Miss E. Stevenson

GCPH11-4a-36-29FirstYear1891-EStevenson (2)
Elizabeth in her first year at Girton, 1891 ©The Mistress and Fellows, Girton College, Cambridge[4] 
Very likely to be Miss Elizabeth Stevenson, 61, (1872-1959) [1] an experienced teacher in Scotland and South Africa, and then Senior Woman Inspector of Schools for the London Country Council, a position we are told was created especially for her.[2] Her Times obituary correspondent wrote:

Throughout her career she won the devotion of pupils and colleagues and many will remember with gratitude the inspiration of her character and qualities-not least the incisive judgment and the refusal to compromise.”[3] 

Being a teacher adds to the likelihood, as she is seated with three others in education. But there may be other candidates and apart from being a distinguished woman of the time we have no strong evidence linking her to Lady Rhondda or the Time and Tide milieu.

puzzle-piece2-50 Do you have more insights that will give us conclusive proof we have the right candidate?


It is probable that she was seated alongside the senior gentleman at the table, Noel Brailsford, and then being seated with any of the others making their way in the world of education would have been appropriate. As a schools inspector she will have found a lot in common with the PE specialists on the table, perhaps just as keen to hear of their experiences and they of hers.


In 1933 Elizabeth gave evidence to the Hadow Report on Infant and Nursery Schools – but the report itself was not published until December. I suspect she might have been keen to learn about what was happening in the world of girls’ physical education. I wonder who was the driving force behind the makeup of this rather special table.


Elizabeth was born on 11th January 1872, the daughter of Fordyce “Dycie” Stevenson née Watt and the Rev. William Stevenson (1839-1916) of the Madras Christian College.[5] At the time of her birth her father was a missionary with the Free Church of Scotland in Madras. From 1886 until his death he also acted as Secretary of the Women’s Foreign Missions of the Free Church and United Free Church of Scotland.

The Scotsman, 17th June 1912[6]
She took the classical tripos in 1894 at Girton, Cambridge, one of the early students of Miss Jez-Blake and qualified with distinction for the Cambridge teachers’ certificate. After three years’ teaching in Scotland, in 1900 she was appointed vice-principal of the Good Hope High School for Girls, Cape Town. In 1904 she went to the Maria Grey Training College as lecturer on methods of teaching history and classics and in 1906 was appointed headmistress of the Collegiate School for Girls, Port Elizabeth. In 1911 she returned to Scotland, becoming headmistress of St. George’s School for Girls, Edinburgh, and its associated teachers’ training college.

In 1920 Elizabeth moved to the London County Council as a divisional inspector and was a senior woman inspector from 1929 till her retirement in 1935, advising on education of girls in all types of schools.


The eldest guest at the table, at 61, Elizabeth was two years off her 1935 retirement. At the time of the 1939 census she was living at 131-135 Kennington Road, Lambeth, listed as a retired Inspector of Schools. After retirement she travelled in Africa and the Far East, and volunteered during the WW2 at R.A.F. Halton, Bucks “where she organized with characteristic enthusiasm and imagination a patients’ library of unusual scope[5]. She died on 15th July 1959, aged 87 at Lynchfield Hospital, Bishops Lydeard, near Taunton, probate to her nephew, William Francis Ross Hardie, President Corpus Christi College, Oxford, the son of her sister Isabella Watt.[7]

She has all the distinctions to be at the table, including having an obituary in The Times. Her distinction was underlined by a correction sent to The Times a little later, by one “GL”, worth quoting in full:

“G. L. writes: – Your correspondent’s notice published on July 21 contains a factual inaccuracy. Not more than a dozen appointments to the rank of L.C.C. divisional inspector were made during the 40 or so years this rank existed, and no woman was included among their number. Miss Stevenson was one, I another, of a small group of district inspectors appointed in March, 1920. Her strong sense of mission led her to choose to work in a district in the East End, where she remained for the longer part of her service. In his wisdom that unique Chief Inspector, Dr. F. H. Spencer, had the post of Senior Woman Inspector created so as to provide scope for and recognition of Miss Stevenson’s abilities. She was a good colleague and filled-this post with dignity and credit”.


[1] Reference to Miss E. Stevenson, Senior Woman Inspector for the LCC, for the National Association of Inspectors of Schools and Educational Organisers.

[2] Miss Elizabeth Stevenson, The Times, 21.7.1959, page 8

[3] The Times, Obituary by A Correspondent, 21.7.1959

[4] ©The Mistress and Fellows, Girton College, Cambridge. Not for reproduction with permission. With many thanks to the college archivist, Ms Hannah Westall.

[5] The Times, Obituary by A Correspondent, 21.7.1959

[6] The Scotsman, 17.6.1912 ©JPIMedia Ltd, accessed from BritishNewspaperArchive (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk)

[7] A personal element of interest here, as Hardie was the President who interviewed me when I applied to go to Corpus – it was a memorable interview with a technique I used thereafter when interviewing.

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