Christina Kay

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Christina Kay
Born11 June 1878
Died23 May 1951 (1951-05-24) (aged 72)
Parent(s)Mary Ann MacDonald, Alexander Kay, cabinet maker

Christina Kay (11 June 1878 – 23 May 1951), born in Edinburgh and died in Midhope, West Lothian, was a Scottish school teacher and served as an inspiration for Miss Jean Brodie, the lead character of the famous 20th century novel The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.[1]

Private life[edit]

Kay was an only child, and was born in 4 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, where she lived most of her life.

She was a pupil at the James Gillespie's School for Girls from the age of 5 where she later taught. At the age of 15, her father, Alexander Kay, a cabinet maker, died. She continued to live with her mother and cared for her until her death in 1913.[1]

Kay was a devout Christian and remained unmarried. She is buried in Abercorn Cemetery, West Lothian, which was her wish.[1]


Kay completed her teacher training between 1897 and 1899 at the Church of Scotland College, Edinburgh. She was described as an 'exemplary' student.

She taught at the James Gillespie's School for Girls and was an inspirational teacher to her 11- to 12-year old students. At the time Kay commenced her career as a school teacher, few women could take degrees, and therefore Kay remained 'class mistress' without getting promotion. Kay retired in 1942.

Kay as inspiration for Miss Jean Brodie[edit]

One of Kay's pupils was Muriel Camberg, later Spark, whose literary success Kay predicted. Spark later wrote The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and the main character, Jean Brodie, a stern schoolmistress, was based on Christina Kay.[2]

Kay, like Miss Jean Brodie, would speak to her pupils about her travels to Italy, and was an admirer of Mussolini. She had a picture of the Fascisti on her classroom wall. Kay called her class the 'créme de la créme' and would form friendships with individual pupils, among those Muriel Camberg and her friend Frances Niven, whom she would take on private outings.[1]

Kay's pupils believed that she lost a fiancé in the first World War, a rumour unconfirmed by her.[1] In The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Miss Brodie also had a fiancé she lost in the war.


  1. ^ a b c d e The new biographical dictionary of Scottish women. Ewan, Elizabeth. Edinburgh. ISBN 9781474436298. OCLC 1057237368.CS1 maint: others (link)
  2. ^ Muriel., Spark (1993). Curriculum vitae : autobiography. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 039565372X. OCLC 26724102.

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