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Personal Papers of Sarah Emily Davies, 1856 - 1978

Reference Code: GBR/0271/GCPP Davies

Scope and Contents

The papers include the Family Chronicle (an account of family and other matters written by Davies in 1905, covering the years 1847-68) and papers relating to the following: London University degrees for women; Elizabeth Garrett and medical examinations; the Victoria Magazine, 1863-4; the London School Board, 1870-73; the Schools Enquiry Commission, 1864-70; admission of girls to local examinations, 1858-69; the London Association of Schoolmistresses and the Kensington Society, 1866-69; Cambridge and Oxford degrees for women, 1880-97; Girton College, 1867-1903, and the College Jubilee, 1919; and women's suffrage, 1907-18. There are also presentations, obituaries, newspaper cuttings, pamphlets and letters to the press.


  • Creation: 1856 - 1978


Conditions Governing Access

Open to bona fide scholars and by appointment only.

Biographical / Historical

Sarah Emily Davies (always known as Emily), 1830-1921, was a pioneer and a leader in the campaign for women's education. Her papers reflect the work which she and her contemporaries accomplished for women in both educational and political fields and, in particular, her role in the foundation and early years of Girton College, Cambridge. Emily Davies was born in Southampton on 22 April 1830, the daughter of the evangelical Anglican clergyman, John Davies. She spent most of her youth in Gateshead, Co. Durham, where her father was Rector of St Mary's Church from 1839 until his death in 1861. However, visits to her brother, a clergyman in London, drew her into the Langham Place Group network and led her to examine the lives of women in Gateshead and to found a branch of the Society for the Promotion of the Employment of Women in the North East. After her father's death she moved to London in 1862 which brought her into closer contact with friends such as Elizabeth Garrett (Anderson) and Barbara Leigh Smith (Bodichon) and enabled her to play a more active role in the women's movement. She immediately became involved with campaigns to improve women's education, including those to admit women to University of London degrees, to admit girls to the Cambridge Local Examinations and for the inclusion of girls' schools in the Schools Enquiry Commission. These campaigns led to other activities; she was a founder of the Kensington Society and of the London Association of Schoolmistresses and she was one of the first women to be elected to the London School Board. She was also active in the campaign for women's suffrage. Although her early successes were in securing improved secondary education for girls, Emily Davies' central concern was the provision of higher education for women, and it is for this that she is best remembered. Her vision to establish a college 'designed to hold in relation to girls' schools and home teaching a position analogous to that occupied by the universities towards public schools for boys' provided the first opportunity in the country for women to receive a university education on exactly the same terms as men and led to the foundation of Girton College in 1869. Apart from periods of residence at Girton College, Emily Davies continued to live in London until her death, and after her retirement from Girton resumed her involvement in the suffrage movement. Throughout her life she was an active and vigorous committee woman. She published extensively on educational and suffrage issues and she was for a period editor of both the English Woman's Journal and the Victoria Magazine.


25 archive box(es) (25 boxes) : paper

Language of Materials


Former / Other Reference


Other Finding Aids

The papers were originally catalogued in 1977 by Marguerite Gollancz. Her catalogue was transferred to a database in Microsoft Access in 2002. A family tree is available.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These papers were given to Girton College by members of Emily Davies' family, the bulk being received from Miss Llewellyn Davies in 1930.


Barbara Stephen, 'Emily Davies and Girton College', pub. Constable and Co Ltd, London 1927. Also Daphne Bennett, 'Emily Davies and the Liberation of Women', pub. Deutsch, 1990. Also, Ann Murphy and Deirdre Raftery (eds) 'Emily Davies: Collected Letters 1861-1875', University of Virginia Press, 2004.


Davies, Sarah Emily, 1830-1921, pioneer for women's education

Finding aid date

2002-08-13 15:11:43+00:00

Repository Details

Part of the Girton College Archive Repository

The Archivist
Girton College Archive
Huntingdon Road
Cambridge CB3 0JG United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 338897