Mary Crudelius

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Mary Crudelius (née Maclean) (23 February 1839 – 24 July 1877) was a British campaigner for women's education who lived in Leith, Edinburgh in the 1860s and 1870s, and was a supporter of women's suffrage.

Early life[edit]

She was born in Bury, Lancashire on 23 February 1839 to Scottish parents, and went to a small Edinburgh boarding school in the 1850s. While staying with friends she met her husband Rudolph Crudelius, a German wool merchant, in Leith while studying, and married him in 1861. He travelled a great deal on business and his wife wrote him frequent long letters, including discussion of ideas as well as personal matters. Later she would use her fluency as a correspondent to pursue her social and political causes.

Activism and Career[edit]

In 1866 Mary Crudelius put her name to one of the earliest petitions to Parliament about votes for women. She went on to commit herself to the cause of education for women, starting in 1867 when she spoke out at a ladies' discussion group called the Edinburgh Essay Society. Not long afterwards some of these women, including Crudelius, Madeline Daniell and Sarah Mair, set up the Edinburgh Ladies' Educational Association (ELEA) with the aim of ensuring equal educational opportunities for women.[1]


Crudelius did not want a separate women's college but the admission of women to universities. Nevertheless, she opposed the idea of co-educational classes and went to some trouble to arrange things so as not to attract criticism. Although Sophia Jex-Blake was campaigning during these years for women's medical education alongside men's, the ELEA tried to stay distant, even gaining the support of some of Jex-Blake's enemies.[2] As the group's first secretary, Crudelius was a respected leader and helped steer the association through a few internal disputes and one dispute with the university about details of the plan to offer a university certificate to women passing examinations after attending ELEA lectures.

The association designed its classes according to the university's arts curriculum and to its standards, finding support from several eminent male professors, especially David Masson, who was a strong supporter of Jax-Blake and the Edinburgh Seven, but did not pressure the ELEA to fight for women's admission into British universities, and promoted the Association's objective to provide education for women's "preparing of the mind for the afterlife"[3] rather than for entrance into a profession.[2] 400 women went to Masson's first lecture on English Literature in 1868, with 250 of them staying for the whole series. The certificate was introduced successfully in 1872, though Crudelius hoped there would ultimately be full university degrees for women, but her health had been poor for some time and she did not live to see this happen.

Death and Legacy[edit]

She died on 24 July 1877, fifteen years before the first Scottish universities opened their doors to women undergraduates in 1892. Her two daughters were educated through the association in the 1880s and for a few years there was a Crudelius Hall of residence. This was replaced by the Masson Hall in 1897. A Memoir of Mrs. Crudelius was published in 1879 containing some of her letters, poems, and ELEA reports she had written.

Crudelius's granddaughter was Edith Burnet who is reported as the first British female architect. There is also a plaque to Crudelius in Bristo Square in Edinburgh.[4]


  1. ^ Begg, Tom (2004). Daniell [née Carter], Madeline Margaret (1832–1906), educationist. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/56167. 
  2. ^ a b Hartreit, Marit (14 September 2009). "How Flora Got Her Cap: The Higher Education of Women in Edinburgh". BHSM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics. 24 (3): 147–158. doi:10.1080/17498430903008391. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  3. ^ "Ladies' Educational Association: The Mathematical Class". The Scotsman. 12 November 1869. 
  4. ^ There are more Edinburgh memorials to remarkable women than you might think, The Scotsman, 6 June 2015