Agnes Maitland

(1849-1906) – Principal of Somerville 1889-1906

Agnes Maitland came to Somerville Hall as its second Principal in 1889. Her background was in domestic science: she had studied cookery at the domestic science training school in Liverpool 1880-1885, and she later acted as an examiner of teachers trained in the Northern Union Schools of Cookery.

Domestic economy for Maitland was not about cosiness, but about improving the conditions of life. Margery Fry (a student at Somerville and later its Principal), said of Maitland that ‘from first to last, education in all its grades appealed to her most strongly as a preparation for the conduct of affairs and for the business of ordinary life’. While at Somerville, Maitland continued with her public service work, pressing, for example, for more school inspectors. She was an experienced public speaker, and she also set about the task of regulating teaching more effectively, not least by ensuring that tutors were recruited on a longer-term basis. Under her principalship, Somerville more than doubled in size, growing from 35 students to 86, and Maitland urged all students to take the full degree course in their chosen subject, even though this was not a requirement at the time.

Did you know? Agnes Maitland’s published works included The Afternoon Tea Book (1887) and What Shall We Have for Breakfast? (1889).

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