Mary Paley Marshall

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Mary Paley Marshall
Mary Paley Marshall by AS or SA.png
crop from painting by AS or SA
Mary Paley

24 October 1850
Ufford, England
Died19 March 1944
Alma materCambridge University
EmployerUniversity College, Bristol, Oxford, The Marshall Library of Economics
Known forOne of the first women to study at the University of Cambridge
Spouse(s)Alfred Marshall

Mary Marshall (née Paley; 24 October 1850 –19 March 1944)[1], was an economist and one of the first women to take the Tripos examination in 1874, achieving top marks, but was unable to receive a degree on account of her gender.[2] Mary Marshall also was one of five women to be admitted and study at Newnham College as part of Cambridge University.[3]


Paley was born in the village of Ufford, near Stamford, Lincolnshire, second daughter of the Reverend Thomas Paley and his wife Judith née Wormald.[1] Her father was Rector of Ufford and a former Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge.[4] She was a great-granddaughter of the theologian and philosopher William Paley.[1]


She was educated at home, excelling in languages: in 1871, after performing well in entrance exams, she earned a scholarship to become one of the first five students at the recently founded Newnham College in Cambridge.[5] She took the Moral Sciences Tripos in 1874, and was classed between a first and second-class, though as a woman she was debarred from graduation. Paley sat the exam with Amy Bulley. They were some of the first women to take tripos examinations and they sat the exams in Marion and Benjamin Hall Kennedy's drawing room. Paley described Professor Kennedy as excitable, but he would sometimes doze whilst invigilating. The only evidence she was given of her work was a confidential letter from her examiners. Women sitting the tripos examination was a milestone for Cambridge University and the importance can be gauged by the people involved. The people who delivered Paley and Bulley's papers were Alfred Marshall, Henry Sidgwick, John Venn and Sedley Taylor.[6] She was to pass with honours but this did not entitle her to an official degree. Cambridge was to resist recognising its own women graduates; a restriction that was, later, to be supported by her future husband.[7]


In 1875 she was the 25 year old economics lecturer at Newnham College. Marshall had established herself financially as she was the first women lecturer at Cambridge University. She was stylish and known for wearing clothes made from the fashionable prints designed by the Pre-Raphaelites.[7]

In 1876, she became engaged to Alfred Marshall who had been her economics tutor, and was at that time a strong supporter in higher education for women. In 1878 they moved to found the teaching of economics at University College, Bristol. Mary was one of the first women lecturers, although her salary was taken from her husband's pay as a Professor.[8] In 1883 she followed him to Oxford, before the couple returned to Cambridge in 1885 where they built and moved into Balliol Croft (renamed Marshall House in 1991) on Madingley Road. Mary lectured on economics, and she was asked to develop a book from her Cambridge lectures. Mary and Alfred wrote The Economics of Industry together, published in 1879. Alfred disliked the book, however, and it eventually went out of print, even though there was moderate demand for it. Alfred had also changed his mind about women students at Cambridge. He wrote pamphlets and letters objecting to a mixed university, and in 1897 a university law was passed preventing women from being given a Cambridge degree.

There is no record of her publicly disagreeing with her husband's support for the university's discrimination against women. She taught at Newnham and Girton until 1916 and the university did recognise its own would be women graduates, with a formal decree, until over 30 years after she retired.[7]

Mary was a friend of Newnham's principal Eleanor Sidgwick. In 1890 Marshall became a member of the Ladies Dining Society several of whom were associated with Newnham College. The society was started by Louise Creighton and Kathleen Lyttelton; other members of the society included Eleanor Sidgwick, the classicist Margaret Verrall, Newnham lecturers Mary Ward and Ellen Wordsworth Darwin, the mental health campaigner Ida Darwin, Baroness Eliza von Hügel, and the US socialites Caroline Jebb and Maud Darwin.[9]

Her husband Alfred became increasingly obstructive to the cause of women's education, believing that women had nothing useful to say.[10] When Cambridge began to consider giving women degrees, he decided to object to the idea despite the views of friends and colleagues. Mary was nevertheless devoted to her husband, and an important unofficial collaborator in his own economic writings. Alfred's major theoretical work was Principles of Economics; he is mentioned as the only author, but Mary may have done quite as much work as he did on the book.[citation needed]

According to James and Julianne Cicarelli, who wrote a book entitled Distinguished Women Economists, she was listed by John Maynard Keynes in his Essays on Biography. The Cicarellis say that “Keynes held her in the highest regard and considered her an intellectual and thinker every bit as significant to the historical development of economics as her husband or any of the other economist about whom he wrote.”[11]

After her husband died in 1924, Mary became Honorary Librarian of The Marshall Library of Economics at Cambridge, to which she donated her husband's collection of articles and books on economics. She continued to live in Balliol Croft until her death in 1944. She died in Cambridge on 19 March 1944 at the age of 93.[1] Her ashes were scattered in the garden.[12] Her husband is buried in the Ascension Parish Burial Ground.[13]

Mary Marshall's reminiscences were published posthumously as What I Remember (1947).

Accomplishments and Work[edit]

Mary Marshall took Cambridge University’s final exams, which no woman had ever done before. She passed with honours, although unofficially because for many years women were not permitted Cambridge or Oxford degrees. In 1875 Mary became Cambridge’s first woman lecturer, teaching economics at Newnham College, supposedly being adored by her students.[citation needed]

Shortly after in 1879 Alfred and her both wrote The Economics of Industry. This book was very popular with economics students of the time, but the publishing of the book was short lived. This was because her husband Alfred wrote the far more successful, The Principles of Economy in 1890, and then saw no reason to publish their other work anymore seeing it as inferior. Though she never expressed her feelings about Alfred doing this it obviously had an effect on her because she never again published a book of her own, she just aided Alfred in his writing from this point on. Due to this it is difficult to tell the true scale of Mary Marshall's work on economics.[citation needed]

In 1924, after Alfred's death, she used her own money to help to establish the Marshall Library of Economics at Cambridge. She worked there as a librarian until her doctors ordered her to stop, which she did reluctantly.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d McWilliams Tullberg, Rita (28 September 2006). Marshall [née Paley], Mary (1850–1944), economist. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/39167.
  2. ^ "Mary Paley Marshall". Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  3. ^ "13 women who transformed the world of economics". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  4. ^ "Paley, Thomas (PLY828T)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
  5. ^ Mary Paley Marshall, One of Five Original Newnham College Students, Newnham College, ArtUK, Retrieved 20 February 2017
  6. ^ Gill Sutherland (17 March 2006). Faith, Duty, and the Power of Mind: The Cloughs and Their Circle, 1820-1960. Cambridge University Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-521-86155-7.
  7. ^ a b c Kennedy Smith, Ann (20 October 2016). "Mary Paley Marshall". Sheroes of History. Retrieved 22 November 2018.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Smith, Ann Kennedy (2018-05-09). The Ladies Dining Society. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/odnb/9780198614128.013.109658.
  10. ^ Rooms of Our Own | Lucy Cavendish College Archived 2011-11-21 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "13 women who transformed the world of economics". World Economic Forum. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
  12. ^ "Lucy Cavendish College Site and Buildings" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-09-27.
  13. ^ A Guide to Churchill College, Cambridge: text by Dr. Mark Goldie, pages 62 and 63 (2009)

Further reading[edit]

  • Cicarelli & Cicarelli (2003). Distinguished Women Economists. pp. 113–116.
  • Marshall, Mary Paley (1947). What I Remember.
  • Keynes, John Maynard (June–September 1944). "Mary Paley Marshall". Economic Journal. Reprinted in Keynes (1972, 2010)
  • Keynes, John Maynard (2010) [1972]. Essays in biography.