the Porter’s Lodge, and bears the inscription: ‘the fund for the erection of this portion of the building was provided by the munificence of Jane Catherine Gamble.’ She is also remembered by the Gamble Prize, set up in 1888, and which continues to be awarded to students every year.[2]

Picture of the inscription commemorating Jane Gamble’s bequest to the College on the fireplace in Girton College Porter’s Lodge.

Picture of the inscription commemorating Jane Gamble’s bequest to the College on the fireplace in Girton College Porter’s Lodge.

Jane passed away in 1885. Her papers only came to Girton in 1935 when her bankers, Coutts of London, discovered that they held two boxes in Jane Gamble’s name, containing old documents and manuscripts, which were forwarded to the College and are now preserved for posterity in the Archive.


[1]Susan Bain, ‘Tower Wing and Jane Catherine Gamble’, Girton College Annual Review (2009), pp. 25-28

[2]Susan Bain, ‘Tower Wing and Jane Catherine Gamble’, Girton College Annual Review (2009), p. 28