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date: 30 September 2023

Clough, Anne Jemimafree


Clough, Anne Jemimafree

  • Gillian Sutherland

Anne Jemima Clough (1820–1892)

by Sir William Blake Richmond, 1882

The Principal and Fellows, Newnham College, Cambridge

Clough, Anne Jemima (1820–1892), college head and promoter of women's education, was born in Liverpool on 20 January 1820, the third child and only daughter of James Butler Clough (1784–1844), cotton merchant, and his wife, Anne (d. 1860), daughter of John Perfect. In 1822 the family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, as her father endeavoured to build up his business; Anne wrote vividly of a lonely childhood there in recollections set down for the memoir of her brother, the poet Arthur Hugh Clough (1819–1861). When the family returned to Liverpool in 1836 she settled into the conventional pattern of visiting the poor and assisting at local day and Sunday schools. In 1841 the failure of her father's business led her to try keeping a small girls' school on a more systematic basis.

Anne Clough herself had been educated entirely at home by her mother. In part because of this, she developed a passionate and lifelong concern with processes of teaching, a concern in which her brother encouraged her, although when working with younger children she doubted her capacity to keep either order or her temper. In 1849 she spent three months in London as an observer, at first the Borough Road and then the Home and Colonial training schools. She would have liked to remain in London but her mother clung to familiar surroundings, and Anne returned to Liverpool to work with an informal, domestic group of middle-class pupils. In 1852 they moved to the Lake District, to Eller How just outside Ambleside. Once again Anne gathered round her a group of pupils, including Mary Arnold, the future novelist Mrs Humphry Ward. The group developed gradually the more formal structure of a school, with between twenty and thirty pupils, mostly day, with boys as well as girls to the age of eleven, and girls to the age of sixteen. Anne was joined by an assistant, Mrs Fleming, who took over the school when she left; it continued at least until the end of the century.

Mrs Clough died in 1860. A legacy from her brother to Anne had removed financial anxieties, but family duty of another kind now intervened. The early death of Arthur Hugh Clough in November 1861 left his widow, Blanche, with three small children, and in 1862 Anne gave up the house by Ambleside and went to live with her sister-in-law to help with the upbringing of the children.

The main family bases were the Clough house in London and Combe Hurst in Surrey, the house of Blanche's parents, the Samuel Smiths; this brought Anne into contact not only with the great cousinage of Smiths, Nightingales, and Bonham Carters but also with the Langham Place circle, who all encouraged her in her educational schemes. She was a signatory of the memorial asking the schools inquiry commission to investigate girls' schools as well as boys' and submitted to them a note of suggestions for action, which she then expanded into a brief article for Macmillan's Magazine in 1866. While acknowledging the force of traditional arguments for educating girls either at home or in small schools—the school as home model—she contended that there was 'always a need of superior guidance and the excitement of collective instruction and companionship to call forth the higher intellectual powers' (A. Clough, Hints on the organization of girls' schools, Macmillan's Magazine, 14, 1866, 438). To raise standards and mobilize resources economically she advocated combination between schools to share specialist teachers, and suggested that these local networks might also arrange courses of lectures by distinguished visitors, 'as a means of creating a taste for higher studies and collective instruction'.

In 1867 Anne Clough chose Liverpool as her base for a pilot project on these lines. It rapidly became clear that specialist lectures would command more support than attempts to persuade schools to combine; the North of England Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women, of which Anne was a founder member and secretary in 1867–70, brought together associations in five cities, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, and Newcastle, to commission a first course of lectures on astronomy from James Stuart, fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Having inspired a host of associated and competing enterprises and sown the seed of the university extension movement, the council, under Anne's presidency in 1873–4, wound up its activities. By then she herself was fully engaged in the enterprise which brought together all her aspirations, enthusiasms, and energies. In May 1871 she accepted an invitation from the philosopher Henry Sidgwick to take charge of a house which he had rented in Cambridge where five young women who wished to come from a distance to attend the recently established lectures for women were to reside. Demand rapidly outstripped supply, and a larger house and then a second one were leased. In October 1873 Anne Clough opened negotiations with St John's College to lease a field on which to build, and she and the committee of management who supported her turned themselves into a limited company, the Newnham Hall Company, to raise funds. The new hall admitted its first students in October 1875. Such was the buoyancy of demand that more building was soon contemplated; in 1879 the Newnham Hall Company and the association which had launched the lectures combined forces to form the Newnham College Association for Advancing Education and Learning among Women in Cambridge to build, to organize lectures and teaching, and to raise and administer funds for scholarships and bursaries. The gestation of Newnham College was complete, and Anne Clough became its first principal, serving throughout without a salary.

Raising money was hard and unremitting work, but more straightforward than dealing with the other newly founded women's college, Girton, or the hostility with which many members of the university regarded the women. Despite the quickness of her temper, Anne Clough was temperamentally opposed to confrontation, always soothing, and infinitely creative in seeking ways round difficulties. She was not a good draughtswoman, often began an argument in the middle, and seemed to fuss; but this of itself was disarming, and her own modest view of her capacities made it easier for her to draw heavily on the strategic guidance of Henry Sidgwick and the administrative and financial abilities of Eleanor Balfour, who became his wife. Together they did much to secure the formal admission of women to university examinations in 1881, and in 1887 the grand opening of the third Newnham hall, Clough Hall, was graced by the prince and princess of Wales with the royal children and the prime minister, Lord Salisbury, Eleanor Sidgwick's uncle.

Anne Clough's lack of self-consciousness and pretension also eased her relationships with students. She could and did admit frankly to her mistakes, whether of policy or of human relations. Some were initially disconcerted by her homeliness or made fun of her lack of style: as her niece Blanche Clough put it, she 'dressed like a bundle' (BL, Add. MS 72830B, fol. 53). Her most striking features were her great dark eyes, framed by hair which had turned prematurely white. In repose her eyes were hooded and she might seem tired. The full force of her gaze was startling in its penetration and few failed ultimately to respond to the transparent sincerity and warmth which lay behind it. As Blanche again wrote, 'she showed to innumerable people the sort of tender, understanding kindness which only a few people can show to more than a few' (Clough, Memoir, 211).

Nor was Anne Clough uncertain or unclear about her fundamental objectives. Newnham, unlike Girton, did not immediately insist on its students going through the same academic hoops as the men. Some of the earliest students came for less than three years—or stayed for longer—doing work at a level which matched their particular situations. She argued successfully for the retention of this flexibility longer than Sidgwick had initially thought appropriate from a sharp, first-hand awareness of the variability of the education offered to girls in the first three-quarters of the century. However, in 1889, drafting a reply to Alfred Marshall who was fussing about the implications of a meeting held at Newnham to discuss the suffrage, she was clear that her work and that of the college was directed 'towards the opening out of new careers & a broader life for women' (A. J. Clough MSS).

Anne Clough was wholehearted too in her commitment to Newnham's absence of religious affiliation. Having endured her own period of intense evangelical self-examination in the 1840s and watched with distress her brother's agonies of doubt she developed a considerable distaste for denominational rivalries, and her bequest to Newnham was conditional upon its non-sectarian status. She was not, however, agnostic. She died from heart disease in her rooms at Newnham on 27 February 1892 and was buried, by her own wish, in the churchyard at Grantchester on 5 March 1892, following a service in King's College chapel.


  • B. A. Clough, A memoir of Anne Jemima Clough (1897)
  • A. J. Clough MSS, Newnham College, Cambridge
  • BL, Clough–Shore Smith MSS
  • B. Clough, ed., The poems and prose remains of Arthur Hugh Clough, 2 vols. (1869)
  • The Times (29 Feb 1892), 6f


  • Newnham College, Cambridge, MSS


  • W. B. Richmond, oils, 1882, Newnham College, Cambridge [see illus.]
  • J. J. Shannon, oils, 1890, Newnham College, Cambridge
  • cabinet photographs, NPG
  • photographs, Newnham College, Cambridge
  • photographs, BL
  • portrait, repro. in ILN (12 March 1892), 322

Wealth at Death

£14,508 7s. in UK: probate, 9 April 1892, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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