Scope and Contents
The papers listed here comprise largely personal and biographical materials, including letters, diaries and photographs. The letters and diaries in particular provide detailed insight into the middle years of Margaret Anderson’s life, from 1924-36. The diaries cover part of her time at Girton College; the time she spent teaching at Malvern Girls’ College and lecturing at Manchester University; part of the time she spent in Barbados; and part of the time she spent living at Hardwick, Cambridgeshire, while the letters to her sister, Betty Browning, cover her sabbatical term in South America in 1931 and the whole of the Barbados years from 1932-36. The materials listed here are arranged broadly chronologically.
Biographical / Historical
Margaret Swainson Willis (known to her family as ‘Ba’) was born on 14 June 1902, the second daughter of Dr John Christopher Willis and Minnie Baldwin (Girton 1890). Her aunt, Mabel Rosaline Baldwin, also came to Girton in 1899. Margaret was educated at Blackheath High School and the Perse School for Girls in Cambridge before coming to Girton in 1921 to read the Natural Sciences Tripos for two years followed by the new Geographical Tripos foranother two years.
She had already spent a term teaching at the the High School, Durham in the summer of 1921: on leaving Girton in 1924 she taught for a year at Malvern Girls’ College before becoming assistant lecturer in Geography at the Victoria University of Manchester. She returned to Cambridge in 1928 as a demonstrator in the Geography Department.
She spent a sabbatical term in 1931 in South America. In 1933 she went to Barbados to marry Frank Anderson, whose family had for many years been friends and neighbours in Cambridge. They spent several years in Barbados while he worked for the Barbados Telephone Company.
While in Barbados Margaret Anderson helped to found the Barbados Museum and Historical Society. She also produced the first good road map of the island and, in collaboration with a Commander Wynne, she produced a chart of part of the harbour.
Margaret and Frank returned to London in 1936 and in 1937 their daughter Margaret [known as Nan] was born. On the outbreak of war Margaret returned to Cambridge and worked as a Plotter, Eastern Regional HQ, Civil Defence, 1939-40. In 1944 she began to direct studies in Geography at Girton and also became a staff fellow and a university lecturer in Geography. Her publications include ‘Systematic Geography: Part I World Relations’, George Philip & Son 1937, and ‘Geography of Living Things’, English Universities Press 1951.
Harriet Steers wrote in her obituary for Margaret Anderson (see GCPP Anderson 1/1) that her 'approach to geographical work was in many ways unique because of her grip of, and interest in, the Natural Sciences. It was this distinction in geographical technique which led to the hope in Cambridge of a further and thorough treatment of Biogeography in the Tripos course'.
During the 1940s and early 1950s Margaret Anderson lived at Old Victoria Farmhouse in Hardwick, where she kept animals and poultry, her wide knowledge of flowers and birds adding to her enjoyment of life in the country.
Margaret Anderson died on 15 September 1952 at the age of 50. At the time of her death her latest book, an anthology of travel, was in galley proof: it was published with the title 'Splendour of Earth' by George Philip and Son Ltd in 1954, including her own introduction dating from circa June 1952.