Mary Bennett

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Mary Letitia Somerville Bennett (9 January 1913 – 1 November 2005) was a British academic, best known for her tenure as Principal of St Hilda's College, Oxford between 1965 and 1980.

Mary Bennett was the daughter of historian H. A. L. Fisher, and was educated at Oxford High School. She obtained her first degree (in Classics) from Somerville College, Oxford, and then studied abroad, researching into the grain supply of ancient Rome. During the Second World War she worked for the British Ministry of Information and for the BBC, and after the war went into the Colonial Office with responsibility at various times for Gibraltar, Malta and Cyprus. In 1955, she married senior civil servant John Sloman Bennett, who would be happy to take a back seat when she took over as Principal of St Hilda's from Kathleen Major.

In retirement, she wrote up her researches into family history:

  • The Ilberts in India, 1882-1886: an Imperial Miniature (1995)
  • Who was Dr Jackson? Two Calcutta Families, 1830-1855 (2002)

St Hilda's College, Oxford commissioned Jean Cooke to make a portrait of its principal.[1][2]


  • Mary Bennett: an Autobiography (published by St Hilda's College, 2006, no ISBN)
  1. ^ "Jean Cooke". The Telegraph (Telegraph Media Group Limited). 22 August 2008. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Your Paintings: Jean Cooke paintings slideshow". BBC. Retrieved 6 January 2014.