Margaret Benson

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Margaret Benson
Margaret Benson.jpg
Born16 June 1865
Died13 May 1916 (1916-05-14) (aged 50)
Priory, Roehampton, England
Known forEgyptology

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 educator and 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 the first 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 and accomplishments were remarkable.[2]

She went to Egypt because of her health, became interested in Egyptology, and was the first woman to be granted a government concession to excavate in Egypt. She excavated for three seasons (1895–97) in the Temple of the Goddess Mut, Precinct of Mut, a part of Karnak, Thebes, where she was joined in the second season by Janet Gourlay,who became her companion.

She suffered from frail health most of her life and was not able to continue the excavation after 1897. She suffered a severe mental breakdown in 1907, was treated first in an asylum at St George's Convent, Wivelsfield, Sussex, and from November 1907 to 1912 at The Priory[2] in Roehampton. She died in 1916 at The Rowans, 27 Lingfield Road, Wimbledon 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 was ordained a Catholic priest 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. ^ Chapman, Mark D. "Benson, Edward White (1829–1896), archbishop of Canterbury". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/2139.
  2. ^ a b Martin, Jessica. "Benson, Margaret (1865–1916), Egyptologist and religious philosopher". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/56291.

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