Emily Davies

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This article is about the women's education advocate. For the pottery decorator, whose married name was Emily Grace Davies, see Grace Barnsley
Sarah Emily Davies
Emily Davies-200px.jpg
Emily Davies portrait by Rudolph Lehmann, 1880
Born (1830-04-22)22 April 1830
Carlton Crescent, Southampton
Died 13 July 1921(1921-07-13) (aged 91)
Nationality British
Known for founder Girton College, Cambridge

Sarah Emily Davies (22 April 1830 – 13 July 1921) was an English feminist, suffragist and a pioneering campaigner for women's rights to university access. She is principally remembered as being the co-founder and first Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge University, the first college in England to educate women.


She was born in Carlton Crescent, Southampton, England to an evangelical clergyman and a teacher,[1] although she spent most of her youth in Gateshead.

Davies had been tempted to train in medicine and wrote the article "Female Physicians"[2] for the feminist publication, the English Woman's Journal in 1861, and "Medicine as a Profession for Women" in 1862.[3] She also "greatly encouraged" her friend Elizabeth Garett in her medical studies.[4]

In 1862, after the death of her father, Davies moved to London, where she edited the English Woman's Journal, and became friends with women's rights advocates Barbara Bodichon, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and her younger sister Millicent Fawcett. Davies became a founder member of a women's discussion group, the Kensington Society.

Davies began campaigning for a woman's right to educate. She was active on the London School Board and in the Schools Inquiry Commission and was instrumental in obtaining the admission of girls to official secondary school examinations.

She then advocated for the admission of women to the Universities of London, Oxford and Cambridge. Like all universities at this time, these were exclusively male domains.

She also became involved in the Suffrage movement, which centred on a woman's right to vote. She was involved in organizing for John Stuart Mill's 1866 petition to the British Parliament) (which was signed by Paulina Irby,[5] Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and 15,000 others)[6] the first to ask for women's suffrage. That same year, she also wrote the book The Higher Education of Women.

In 1869, Davies led the founding of Britain's first women's college, Girton College at Hitchin, Hertfordshire. In 1873, the institution moved to Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. From 1873 to 1875, Davies served as mistress of the college, where she then served as Secretary until 1904. The college was not permitted to grant full Cambridge University degrees to women until 1948.

In June 1901, she received the honorary Doctor of Laws (DLL) from the University of Glasgow.[7]

Davies also continued her suffrage work. In 1906, she headed a delegation to Parliament. She was known for opposing the militant and violent methods used by the Suffragette part of the women's suffrage movement, led by the Pankhursts.

In 1910, Davies published Thoughts on Some Questions Relating to Women. She died in 1921.

See also[edit]

External links and references[edit]

  1. ^ Leonard, A. G. K. (Autumn 2010). "Carlton Crescent: Southampton’s most spectacular Regency development". Southampton Local History Forum Journal. Southampton City Council. pp. 41–42. Retrieved 23 March 2012. 
  2. ^ Davies, Emily (1861). "Female Physicians". English Woman's Journal. 
  3. ^ Davies, Emily (11 June 1862). "Medicine as a Profession for Women". paper read out by Russell Gurney at the London meeting of the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science. 
  4. ^ Blake, Catriona (1990). The Charge of the Parasols: Women's Entry to the Medical Profession (First ed.). London, UK: The Women's Press Limited. p. 57. ISBN 0-7043-4239-1. 
  5. ^ "Miss Paulina Irby - an Early Suffragist". The Common Cause. 1915. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  6. ^ Sara Delamont, ‘Davies, (Sarah) Emily (1830–1921)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2007 accessed 2 March 2013
  7. ^ "Glasgow University jubilee" The Times (London). Friday, 14 June 1901. (36481), p. 10.


Further reading[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Annie Austin
Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Marianne Bernard