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date: 29 September 2023

Hadow, Grace Eleanorfree


Hadow, Grace Eleanorfree

  • Teresa Smith

Hadow, Grace Eleanor (1875–1940), college head and social worker, was born on 9 December 1875 at South Cerney vicarage, near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, the youngest child and fourth daughter of William Elliot Hadow (1826–1906), vicar of South Cerney, and his wife, Mary Lang (d. 1917), daughter of Henry Cornish of Tavistock. Grace drew from her family a deep understanding of rural life, and a liveliness of wit and scholarly curiosity—particularly from her elder brother and godfather, Sir William Henry Hadow, to whom she remained devoted.

Grace Hadow was educated at Brownshill School, near Stroud, and at Truro high school, where she later stayed on as a student teacher, with time of her own for working at languages and literature; she then spent a year in Trier, in Germany, studying music and languages. In October 1900 she went to Somerville College, Oxford, where she soon overcame an early shyness, 'simply pouring herself into college life' (Deneke, 29), and developed skills and interests which remained throughout her life, including her quick wit and charm as a speaker. Both then and later she had the active support and sponsorship of her brother, then a fellow of Worcester College and also a member of Somerville College council.

After gaining first-class honours in English language and literature, in 1903, Hadow held a teaching post at Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. In 1906 she was appointed English tutor at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and became lecturer there in 1909. During this period she published The Oxford Treasury of English Literature, edited with her brother, W. H. Hadow (3 vols.; 1907–8), and Chaucer and his Times (1914). She also edited collections of essays on Addison (1907) and on Goldsmith (1918), and selections of work by Walter Raleigh (1917), and translated (with W. H. Hadow) Litzmann's biography of Clara Schumann, published as Clara Schumann—an Artist's Life (1913).

Grace Hadow's interests in social problems and practical solutions, and her flair for organization, quickly became apparent during the First World War. Her life as a scholar was interwoven with practical concerns: her writing was undertaken while looking after her widowed mother; at the same time, she was working with Belgian refugees and helping to develop the Women's Institute in Cirencester and surrounding villages of which she was elected president in 1916. When her mother died, early in 1917, Grace resigned her Lady Margaret Hall lectureship to seek full-time war work, and was recruited to run 'a most unconventional department of Extra Mural Welfare' in the Ministry of Munitions, charged with organizing women's work in the factories, crèches, housing, and lodgings. Following this, she was persuaded by W. G. S. Adams in 1920 to become secretary at Barnett House in Oxford, founded a few years earlier in memory of Canon Barnett of Toynbee Hall.

The key to Grace Hadow's work was her vision of adult education—particularly for women—as a means to citizenship. This combination of self-government and social service was crucial for post-war reconstruction. Barnett House was developing rapidly as a centre for social and economic studies and social-work training, with lectures and debates by eminent academics and public figures on the social and economic issues of the time. It also became a springboard for new organizations such as the National Council of Social Service, based on ideals of 'citizen service', 'the corporate citizen effort to improve social conditions' (Daily Herald, 12 May 1919). Grace's vision fitted well in this context, and she was encouraged to pioneer rural adult education development based on Barnett House, fostering village industries, libraries, lectures, and classes on social and economic questions, music, and drama. The Oxfordshire scheme became the prototype for rural community councils nationally. Her aim, in her words, was not simply to take 'folk dancing and travelling cinemas to the villages', but 'to get people to formulate their own demands and tackle problems' and 'to take their own place in local government or voluntary organisation, and future development can be left in their hands' (Campbell, 14). For the same reasons, she remained deeply involved in the development of Women's Institutes and the National Federation of Women's Institutes, of which she was vice-chairman from 1916 until her death.

Grace brought her experience and a wider vision of women's education and civic responsibility to her appointment as principal of the Society of Oxford Home Students in 1929 (she had earlier been unwilling to stand against Margery Fry as principal of Somerville). Links continued between the society and Barnett House, fostered by her and C. V. and Ruth Butler—all three played key roles in both places. She encouraged opportunities for Ruskin College students and for the ‘Bodley girls’, and suggested a wide range of careers, 'not just teaching', for her graduates. Her organization skills and sympathetic vision were well demonstrated by her Friday lunches for tutors, the personal contact she maintained with students, and the wide support she nurtured in the university and beyond. During her time as principal, the society's academic status increased and new endowments and buildings were secured. She was one of only two women members of the university's hebdomadal council at the time. With a true sense of the links between university life and civic life, she served on bodies such as the university's extra-mural delegacy (in particular the Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, and Berkshire committee, which organized adult education in the region), and Oxfordshire's county education committee. She also served on national bodies such as the BBC's advisory council, the adult education committee of the Board of Education, and the National Council of Social Service, as well as fostering hundreds of small village communities throughout England.

The last two years of Grace Hadow's life were taken up by the British Commonwealth conference in Sydney, in the summer of 1938, followed by a lecture tour in the United States that autumn, during which she visited and lectured in twenty-two colleges. She had been granted sabbatical leave for the trip and returned very excited about the international role of women. But she was exhausted, and did not fully recover before the outbreak of war in the autumn of 1939, and the subsequent large-scale evacuation of London schools to Oxford. She caught pneumonia and died at 11 Beaumont Street, Marylebone, London, on 19 January 1940.

Grace Hadow was remembered as one of the best women speakers in England. An assistant secretary of the National Federation of Women's Institutes who knew her just before the war described how:

her conversation strayed from Chaucer to the art of throwing boomerangs, from water divining to women's emancipation. There seemed in fact no subject in which she was not interested and in which she could not kindle the interest of others.

private information

She was one of a remarkable generation of women who combined a life of scholarship with public service devoted to education and citizenship, lived with energy, enthusiasm, good humour, and common sense.


  • H. Deneke, Grace Hadow (1946)
  • P. Adams, Somerville for women: an Oxford college, 1879–1993 (1996)
  • C. V. Butler, Barnett House, 1914 to 1964: a record for its friends (privately printed [Oxford], [1964])
  • M. E. Campbell, The Oxfordshire Rural Community Council: a history of the first fifty years, 1920–1970 (1970), 14
  • M. Reeves, St Anne's College, Oxford—an informal history (printed by the college, 1979)
  • The Ship [year book of the Society of Oxford Home Students, Old Students' Association]
  • archives of St Anne's College, Oxford
  • Barnett House, Oxford
  • private information (2004) [Dr Marjorie Reeves]
  • The Times (22 Jan 1940)
  • Manchester Guardian (22 Jan 1940)
  • Home and Country: the Magazine of the National Federation of Women's Institutes (22 Jan 1940)
  • Oxford Times (26 Jan 1940)
  • Oxford Times (2 Feb 1940)
  • Oxford Magazine (1 Feb 1940)
  • private information (2004) [National Federation of Women's Institutes]


  • Barnett House, Oxford
  • St Anne's College, Oxford
  • Worcester College, Oxford, papers relating to education


  • Bassano, photograph, National Federation of Women's Institutes, London
  • photograph, repro. in Campbell, Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, 38

Wealth at Death

£5839 5s. 9d.: probate, 7 March 1940, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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