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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