Alice Zimmern (22 September 1855 – 22 March 1939) was an English writer, translator and suffragist. Her books made a big contribution to the debate on the education and rights of women.
Background and education
Zimmern was born in Nottingham, the youngest of the three daughters of the lace merchant Hermann Theodore Zimmern, a German immigrant, and his wife Antonia Marie Therese Regina Zimmern. Alice collaborated with her elder sister Helen Zimmern on two volumes of translated excerpts from European novels (1880 and 1884). The scholar and political scientist Alfred Eckhard Zimmern was a cousin of hers.
She was educated at a private school and at Bedford College, London, before entering Girton College, Cambridge, in 1881 to read classics, which she subsequently taught from 1888 to 1894 at English girls' schools, including Tunbridge Wells High School (1888–91).
While teaching, Zimmern produced a school edition of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius in 1887, a translation of Hugo Bluemner's The Home Life of the Ancient Greeks (1893), and a translation of Porphyry: The Philosopher to his Wife Marcella (1896). She later wrote children's books on ancient Greece (Greek History for Young Readers, 1895, Old Tales from Greece, 1897) and Rome (Old Tales from Rome, 1906), all of which were reprinted several times. Greek History for Young Readers was still being praised in the Parents' Review six years later. In 1893, she and four others were awarded Gilchrist scholarships to study the US education system. This resulted in her book Methods of Education in America (1894), in which she praised the articulacy of American school students and their enthusiasm for classic English literature, but noted that their written work and their textbooks were of a poor standard and the teaching of American history ludicrously patriotic.
Zimmern ceased to teach in schools in 1894 but continued to tutor private students in classics. She regularly wrote journal articles on comparative education and the education of women. Her book Women's Suffrage in Many Lands (1909) appeared to coincide with the Fourth Congress of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance. This book and The Renaissance of Girls' Education (1898) made big contributions to the debate on the education and rights of women in Zimmern's time. In the former she noted an "intimate… connexion between enfranchisement and the just treatment of women." While most of her arguments are moderate and pragmatic, she acknowledges the militant tactics of British suffragettes as effective in making women's suffrage "the question of the day".
Much of Zimmern's research was done in the British Museum Reading Room, where she associated with suffragists and Fabians such as Edith Bland, Eleanor Marx, and Beatrice Potter. Other works by Zimmern include Demand and Achievement. The International Women's Suffrage Movement (1912), a translation of Paul Kajus von Hoesbroech's Fourteen Years a Jesuit (1911), and Gods and Heroes of the North (1907).
Resident in Hampstead in her later years, Zimmern remained interested in the rights of women and in pacifism, and continued to entertain many visitors from abroad. Her last work was a translation of The Origins of the War (1917) by Take Ionescu. She died at her home in London on 22 March 1939.
- ODNB entry: Retrieved 25 March 2011. Subscription required.
- "Orpheus. Adapted by Alice Zimmern", excerpt from Old Tales from Greece. Vol. 14, 1903, pp. 869. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- Methods of Education in the United States available online. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- Lissenden Gardens centenary site. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- For bibliographical details, see the British Library catalogues: Retrieved 25 March 2011. For a full list see Joanne Shattock, The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature 1800-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1999).
- The blue plaque on her house, pictured here, describes her as a "pioneering advocate for women's education and suffrage": Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- ODNB entry.
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