Scope and Contents
The papers comprise talks, speeches and sermons, papers and articles for publication as well as published material, chiefly on the subjects of philosophy, ethics, education and teaching; a collection of poems written by others; portrait photographs; and newspaper cuttings on her arrival as Mistress at Girton.
Biographical / Historical
Helen Marion Wodehouse (1880-1964), was born on 12 October 1880 at Bratton Fleming rectory, north Devon, the daughter of Reverend Philip John Wodehouse and Marion Bryan Wallas. She was educated at Notting Hill High School in London where her aunt, Katharine Wallas (a former student at Girton) taught Mathematics. She won an exhibition to Girton to read Mathematics in 1898, changing to Moral Sciences a year later.
She was awarded a first class in the Moral Sciences Tripos, Part I in 1902, and spent another year at Girton as a Gilchrist Fellow, before going to the University of Birmingham to read for a teacher's higher diploma. She stayed on in Birmingham, where she lived with Professor J H Muirhead and his wife, Mary Talbot Wallas, her aunt, and took an MA in 1904 and a DPhil in 1906. She held the post of lecturer in philosophy there from 1903 until 1911. In 1911 she accepted the post of Principal of the new teacher training college at Bingley in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
In 1919 she was appointed Chair of Education at the University of Bristol, becoming one of the very few women professors at the time. In her twelve years at Bristol she established what came to be one of the leading education departments in the country, both for professional education and for research. The department was later housed in a building within the university bearing her name.
Helen Wodehouse left Bristol to take up a six-month exchange post at the University of Iowa in 1927 [there is some dispute about this date, as her lifelong friend, Hilda Davies notes the date as 1926 - see GCPP Wodehouse 6/3]. This resulted in her lectures on American education, copies of which are in this collection.
She returned to Girton as Mistress in 1931. She had intended to retire in 1940, when she would be sixty, but in the event was persuaded to stay on for another two years because of the war.
Despite her Church of England upbringing, she decided at the age of seventeen that she could no longer believe in the doctrines of Christianity; yet she remained a naturally religious person. Combining her philosophical with her religious views, she preached many ‘lay’ sermons as part of her educational duties, and, after her retirement, wrote 'One Kind of Religion', published in 1944, in which she expounded her belief in a God, and her admiration for the historical Jesus, but her disbelief in personal immortality.
Besides many Girton commitments, she also chaired committees outside college, such as the governing body of the Cambridge Training College (later Hughes Hall), and the Cambridge University Women's Appointments Board.
She moved to Wales in her later life, and died in the Park Nursing Home, Llandrindod Wells, Radnorshire, on 20 October 1964.