Intended to 'relate my experiences to the background of my period and to portray incidents in the life of a woman born in the last quarter of the nineteenth century', Edith Morley's 1944 memoir, Before and After, was written a few years after retiring as the first female professor at an English university. Born into a middle-class Victorian family, she hated being a girl, but a forward-thinking home life and a good education enabled her to overcome prejudices and become Professor of English Language at University College, Reading, in 1908. An early feminist with a strong social conscience, she 'fought...with courage...and passionate sincerity for human rights and freedom.' Covering the vividly described setting of her late Victorian childhood, her student days with the increasing freedoms they brought, the early feminist movement, the growing pains of a new university and, much later, the traumas endured by refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, this absorbing memoir brings alive a very different era, one foundational to the freedoms we enjoy today.
Born in Bayswater in 1875, Edith Morley 'did hate being a girl', though she found the middle-class conventions of the day restrictive rather than repressive and benefited from a good education thanks to her surgeon-dentist father and well-read mother. She obtained an 'equivalent' degree from Oxford University (the only type available to the few female students at the time) and was appointed Professor of English Language at University College, Reading, in 1908, becoming the first female professor in England. She is best known as the primary twentieth-century editor of Henry Crabb Robinson's writings (the author of a comprehensive biography) and for her Women Workers in Seven Professions: A Survey of their Economic Conditions and Prospects (1914), published while she was a member of the Fabian Executive Committee. Before and After, written in 1944 a few years after leaving the post at Reading, was 'intended to relate my experiences to the background of my period and to portray incidents in the life of a woman born in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.' She was made a member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1950, for her work setting up the Reading Refugee Committee and assisting Belgian Jewish refugees in World War II. She died in 1964.
Chapter 1. Childhood backgroundChapter 2. Home lifeChapter 3. External conditionsChapter 4. Education and emancipationChapter 5. First years of professional workChapter 6. Other interestsChapter 7. Reading: College and UniversityChapter 8. Social and political activitiesChapter 9. The last chapterChapter 10.Epilogue
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