Ellen Pinsent

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Ellen Frances Pinsent

Ellen Frances Parker

(1866-03-26)March 26, 1866
Died10 October 1949
CitizenshipUnited Kingdom
OccupationMental health worker
Spouse(s)Hume Chancellor Pinsent
  • Richard Parker
  • Elizabeth Coffin
RelativesRobert Parker, Baron Parker of Waddington (brother)
Edgar Adrian (son-in-law)

Dame Ellen Frances Pinsent DBE (née Parker; 26 March 1866 – 10 October 1949) was a British mental health worker, and first female member of the Birmingham City Council.


Ellen Frances Parker was born in Claxby, Lincolnshire, the daughter of the Rev. Richard Parker and his second wife, Elizabeth Coffin.[1] Her brother Robert Parker was a barrister and a chancery judge.[2] In 1888, she married Hume Chancellor Pinsent (1857-1920), a relative of the philosopher David Hume, and they had three children.[3] Their two sons, David Hume Pinsent and Richard Parker Pinsent,[4] were killed in the First World War, and their daughter, Hester, married the Nobel-prize winner Edgar Douglas Adrian, a peer.[5][6]


Pinsent chaired the Special School Sub-Committee of the Birmingham Schools Committee from 1901 to 1913.[7][8] In 1904, she was the sole female member of the Commission on the Care and Control of the Feebleminded.[5][9]

On 1 November 1911, Ellen Pinsent was the first woman elected to serve on Birmingham City Council.[7] She represented the Edgbaston Ward as a Liberal Unionist.[7] She stood down from the council in October 1913 upon appointment as commissioner on the Board of Control for Lunacy and Mental Deficiency.[7][10]

Pinsent worked for many years with the Central Association for Mental Welfare.[5] She was a founder of the National Association for the Care of the Feebleminded, an active member of the Eugenic Education Society,[11][12] and served on the general committee of the First International Eugenic Conference. Her support for eugenic policies is reflected in the provisions of the Mental Deficiency Act 1913.[2][3] She was created a Dame of the British Empire in 1937.[1]

Pinsent also wrote fiction, including the novels Jenny's Case, No Place for Repentance, Job Hildred, and Children of this World.[1]

Death and legacy[edit]

Dame Ellen Pinsent died in 1949, aged 83 years, and her funeral was held in Wootton.[5] The Dame Ellen Pinsent Special Primary School (for children with learning disabilities) in Birmingham is named after her.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Hartley, Cathy (2003). A Historical Dictionary of British Women. Psychology Press. p. 354. ISBN 978-1-85743-228-2.
  2. ^ a b Kevles, Daniel J. (1995). In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity. Harvard University Press. pp. 98. ISBN 978-0-674-44557-4.
  3. ^ a b Enright, Mairead (22 March 2018). "Shifting the Boundaries of the Public and the Private : Ellen Pinsent, Women and the Mental Deficiencies Act 1913". Gender and Legal History in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Retrieved 27 March 2020.
  4. ^ "Sunningwell War Memorial: Richard Parker Pinsent". Archived from the original on 15 August 2012. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d "Dame Ellen Pinsent". Mental Health. 9 (2): 50. November 1949. ISSN 0025-9632. PMC 5078226.
  6. ^ Thom, D. (2004). "Adrian [née Pinsent], Hester Agnes, Lady Adrian (1899–1966), penal reformer". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/65865. Retrieved 28 March 2020. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  7. ^ a b c d Roberts, Sian (4 March 2015). "'My whole time is given to the service of my fellow citizens' – the first women elected to Birmingham City Council". Library of Birmingham. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  8. ^ Commons, Great Britain Parliament House of (1908). Parliamentary Papers. H.M. Stationery Office. p. 456.
  9. ^ Brown, Anna (September 2005). "Ellen Pinsent: Including the 'feebleminded' in Birmingham, 1900–1913". History of Education. 34 (5): 535–546. doi:10.1080/00467600500221240. ISSN 0046-760X. S2CID 145071052.
  10. ^ "Mental Welfare Work". The Guardian. 7 December 1922. p. 11. Retrieved 28 March 2020 – via Newspapers.com.
  11. ^ Soloway, Richard A. (1 February 2014). Demography and Degeneration: Eugenics and the Declining Birthrate in Twentieth-Century Britain. UNC Press Books. p. 128. ISBN 978-1-4696-1119-8.
  12. ^ Bartley, Dr Paula; Bartley, Paula (12 November 2012). Prostitution: Prevention and Reform in England, 1860-1914. Routledge. p. 131. ISBN 978-1-134-61071-6.
  13. ^ "Home". Dame Ellen Pinsent School. Retrieved 27 March 2020.