Elizabeth Phillips Hughes

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Elizabeth Phillips Hughes
A newspaper image of a middle-aged white woman, in an oval frame.
Elizabeth Phillips Hughes, from a 1905 Welsh newspaper.
Born12 July 1851
Died19 December 1925
Other namesMerch Myrddin (bardic name)
Occupation(s)Educator, college administrator, lecturer
RelativesHugh Price Hughes (brother)

Elizabeth Phillips Hughes MBE (12 July 1851 – 19 December 1925) was a Welsh scholar, teacher, and promoter of women's education, first principal of the Cambridge Training College for Women.

Early life[edit]

Hughes was born in Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire,[1] the daughter of John Hughes and Anne Phillips Hughes.[2] Her father was the first medical officer in the Carmarthen.[3] She was the sister of Methodist reformer Hugh Price Hughes.[4] She had little education as a child, but later attended a private school in Cheltenham,[5] eventually becoming a teacher at Cheltenham Ladies' College, under the mentorship of Dorothea Beale.[2] She also attended Newnham College, Cambridge, beginning at age 30, and becoming the first woman in the university to take first-class honours in Moral Sciences.[3]


Hughes Hall - geograph.org.uk - 1162705

At Cambridge[edit]

In 1884, Hughes was appointed first principal of the Cambridge Training College for Women, later Hughes Hall, which was renamed in her honour.[6][7] Under her leadership, the college expanded, became incorporated, and added faculty and facilities, including a library, a museum, and a gymnasium.[2] In 1887 she was asked to join an Education Department committee looking at the "Pupil-teacher" system chaired by the chief inspector of schools, Thomas Wetherherd Sharpe. Only three women were asked: Hughes, Lydia Manley of Stockwell training college and school inspector Sarah Bannister. The committee's report resulted in a policy that caused the closure of the Pupil-teacher centres that had been established by the end of the century.[8]

She retired from the college in 1899.[2]

International and wartime activities[edit]

After leaving Cambridge, Hughes lived with her younger brother John Arthur Hughes in Barry, but was hardly retired from her educational and reform interests.[6] "I feel keenly that the world wants altering a good deal," she explained of her work.[6] During a 1901 lecture and study tour of the United States,[9][10] she met Julia Ward Howe and Mary Tenney Castle,[11] and took an interest in prison reform; she was impressed by American provisions for juvenile detention and female probation officers.[6] She stayed with Tetsu Yasui and Hannah Riddell, and met Umeko Tsuda, while she served as visiting professor of English, and advocated for physical education for women, at the University of Tokyo (1901–1902).[6][12][13] She toured China, Malaysia, and Indonesia, attended the Women's International Congress,[14] and spoke at the 1903 meeting of the National Union of Women Workers.[1] During World War I, she was in charge of a Red Cross hospital in Glamorgan, and in 1917 was awarded an MBE for her wartime service.[3][15]

Education in Wales[edit]

Hughes had a lifelong interest in education in Wales, especially for girls. In 1884, she took a prize at the Liverpool National Eisteddfod for her essay, "The Higher Education of Girls in Wales".[16] She published a pamphlet, The Educational Future of Wales (1894). In 1898 she became secretary of the Association for Promoting the Education of Girls in Wales. She helped to found a teachers' college in Barry in 1914.[2] She was the only woman on the committee which drafted the charter of the University of Wales, and in 1920, she received an honorary degree from that university.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Hughes was an avid mountain climber; she climbed the Matterhorn at age 48.[3] She died in 1925, aged 74 years, in Barry.[17] In 2018, her birthplace in Carmarthen was marked with a blue plaque. She was recently[when?] featured in advertisements for a Cambridge fundraising campaign.[18]


  1. ^ a b c Megan Lewis. "Hughes, Elizabeth Phillips (1851-1925), educationalist". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 26 February 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Le May, G. H. L. (2008). "Hughes, Elizabeth Phillips (1851–1925), college head and promoter of education in Wales". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/37579. Retrieved 8 March 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  3. ^ a b c d O'Sullivan, Caitlin (16 August 2017). "Birthplace of Education Champion Recognised". Carmarthen Journal. p. 29. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  4. ^ Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (London, England) (1995). The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorian. The Society. p. 135.
  5. ^ John Davies; Nigel Jenkins; Menna Baines (2008). The Welsh Academy encyclopaedia of Wales. University of Wales Press. p. 382. ISBN 978-0-7083-1953-6.
  6. ^ a b c d e Pam Hirsch; Mark McBeth (2004). Teacher Training at Cambridge: The Initiatives of Oscar Browning and Elizabeth Hughes. Psychology Press. pp. 192, 197–198, 201–203. ISBN 978-0-7130-0234-8.
  7. ^ "Elizabeth Phillips Hughes, first principal of Hughes Hall featured in Carmarthen Journal". Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  8. ^ Matthew, H. C. G.; Harrison, B., eds. (23 September 2004), "Sarah Bannister in The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography", The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. ref:odnb/75587, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/75587, retrieved 1 April 2023
  9. ^ "Women Should Help to Rule". The San Francisco Call. 2 August 1901. p. 9. Retrieved 8 March 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  10. ^ "English Teacher's Views". The Morning Journal-Courier. 21 September 1901. p. 3. Retrieved 8 March 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ "Famous Educator". The Honolulu Advertiser. 20 August 1901. p. 9. Retrieved 8 March 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ Ikeda, Keiko (13 October 2014). "British Cultural Influence and Japan: Elizabeth Phillips Hughes's Visit for Educational Research in 1901–1902". The International Journal of the History of Sport. 31 (15): 1925–1938. doi:10.1080/09523367.2014.936393. ISSN 0952-3367. S2CID 145548800.
  13. ^ Ikeda, Keiko (5 March 2014). "From Ryosai-kenbo to Nadeshiko: Women and Sports in Japan". In Anderson, Eric; Hargreavs, Jennifer (eds.). Routledge Handbook of Sport, Gender and Sexuality. Routledge. p. 98. ISBN 978-1-136-32696-7.
  14. ^ International congress of women (1899 : London); International council of women; Aberdeen and Temair, Ishbel Gordon (1900). The International congress of women of 1899;. Harvard University. London, T. F. Unwin.
  15. ^ "Members (M. B. E.)". The Times. 25 August 1917. p. 20. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  16. ^ Aaron, Jane (1 February 2010). Nineteenth-Century Women's Writing in Wales: Nation, Gender and Identity. University of Wales Press. pp. 164–165. ISBN 978-0-7083-2287-1.
  17. ^ "Elizabeth Phillips Hughes". The New York Times. 20 December 1925. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  18. ^ "Elizabeth Phillips Hughes features in the new 'Dear World… Yours, Cambridge' campaign". Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge. Retrieved 8 March 2020.