Queer Places:
Brookwood Cemetery Brookwood, Woking Borough, Surrey, England

Jane Nassau Senior (December 10, 1828 - March 24, 1877) was the first woman Inspector of Workhouses in 1874.

She was Britain's first female civil servant, and a philanthropist.[2] She was co-founder of the Metropolitan Association for Befriending Young Servants (MABYS). Octavia Hill, founder of The National Trust, numbered her amongst the best of her fellow-workers in various charitable undertakings.

Senior was born Jane Elizabeth Hughes at Uffington on 10 December 1828, daughter of John Hughes and Margaret Elizabeth Wilkinson. She was the only sister of the author Thomas Hughes and five other brothers.[2] Senior's relief work with material aid for the victims of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 supported the National Society for Aid to Sick and Wounded in War, which was later renamed the British Red Cross. She was involved directing the practical work of handling donations.[3] Work with impoverished children in Surrey led to Senior's appointment in 1873, as an assistant inspector of workhouses. This post was given to her by James Stansfeld, against civil service opposition.[4] The goal of the post was a Civil Service Report, which she framed as covering both pauper girls as school children, and their histories after school.[5] When the Report appeared in 1875, the 1874 general election having intervened, it was the subject of heavy criticism by Carleton Tuffnell, acting in concert with The Times.[6] A meeting called by Thomas Vincent Fosbery in May 1874, at Lambeth Palace, brought together Elizabeth Browne, wife of Harold Browne the bishop of Winchester, Senior, Catharine Tait, wife of Archibald Tait, and Mary Elizabeth Townsend (1841–1918). They agreed to go about setting up the Girls' Friendly Society, founded on 1 January 1875.[7] MABYS was founded in 1876, to support young single servant girls, with a different group, Senior not finding enough common ground with the senior Anglicans.[8][9] She died of 'cancer of the womb' and exhaustion on 24 March 1877, aged 48; and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.[10]

Jeanie Nassau Senior | Jeanne Rathbone
Jane Nassau Senior, in an 1859 painting by George Frederic Watts


Jeanie and her sister-in-law, Minnie (taken 1855?).


Jeanie in 1852.

G. F. Watts the artist had become a confidant of Jane Senior by the mid-1850s; they corresponded, and most of the letters have been destroyed.[11] Octavia Hill, governess for a time to the children of Thomas Hughes, became a close friend.[12] Senior was a friend and correspondent of the novelist George Eliot. In Clapham, Senior knew Marianne Thornton, figure of the Clapham Sect and daughter of Henry Thornton, and her niece Henrietta Synnot, both of whom were involved in local schooling. Synnot became her assistant. Caroline Stephen made a very positive impression, and was an influence for the future.[13] In the aftermath of the "Eyre controversy", she made a point of inviting Emelia Russell Gurney, wife of Russell Gurney, to show her Jamaica sketches.[14] In the early 1870s Senior worked with Henrietta Rowland, teaching literacy in Whitechapel.[15] Another associate of this period was Menella Bute Smedley, following up on girls who had left workhouse schools.[16] For MABYS, Senior called on Bessie Belloc, Barbara Bodichon and Mrs. Knox for support.[8]

Jane married Nassau John Senior, son of Nassau William Senior, on 10 August 1848 at Shaw Church. Her husband was a barrister, but failed to make more than a desultory career in the law. From 1860 they lived in Clapham, taking lodgers.[2] The marriage was unhappy. They had a son Walter Nassau (1850–1933).[2] He married Mabel Barbara Hammersley, daughter of Hugh Hammersley and his mother's friend Dulcibella Eden, in 1888.[17][18] Dorothea Murray Hughes (1891–1952), daughter of Senior's brother Hastings Hughes, was a nurse and aid worker. She wrote Jane Elizabeth Senior: A Memoir (1915).[19]


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