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date: 29 September 2023

Burrows, Christine Mary Elizabethfree


Burrows, Christine Mary Elizabethfree

  • R. F. Butler
  • , revised by Margaret E. Rayner

Christine Mary Elizabeth Burrows (1872–1959)

by unknown photographer

Principal and Fellows of St Hilda's College, Oxford

Burrows, Christine Mary Elizabeth (1872–1959), educationist and college head, was born at New Street, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, on 4 January 1872. She was the only and posthumous child of Henry Parker Burrows (1833–1871), a partner in Langton Burrows Breweries, Maidenhead, and his wife, Esther Elizabeth Burrows (1847–1935), daughter of William Bliss, a mill owner of Chipping Norton. Her childhood was spent in her grandfather's house among her Bliss relatives. After attending a small private school, she went in 1887 to Cheltenham Ladies' College, under Dorothea Beale, with a music scholarship. In 1891 she entered Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, to read history but her studies were interrupted in 1893 when she was summoned to join and assist her mother who had just been appointed as principal of the newly founded St Hilda's Hall in Oxford.

Despite the demands of her own studies (which she continued as a registered home student), Christine Burrows took on heavy administrative and social duties while giving guidance to her mother (who had no knowledge of Oxford traditions) and to the small community of her fellow students. In 1894 she gained a second class in history and then remained at St Hilda's as history tutor in addition to her other responsibilities. In 1895 she became vice-principal. It was largely due to her ability, both as teacher and administrator, that St Hilda's was before long accepted on equal terms among the other women's foundations. In 1910 she succeeded her mother as principal, and directed the fortunes of St Hilda's through a period of steady growth and distinction—set back by the First World War but sharing in the general enfranchisement of women that followed. At school and college she had come under the influence of pioneers in women's education and notable men teachers who gave time to set the movement on its way; many of them remained her friends and she enlisted their support for St Hilda's, a hall she had helped create and shape.

In July 1919, however, Christine Burrows resigned from St Hilda's in order to live with her mother whose health was giving cause for concern. But in 1921 she resumed her career when she was appointed as principal of the Society of Oxford Home Students, a post which could be combined with residence in her own home with her mother. To this new and exacting work she gave the utmost of her mature powers. The Home Students was a non-resident society for women; students lived in their own homes or with hostesses in private houses. It was characteristic of her concern for detail and for good working relationships that she had visited all sixty hostesses before she took up office in 1921 and, as student numbers grew, she visited and interviewed every new hostess.

Perhaps the most striking features of Burrows's principalship were her clear interest in study and teaching and her pastoral care of students. The building of a strong tutorial staff at the Home Students owed much to her experience and initiative. With their admission to the university in 1920 (Burrows was made an MA by decree in 1921), women became subject to the disciplinary code of the university proctors. If this discipline was sometimes irksome to high-spirited post-war home students, its acceptance was assured by the kindness and good sense with which she administered it. The eight years of her second principalship were not as creative as those at St Hilda's. It was not pioneer work which was needed but the capacity to adapt and consolidate. She did, however, steer the Home Students in a direction which would eventually lead to its becoming a residential college, incorporated as St Anne's College in 1952.

In 1929 Christine Burrows resigned from the Home Students to spend her time with her mother whose health was deteriorating. She continued to live in Oxford for the last thirty years of her life, quietly devoting herself to movements for developing women's powers and usefulness. She was a firm champion of women's rights. In 1908 she had joined a march in London supporting the suffrage movement; in the 1930s she was a member of the archbishops' committee on the place of women in the church and, although she signed its report, she did not alter her opinion that the ordination of women to the priesthood was right and would come in time.

Christine Burrows contributed an article on St Hilda's College to the Victoria county history of Oxfordshire (vol. 3, 1954). A longer history of the college remained as an early draft when her eyesight failed. She was a slight, wiry woman with dark hair. In some ways she always seemed older than her age because she had inherited many of her mother's Victorian manners. She died on 10 September 1959 at St Luke's Home, Linton Road, Oxford. After a funeral service at St Giles' Church, Oxford, on 14 September, her body was cremated.


  • M. E. Rayner, The centenary history of St Hilda's College, Oxford (1993)
  • R. F. Butler, History of St Anne's College (1958)
  • The Times (11 Sept 1959)
  • The Ship [yearbook of St Anne's College] (1958)
  • St Hilda's College Chronicle (1959–60)
  • family MSS, priv. coll.
  • personal knowledge (1971)
  • b. cert.
  • d. cert.
  • Reading Mercury, Oxford Gazette, Newbury Herald, and Berks County Paper (28 Oct 1871), 5
  • b. cert. [mother]
  • d. cert. [mother]
  • The Times (15 Sept 1959)


  • St Hilda's College, Oxford, corresp.; draft history; notebooks; papers; etc.


  • L. Brooke, chalk drawing, 1919, St Hilda's College, Oxford
  • C. Ouless, oils, 1927, St Hilda's College, Oxford
  • J. De Glehn, chalk, 1929, St Anne's College, Oxford
  • photograph, St Hilda's College, Oxford [see illus.]
  • photographs (from childhood to old age), St Hilda's College, Oxford

Wealth at Death

£8334 9s. 9d.: probate, 19 Nov 1959, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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