Partner Lilian Mary Clapham, buried together
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
Caroline 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. Seven women from Britain made the ocean voyage to New York in the autumn of 1918 to visit 46 universities and colleges over six weeks and produce proposals for productive British–US exchanges. Unfortunately, two of them, Caroline Spurgeon, the first female university professor in Britain at Bedford College in London, and Rose Sidgwick, an English lecturer at Birmingham University, caught flu (this was during the 1918–19 flu epidemic) on board ship. Sidgwick died, but Spurgeon survived, convalescing in the home of New York college dean Virginia Gildersleeve, with whom she formed an intimate personal and professional attachment for the rest of her life.
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.
In 1918, Spurgeon was one of two women (the other being Rose Sidgwick) invited to join a delegation from British Universities on a three-month mission to the USA to develop closer cooperation between universities in both countries. During this visit Spurgeon met Virginia Gildersleeve, Dean of Barnard College, 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.
Alciston Parish Church, Alciston
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
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