Fighting For An Equal Education
Hampshire Life|September 2020
Fighting For An Equal Education
Founder of Cambridge University’s first women’s college, suffragist Emily Davies was born in Southampton
Steve Roberts

The building where Sarah Emily Davies (18301921) was born is a noble white edifice replete with blue plaque – which, incidentally, was erroneously placed on 8 Carlton Crescent when it was put up in 1994. The subject of that plaque, who was known as Emily, would become a pioneer in campaigning for women’s rights in education, especially highlighting the unfairness and inequity of not opening up universities to women. She would achieve fame as the co-founder of Girton College, Cambridge, with Sussex-born Barbara Bodichon (1827-91), and would become an early mistress of that very first women’s college in Cambridge.

The feminist and suffragist was born in Southampton, at 6 Carlton Crescent on 22 April 1830. Emily was the daughter of a schoolteacher and evangelical philosopher clergyman, the Welsh-born John D Davies, who had moved to Southampton in 1827 to open a school. Much of Emily’s growing up would be spent, not here, but up in the northeast of England, where her father had taken up duties as a rector. Her dad had attended Cambridge himself, beginning his studies a decade before Emily was born, and was also a published author. That love of learning was passed on to his little girl who considered a career in medicine, numbering Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836-1917), the first woman to qualify as a physician/ surgeon, among her friends.


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September 2020