Agnes Metcalfe


Image courtesy of Gray’s Inn

  • BORN 1870, Wisbech, Cambridgeshire
  • DIED 6th November 1923, Combe Down, Bath, England
  • WORKED 1897-1905: Headmistress of Stroud Green School, living in Hornsey; 1905-07: First Headmistress of new Sydenham County Council School; 1907: HMI of schools, probably living near Greenwich

Artistic Connections

We don’t know if she had any artistic connections, but her life is inspiring the creation of music right now!


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Cheltenham Ladies College, where she gained an external BSc in science from the University of London


Cheltenham Ladies’ College: her paper on French education for girls was published by the Board of Education

Educational Pioneer
Headmistress of Stroud Green School, then of the new County School at Sydenham. She travelled all over the country as His Majesty’s Inspector of Education

Ardent campaigner and member of the Tax Resistance League

She tried but failed to be accepted at the Bar because she was a woman, but she defended herself (and was congratulated on her eloquence by the judge) when she was fined for refusing to pay taxes without representation.

Scientific Achievement

  • She was admired as a great pioneer in women’s education.
  • She endowed a postgraduate scholarship for women to study economic and industrial problems.

Did You Know?

Metcalfe recalled this incident on her death bed:

She was a stalwart member of the Tax Resistance League, which protested that women who could not vote should not be liable for tax. In 1913, she was fined for refusing to pay a dog-license fee, and a valuable brooch was taken from her in payment. Because she knew that it would be sold for a fraction of its real value she told some working women to attend the sale and benefit by buying it cheaply.

An Inspiring Woman

Esteemed by many women as a reforming campaigner, she also inspired younger women and exerted a long-lasting influence through her educational innovations and her suffrage activities.

She wrote three books on the political rights of women.

  • In her 1917 book, Woman’s Effort: a chronicle of British Women’s fifty years’ struggle for citizenship, 1865-1914,( illustrated by reproductions of some cartoons from the pages of Punch) she protested about force-feeding of women in prisons.
  • The forward of her 1918 book, Woman: A citizen, was written by Beatrice Webb, a leading social reformer, Fabian Society member, co-founder of the London School of Economics and prolific diarist.
  • In 1919 the final book in the series was published, suitably entitled “At Last”: conclusion of “Woman’s Effort.”

Front Cover of Agnes Metcalfe’s Book, ‘Women’s Effort’ (Source: Gray’s Inn)