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Personal Papers of Ethel Fegan, 1874 - 1996

Reference Code: GBR/0271/GCPP Fegan

Scope and Contents

Held in this collection are various notes and lectures written by EF during the time she conducted correspondence classes in Librarianship, and items relating to her library career. Also included are numerous collected publications on various topics reflecting her wider interest in librarianship and bibliography. There are also letters, notes, articles, photographs and personal diaries relating to EF's time in West Africa as Lady Superintendent of Education for Nigeria, 1930-35, and to time spent in a leper colony in Zaria, Nigeria.


  • 1874 - 1996


Biographical / Historical

Ethel Sophia Fegan ('Fegs') ranged over a wide variety of activities during her life and had two distinct careers, both of which are reflected in her papers. She was born in Kent, the daughter of Richard Fegan, M.D., and Annie Sarah Pease, and educated at Blackheath High School, London. After coming to Girton to read Classics, 1896-1900, she studied for the Library Association examinations while teaching classics, and became Librarian at Cheltenham Ladies’ College (1908-17). She received an MA in 1907 from Trinity College Dublin (quasi ad eundem) and was elected a Fellow of the Library Association circa 1910. During her time at Cheltenham, she inaugurated courses for professional training in librarianship, conducted correspondence classes for the Library Association, and devised the ‘Cheltenham Classification’, a library classification for schools. Subsequently she was for twelve years Librarian of Girton College (1918-30), becoming an Honorary Fellow of the College in 1948. She also worked with Dr A C Haddon to build up the Haddon Library, and under his influence took the Cambridge Diploma in Anthropology (1929). After a sabbatical year in Nigeria (1928-29) she was appointed Lady Superintendent of Education for the Nigerian Government (1930-35) and in this role was a pioneer in the first official attempt to educate the women of that area. She stayed in Nigeria, as a lay worker at Zaria Leper Colony (1938-39 and again 1945-46) for the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association, before resuming library work, investigating library conditions in British West Africa for the Carnegie Corporation of New York, working in various libraries in the UK and training Africans for library work at Achimota College on the Gold Coast, continuing to work well into her retirement. She was awarded the George V Jubilee Medal for her educational work in Africa. On her return to Britain, Ethel Fegan worked as a volunteer in Cambridgeshire County Archives until she was over 90, and died in Cambridge.


9 archive box(es) (9 boxes) : Paper

Language of Materials



The papers are arranged in three sections: GCPP Fegan 1: Personal and biographical; GCPP Fegan 2: Librarianship; GCPP Fegan 3: Health and women's education in Africa.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquisition of the Fegan Papers is not well documented, but it would appear that the bulk of the papers was given to College by Ethel Fegan herself, when she retired as Librarian in 1930, and at other periods of her career. The diaries and photographs were received after her death, sent by a one-time landlady, Daphne Lloyd, in 1984. The papers have been stored in the archives but were uncatalogued until 1993, when enquiries into various aspects of Fegan's career prompted documentation of her papers. The collection was catalogued in further detail in March 2017.

Related Materials

Further information on Ethel Fegan can be found in her Roll file at GCAS 2/3/1 (1896), in her staff file at GCAR 2/5/1/1/2 and in Professor Bradbrook's reminiscences 'Strong Minded Dons' at GCPP Bradbrook. There are also articles by EF on her experience in Africa in the Girton Review.


Anthony Olden's article, 'African Pioneer', in the Library Association Record 99/2 (February 1997) and book, 'Libraries in Africa: pioneers, policies, problems', Scarecrow Press 1995, draw on material in the Fegan Papers.


This collection was re-catalogued in May 2017, by Tilly Burn, Archives Assistant (Projects).


Fegan, Ethel Sophia, 1877-1975, librarian

Finding aid date

2017-03-15 10:42:22+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