Louisa "Lill" Jebb Wilkins (August 8, 1873 - 1929) was the first woman Univ. of Cambridge Agriculture Graduate in 1897.
She was an agricultural administrator and was born on 8 August 1873 at The Lythe, Ellesmere, Shropshire, the daughter of Arthur Trevor Jebb (1839–1894), barrister, and Eglantyne Louisa Jebb (1845–1925). Her parents were cousins. She was one of six children, four girls and two boys and hers was a traditional land owning family. A family with a devout Christian belief and sense of public duty, their father believed that ‘of those to whom much is given, much is expected’, and was strongly of the opinion that his four daughters should be educated at home to a certain level, but not so much as to render them ‘blue stockings”. However, Arthur’s sister, Louisa, (known as ‘Aunt Bun’, whilst her niece Louisa was known as ‘Lill’ within the family to distinguish them from each other) thought otherwise, and paid for all four girls to receive further education, as she had done, being one of the first women to attend the newly-founded Newnham College at Cambridge University. Lill also went to Newnham and became the first woman to read for the Agriculture Diploma at Cambridge, which inspired her interest in agriculture and eventually led to her founding the Women’s Land Army during the First World War and also helping to develop the Women’s Institute movement.
Lill was also well travelled, and an accomplished author, her most famous book being ‘By Desert ways to Baghdad’, published in 1908, which recorded her travels and adventures in the East. One such ‘adventure’ was with her friend Victoria Buxton when they travelled together in Asia Minor in 1902. With pistols in their sashes, and geological hammers to test the soil, rocks and agriculture of the countries they visited, they deliberately ventured into places which had not yet been opened up to tourists. One of their highlights was floating down the Tigris in Iraq on a raft made of inflated goatskins (a method of transportation unchanged since the time of Alexander the Great). Lill’s book caused a sensation on publication and was later widely read by British troops serving in Mesopotamia during the First World War.
Lill married Roland Wilkins in 1907. Lill’s sisters, Eglantyne and Dorothy Jebb, went to Oxford and Cambridge respectively, and at the end of the First World War in 1919 co-founded the Save the Children Fund.
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