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Manning, (Elizabeth) Adelaidelocked

  • Gillian Sutherland

Manning, (Elizabeth) Adelaide (1828–1905), social reformer, was the daughter of James Manning (1781–1866), serjeant-at-law, and his first wife, Clarissa (1796–1847), daughter of William Palmer. Adelaide's grandfather, also James Manning, had been a Unitarian minister in Exeter and Unitarian links were perhaps one factor in her enrolment as one of the earliest students at Bedford College in 1850. Certainly with his friends Matthew Davenport Hill and Benjamin Leigh Smith her father was active in the Law Amendment Society and shared in the society's decision in 1855 to support reform of the law relating to married women's property.

In 1857 Adelaide Manning's father married Charlotte [see below], widow of William Speir. The relationship between daughter and stepmother was a close and warm one, and together they became friends with Emily Davies after her move to London in 1862. The Kensington Society, the women's discussion group which ran from 1865 to 1868, met at the Mannings' home.

Besides assisting in the campaign for the suffrage, Adelaide Manning joined the London Association of Schoolmistresses in 1867, taking a particular interest in infant education and the teaching of Froebel. Her cousin Caroline Bishop was appointed by the London school board to advise on the use of kindergarten methods in the board's infant schools, and in 1874 the two were founder members of the London Froebel Society. In 1875 it became a national body, with Adelaide Manning as secretary. In 1874 she had delivered a paper, 'Kindergarten training', to the Social Science Association, subsequently published as a pamphlet, and in 1884 her address to a conference in London in parallel with the International Health Exhibition was likewise published, as Froebel and Infant Training. She also engaged with the difficult issue of moral training, reading a paper to the Social Science Association in 1875, which was published as Moral Teaching in Schools, and giving a course of lessons on ethics at a private girls' school in the autumn of 1876.

Adelaide Manning's friendship with Emily Davies led to involvement with her infant university college for women, first at Hitchin and then from 1873 at Girton. Emily had enlisted Adelaide's help in persuading her stepmother to become the first mistress. To set an example Adelaide, aged forty-one, took and passed the entrance examination in June 1869 and accompanied Charlotte to Hitchin in the autumn, exceptionally entered on the books as a supernumerary student. Following Charlotte's death in 1871 Adelaide replaced her on the Girton executive committee, remaining a member of the Girton governing body until her own death. She was fully involved, and often acted as both a sounding board and a calming influence. Emily Davies wrote in September 1876,

It occurs to me to say, as it comes into my head, as it often does, what a comfort you are. I can open a letter from you without fear & about many things one could feel confident & at rest with you. There are not many people who have both judgement and good heart.

Girton College archives, Emily Davies MSS, XVII 13/3

However, the lion's share of Adelaide Manning's time in the last thirty years of her life was occupied by the affairs of the National Indian Association in Aid of Social Progress in India (NIA). Founded in Bristol in 1870 by Mary Carpenter, a London branch was started from the Mannings' home in 1871, shortly before Charlotte's death. Adelaide continued her involvement from her new home at 35 Blomfield Road in Maida Vale. On Mary Carpenter's death in 1877 the London and Bristol committees were merged and Adelaide replaced her as both general secretary and editor of the monthly Journal, renamed the Indian Magazine in 1886. She continued in these roles until a month before her own death.

The NIA launched two initiatives in the 1880s, in both of which Adelaide played a major role. The first was the campaign Medical Women for India, launched in 1882, which was designed to train women doctors who would be willing to work in India, with Indian women in particular, for at least part of their professional careers. Adelaide's involvement with the creation of the Royal Free Hospital was of use here. The second initiative was that for the superintendence of Indian students working in England. The NIA produced first notes for guidance and eventually, in 1893, a Handbook of information relating to university and professional studies etc. for Indian students in the United Kingdom, prepared by Adelaide Manning. She worked too to reinforce the formal support of the NIA with her own hospitality and friendship. She held open house regularly at Blomfield Road and then at 5 Pembridge Crescent and sought out Indian students wherever they were. Abdul Qadir met her in 1904 when they were both visiting a friend, a medical student who had been taken ill:

Well-attended as the patient was in the hospital to which he belonged and was well-known, it was a peculiar relief to have somebody else taking an interest in one in this wide and strange world of London. And that was exactly what Miss Manning made every Indian feel in this huge Metropolis.

Indian Magazine, Oct 1905, 272

Within its general commitment to the furtherance of mutual understanding the NIA had a commitment to education and to the education of women in particular. Under Adelaide Manning's editorship the Journal and then the Magazine gave ample coverage to Indian and British initiatives in this field. The anonymity of many contributions makes it difficult to judge how much she herself wrote, but her accounts of her two visits to India (Indian Magazine, May 1889 and May 1899) make the importance of this to her plain, and her first visit was followed by a special appeal for funds, stressing that 'the education of women lies at the root of all social progress in India' (ibid., April 1890, 168). The breadth of her religious sympathies was of help in negotiating ways through the religious and cultural minefields surrounding the issue.

Adelaide Manning's contribution to Anglo-Indian understanding was recognized by the government with the award of the Kaisar-i-Hind medal in 1904. She died of kidney disease at 5 Pembridge Crescent, Kensington, on 10 August 1905. Among the institutions which benefited under her will were the NIA, Girton College, the Royal Free Hospital, the Froebel Society and Institute, and the Theistic Church, Swallow Street, Piccadilly.

Her stepmother, Charlotte Manning [née Solly; other married name Speir] (1803–1871), Indian scholar and college head, was born on 30 March 1803, the daughter of Isaac Solly of Leyton in Essex. In 1835 she married William Speir MD, who practised medicine in Calcutta, where he died. In 1856, as Charlotte Speir, she published a substantial study, Ancient India. It was well received and in 1869, as Charlotte Manning, she published a greatly enlarged second edition in two volumes, Ancient and Medieval India.

Following her second marriage, to James Manning on 3 December 1857, Charlotte moved to live in Kensington, at 44 Phillimore Gardens, where she and her stepdaughter became friends with Emily Davies. In 1863 she joined the committee campaigning to secure girls access to university local examinations and in 1865 became president of the Kensington Society. In December 1867 she was one of the four members of the committee formed to plan for a residential college providing higher education for women. After James's death in 1866 Charlotte and Adelaide had moved to 107 Victoria Street, where many of the committee's meetings took place. Emily Davies hoped to persuade Charlotte to preside over the new college at Hitchin for at least a year, setting great store by her unimpeachable social and intellectual standing. Eventually she agreed to serve simply for the first term, Michaelmas 1869, one of the first students recalling that 'her suavity and gentle courtesy complemented perfectly Miss Davies' eager abrupt decisiveness' (Stephen, 222). Charlotte took an active part in the formation of the London branch of the NIA and became its first president shortly before her death at her London home, 107 Victoria Street, Westminster, on 1 April 1871.


  • ‘Personal recollectons of Elizabeth Adelaide Manning’, Indian Magazine, new ser., 94 (1905)
  • K. T. Butler and H. I. McMorran, eds., Girton College register, 1869–1946 (1948)
  • B. Stephen, Emily Davies and Girton College (1927)
  • Journal of the National Indian Association in Aid of Social Progress in India (1873–85)
  • Indian Magazine (1886–1905)


  • Girton Cam.


  • oils (after a photograph by E. MacNaghten), Girton Cam., Stanley Library
  • two photographs (Charlotte Manning), Girton Cam.
  • watercolour and body colour (Charlotte Manning), Girton Cam.

Wealth at Death

£25,458 13s. 6d.: probate, 5 Sept 1905, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

under £14,000—Charlotte Manning: probate, 25 April 1871, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

Calendars of the grants of probate … made in … HM court of probate [England and Wales]
, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)
Girton College, Cambridge