Margaret Benson

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Margaret Benson
Margaret Benson.jpg
Born 16 June 1865
Died 13 May 1916 (1916-05-14) (aged 50)
Priory, Roehampton, England
Nationality British
Known for Egyptology

Margaret Benson (16 June 1865 – 13 May 1916) was an English author and amateur Egyptologist.


One of the six children of Edward White Benson, an Anglican clergyman (later Archbishop of Canterbury), and his wife Mary Sidgwick Benson, the sister of philosopher Henry Sidgwick who founded Newnham College. She and her sister Mary Benson went to Truro Girls High School which was a school her father had founded while Bishop of Truro.[1] Margaret was one of the first women to be admitted to Oxford University, where she attended Lady Margaret Hall. Her intelligence was remarkable.[2]

She was the first woman to be granted a concession to excavate in Egypt. With her companion, Janet Gourlay, she excavated for three seasons (1895–97) in the Temple of the Goddess Mut, Precinct of Mut, a part of Karnak, Thebes.

She suffered from frail health most of her life and was not able to continue the excavation after 1897. In 1907, she suffered a severe mental breakdown and died in 1916 in The Priory, Roehampton[citation needed] at the age of 50.


In the Benson family, several members suffered from mental illnesses, probably bipolar disorder. Margaret had five siblings, none of whom married. She was known within the family as Maggie. One brother was the novelist E. F. Benson. Another was A. C. Benson, the author of the lyrics to Elgar's "Land of Hope and Glory" and master of Magdalene College, Cambridge. Her youngest brother, Robert Hugh Benson, became a minister of the Church of England before converting to Roman Catholicism and writing many popular novels.


  • Benson, Margaret. Capital, Labour, Trade, and the Outlook, 1891. A textbook.
  • Benson, Margaret. Subject to Vanity, Methuen, 1894. "A volume of humorous and sympathetic sketches of animal life and home pets," with numerous illustrations.
  • Benson, Margaret and Gourlay, Janet. The Temple of Mut in Asher: An account of the excavation of the temple and of the religious representations and objects found therein, as illustrating the history of Egypt and the main religious ideas of the Egyptians, London, John Murray, 1899
  • Benson, Margaret. The Soul of a Cat, and Other Stories, Heinemann, 1901. "Stories about animals."
  • Benson, Margaret. The Venture of Rational Faith, 1908. Religious philosophy.
  • Benson, Margaret. The Court of the King, 1912. 'Fanciful stories'.


  1. ^ Mark D. Chapman, ‘Benson, Edward White (1829–1896)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2009 accessed 4 March 2017
  2. ^ Jessica Martin, ‘Benson, Margaret (1865–1916)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 4 March 2017
  • WRITER AND ARTIST: Death of the Daughter of the Late Archdeacon Benson, obituary in The Western Times, 16 May 1916

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