Lalage Bown

(1927 - 2021) – Adult education specialist and women’s literacy advocate

Born in Surrey in 1927, Lalage Bown grew up looking after her younger siblings while their parents lived and worked abroad. She came to Somerville in 1945 to study Modern History and went on to take postgraduate courses in adult education and economic development.

After graduation, Bown took up a role at the University College of the Goldcoast, Ghana teaching African literature and arts. She dedicated much of her career to establishing and expanding adult education programmes in Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria, with a particular focus on helping adult women learn to read and write. She also worked to effect the ‘Africanisation’ of the English curriculum in the university, publishing Two Centuries of African English in 1973.

In 1974, Bown became a Commonwealth Visiting Professor at Edinburgh University. She left Africa in 1981 and became Head of the Department for Adult and Continuing Education at the University of Glasgow. In the 1990s, Bown authored a groundbreaking report on the impact of female literacy. Made an OBE in 1977, Bown has written widely on comparative adult education, community education, higher education (including student mobility), lifelong learning and adult literacy.

Professor Bown died aged 94 on Friday, December 17, 2021, following a brief stay in hospital after a fall.

Lalage Bown on Somerville ‘Collegiate life always has its advantages, but the character of Somerville I think gives it the best of those advantages. One’s fellow students are exceptionally diverse. My small cohort of students back in 1945 included people from Denmark, France, Poland, Guyana and New Zealand.’

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