Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick

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Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick, (née Balfour; 11 March 1845 – 10 February 1936)[1] was an activist for the higher education of women, Principal of Newnham College of the University of Cambridge and a leading figure in the Society for Psychical Research.

Biography[edit]

Eleanor Mildred Balfour was born in East Lothian, daughter of James Maitland Balfour and Lady Blanche Harriet. She was born into perhaps the most prominent political clan in nineteenth-century Britain, the 'Hotel Cecil': her brother Arthur would eventually himself become prime minister. Another brother, Frank, a biologist, died young in a climbing accident.

One of the first students at Newnham College in Cambridge, in 1876 she married (and became converted to feminism by) the philosopher Henry Sidgwick. In 1880 she became Vice-Principal of Newnham under the founding Principal Anne Clough, succeeding as Principal on Miss Clough's death in 1892. She and her husband resided there until 1900, the year of Henry Sidgwick's death. In 1894 Mrs Sidgwick was one of the first three women to serve on a royal commission, the Bryce commission on Secondary Education.

As a young woman, Eleanor had helped Rayleigh improve the accuracy of experimental measurement of electrical resistance; she subsequently turned her careful experimental mind to the question of testing the veracity of claims for psychical phenomena. She was elected President of the Society for Psychical Research in 1908 and named 'president of honour' in 1932.

She was a member of the Ladies Dining Society in Cambridge, with 11 other members.

In 1916 Mrs Sidgwick left Cambridge to live with one of her brothers near Woking; she remained there until her death in 1936.

She was awarded honorary degrees by the universities of Manchester, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Birmingham.[2]

Writings[edit]

Most of her writings related to Psychical Research, and are contained in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. However, some related to educational matters, and a couple of essays dealt with the morality of international affairs.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (1992). The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. New York: Facts On File. pp. 302–303. ISBN 0-8160-2140-6. 
  2. ^ "Sidgwick [née Balfour], Eleanor Mildred". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 25 October 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • N. Howard, "Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick and the Rayleighs," Applied Optics 3, 1120- (1964)
  • Ethel Sidgwick, Mrs Henry Sidgwick. London. 1936
  • Helen Fowler, "Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick 1845-1936". In Cambridge Women. Twelve Portraits, ed. Edward Shils and Carmen Blacker. Cambridge. 1996.
  • University Education for Women (lecture, 1913}

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Anne Clough
Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge
1892–1910
Succeeded by
Katharine Stephen