Elizabeth Phillips Hughes

Elizabeth Phillips Hughes was born in King Street, Carmarthen in 1850 before moving to Spilman Street with her parents Anne and John. Elizabeth’s mother was a Jewish refugee who arrived in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire in the late 18th Century. Her father was a doctor.

Elizabeth was educated at Hope House, Taunton, Somerset before going on to Cheltenham Ladies College where she also taught. In 1881, aged 30, she attended Newnham College Cambridge where she became the first woman to achieve a First Class Honours degree at a time when women were not permitted to receive the award, regardless of their abilities.

By 1885, Elizabeth was principal of Cambridge Training College for Women and campaigned tirelessly for the right to education for all. She was so passionate about the issue that she made her lecture rooms available for working people on Sundays.

In retirement she travelled extensively and while in Japan, influenced the education system to include physical education for girls, and worked as a visiting Professor of English in Tokyo. Furthermore, Elizabeth investigated prison reform procedures in America with the aim of improving the British system.

Upon her return, Elizabeth became the only woman on the committee that drew up the charter for the University of Wales and, during the First World War (while in her 60s), ran a Red Cross Hospital. In 1917, she was also awarded the MBE.

Elizabeth Phillips Hughes died in 1925. Her published works included The Education of Welsh Women (1887) and The Education of a Nation (1919). Her legacy is commemorated at Cambridge where Hughes Hall is the only college named after a woman at the university.

Categories: Education | Philanthropists | Public Servants | Uncategorized

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