Partner Lilian Mary Clapham, buried together

Queer Places:
University College London, Gower St, Kings Cross, London WC1E 6BT, Regno Unito
King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, Regno Unito
Cheltenham Ladies' College, Bayshill Rd, Cheltenham GL50 3EP, Regno Unito
Regent's University London, Inner Cir, London NW1 4NS, Regno Unito
Old Postmans Cottage, The Village, Alciston, Polegate BN26 6UW, Regno Unito
Alciston churchyard, Alciston, Polegate BN26 6UR, Regno Unito

Image result for Caroline SpurgeonCaroline Spurgeon (October 24, 1869 – October 24, 1942) is known as the first female university professor in London, the second in England. She was actually the first female professor involved in English literature, and the first fully accepted in England at all.

She was born in India on 24 October 1869, the daughter of Christopher Spurgeon, a Captain in the 36th Foot, and Caroline Dunsmuir (according to the record of her baptism in the India Office births, marriages and deaths records, Vol. 130 folio 65). Her mother died giving birth to her, and her father appears to have married again, but himself died in 1874.

She was educated at Cheltenham, Gloucestershire; Dresden, Germany; and King's College and University College, London; Quain Essayist and Morley Medallist, University College London, 1898; First Class Final Honours in English, Oxford University, 1899. For Michaelmas Term 1899, she acted as assistant to Miss Lee, Tutor and Lecturer to the Association for the Education of Women, but then for family reasons had to give up work for some months. From May 1900 she was lecturing in London: she was appointed Lecturer in English Literature under the London School Board, giving weekly lectures in the Evening Continuation Schools at South Hackney, and on Shakespeare in Welwyn, Hertfordshire. She was appointed to the staff of Bedford College, University of London, in 1901: Assistant Lecturer in English, 1901-1906, Lecturer in English Literature, 1906-1913, and Hildred Carlile Professor of English Literature (and Head of Department), 1913-1929. She was made Emeritus Professor of English Literature in 1929. In 1911 she was awarded a doctorate of the University of Paris for her thesis 'Chaucer devant la critique', and in 1929 she was made D. Lit. of the University of London for her '500 years of Chaucer criticism and allusion'. She was awarded a Research Fellowship by the Federation of University Women, 1912, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1916.

She was a member of the British Educational Mission to America in 1918, on which she met Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College, Columbia University, New York, USA, with whom she lived during the summer vacations, either in England or in the USA, for the rest of her life.

She was Visiting Professor at Columbia University, 1920-1921, first President of the International Federation of University Women, 1920-1924, and member of the Departmental Committee to inquire into the position of English in the Educational System of England, 1929-1931.

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Alciston Parish Church, Alciston

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Old Postmans Cottage, The Village, Alciston

She settled in 1936 in Tucson, Arizona, USA, in the hope of relieving her arthritis, and she died there on 24 October 1942. After WWII, Virginia Gildersleeve moved her body to be buried alongside her long time companion Lilian Mary Clapham (1871 – December 21, 1935) at Alciston Parish Church, Alciston, United Kingdom


  1. Papers of Professor Caroline Spurgeon, London University: Royal Holloway