Miss Dorothea Beale, pioneer of girls’ education, suffragist, and Principal of Cheltenham Ladies’ College from 1858 until the year of her death in 1906, was today (Wednesday 9th September 2017) honoured with a blue plaque, jointly sponsored by Cheltenham Ladies’ College and Cheltenham Civic Society.
The plaque, which was unveiled by the Mayor of Cheltenham Klara Sudbury, is located on Montpellier Street, above the doorway that was originally used by Miss Beale to access her private apartment.
Dorothea Beale was only 27 years old when she became Principal. Members of the College Council questioned whether she was too young and inexperienced, but when she confidently replied that these faults would be remedied on a daily basis, she was offered the job.
Miss Beale introduced subjects such as maths and science, despite parental opposition that these were not suitable or necessary for girls, and promoted the fact that her pupils “understood the structure of a steam engine” and could gain qualifications, just like their brothers.
As well as leading the school for nearly 50 years, Dorothea Beale also founded St Hilda's College, Oxford, to enable women to continue their education, a teacher training College in Cheltenham, and oversaw the founding of charity and community centre St Hilda’s East in London, which is still thriving today.
During the ceremony, Freddie Gick, Vice Chair of the Civic Society Committee, spoke about the work undertaken by Miss Beale to widen the curriculum and educational opportunities for girls in the late nineteenth century, and the importance of encouraging women into STEM fields today.
The Mayor then spoke of Miss Beale's inspirational and pioneering approach to women's education, both as Principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College and as founder of St Hilda's College, Oxford, where Cllr Sudbury enrolled as a student 101 years later.
To close the event, Principal Eve Jardine-Young talked about Miss Beale's thoughtful and intelligent decisions in times of crisis, which were integral to both College and the wider town, as well as her inspirational dedication to improving educational opportunities for young women in Cheltenham and across the world.
Following the ceremony, Ms Jardine-Young commented: "We are enormously proud that this extraordinary woman has been honoured and recognised by the town of Cheltenham, whose history, growth and development meant so much to her."
6 September 2017