Frances Epps (died 1913) was an English writer of educational works for children, a role in which she was particularly gifted. There is no biography, and even her dates of birth and death are unknown.
She was probably the author of Short Tales for Little Folk, published in 1889 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. From 1890 she was contributing articles to the Parents' Review (a fortnightly aimed at teachers and parents) on subjects such as arithmetic, singing, French, needlework, and one entitled “Work for Gentlewomen as Elementary Schoolmistresses”. More substantially, she also wrote for this Review between 1906 and 1908 a series entitled ‘The British Museum for Young People’, describing what could be seen in the British Museum on Roman Britain, ancient Greece, Egypt, Babylonia and Assyria; this was published in book form in 1914.
From 1908 to 1910, she contributed a remarkable series of articles to Arthur Mee's well-known Children's Encyclopædia (which first appeared in fortnightly serial form; as the Parents' Review was edited by Charlotte Mason, who would have been known by Arthur Mee as he shared her progressive views on education, this was probably the connection.) These articles, entitled "The Child's Book of All Countries", covered their history and geography and often described in vivid terms the life of their people. Here is an example of her style, concerning Britain:
"The labourer must till the earth to give us food; the miner must go down into the earth to fetch us coal, the fisherman must go to sea to bring us fish; the builder must put up houses for us to live in; the postman must carry our letters; the clerk must keep our books; the policeman must keep our streets in order. And so, day by day, the great work of the country is carried on, each man doing his share in helping to make his own life happy and the nation prosperous."
In her articles she reflected current optimism concerning Britain's economic progress and its position in the world. She took pride in the British Empire, while insisting on the moral responsibility of empire, writing that: "There is a duty for the boys and girls of today: of giving to all those peoples a rule merciful and just, peaceful and free." She admired Germany for its industrial and technical progress, for its education system and its emphasis on family life; but she did not foresee the calamitous war which was soon to break out.
The Children's Encyclopædia, including her articles, had a strong influence over several generations of British children. Frances Epps deserves to be better known, and further information on her would be welcome.
- A list of articles in the Parents' Review, including those by Frances Epps
- Text of her book on the British Museum
- The quotations are from The World of the Edwardian Child, as seen in Arthur Mee's 'Children's Encyclopædia', 1908-1910, by Michael Tracy (Hermitage, 1908).