Agnes Catherine Maitland

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Agnes C. Maitland
Agnes maitland.jpg
Born (1850-04-12)12 April 1850
Died 19 August 1906(1906-08-19) (aged 56)
Nationality British
Occupation educator
Known for principal of Somerville College, Oxford

Agnes Catherine Maitland (1850–1906) was principal of Somerville College, Oxford.


She was born 12 April 1850 at 12 Gloucester Terrace, Hyde Park. She was the second daughter of David John Maitland of Chipperkyle, Galloway, and Matilda Leathes Mortlock. Her father settled as a merchant in Liverpool when Agnes was five years old, and she was educated at home there in a presbyterian atmosphere.[1]

Between 1880 and 1885, she studied cookery at the Domestic science training school in Liverpool, and from 1885 to 1889 acted as an examiner in cookery in elementary schools, and of teachers trained by the 'Northern Union of Schools of Cookery.' She was soon recognised as an authority on domestic economy. She wrote several cookery books, of which the most important are The Rudiments of Cookery : a Manual for Use in Schools and Homes (35th thousand, 1910) ; the Afternoon Tea Book (1887 ; 3rd edit. 1905) ; What shall we have for Breakfast? (1889 ; 2nd edit. 1901). She also published between 1875 and 1889 some educative novels and tales suited to young girls.[1]

Maitland, who was keenly interested in the higher education of women, left Liverpool in 1889 to succeed Madeleine Shaw-Lefèvre as principal of Somerville Hall, Oxford. Her experience of public work and talent for administration and organisation proved of value to Somerville, which, founded in 1879 and incorporated as a college in 1881, retained the style of 'Hall' until 1894. During Maitland's tenure of the principalship, the number of students rose from thirty-five to eighty-six, and the buildings were proportionately extended. She developed the tutorial system with a view to making Somerville a genuine college and no mere hall of residence, and she urged the students to take the full degree course so as to prove their title to the degrees.[1]

Although she was something of an autocrat, she worked in full harmony with her staff, won the complete confidence of the students, and showed faith in democratic principles. On her initiative, a proportion of the council of the college was elected by duly qualified old students; while the latter were quite unfettered in their choice. Maitland was always anxious that some of themselves should be on the council. A strong liberal in politics, and a broad-minded churchwoman (in spite of her Presbyterian training), she preserved the undenominational atmosphere of the college.[1]

To Maitland the college owes the erection of its library, which contains 15,000 volumes and was opened in 1894, by John Morley. At Lord Morley's suggestion, Helen Taylor presented to Somerville the library of John Stuart Mill, free of conditions.[1]

She died after some two years' illness, on 19 August 1906, at 12 Norham Road, Oxford, and was buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford.[1]




 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainTemplate:Cite DNB12


Preceded by
Madeleine Shaw-Lefèvre
Somerville College, Oxford

Succeeded by
Emily Penrose