FOUNDERS OF MANCHESTER’S OLDEST GIRLS’ SCHOOL REMEMBERED
Manchester High School for Girls is today celebrating its pioneering founders who paved the way for women’s education by establishing the city’s first academic girls’ school on 19th January 1874.
In the centenary year of the historic Representation of the People Act, when women in this country first had the right to vote, the School community gathered for a special Founders’ Day assembly. The assembly not only remembered the founders, but also commemorated the strong links that Manchester High has with the Pankhurst women, leaders of the suffragette movement.
From its beginnings, Manchester High was liberal and progressive. At the time, universities did not accept women on the basis they would have had no formal education. MHSG’s founders wanted to change this and Manchester High became one of the first girls schools to teach Chemistry, Physics and Biology. It was this ground-breaking spirit that caught the attention of political reformer, Emmeline Pankhurst. She enrolled her three daughters; Christabel, Sylvia and Adela, with all three girls attending the School between 1893 and 1902.
The Founders’ Day assembly started with a poignant performance of March of the Women by the school’s Music and Drama students, followed by the memoirs of former MHSG Head Mistress, Sara Burstall, who actively supported the right of women to vote during her time at the School between 1898-1924.
Manchester High Sixth Former and Deputy Head Girl, Libby Ingleby, commented: “I am really proud to have gone to the same school as the Pankhurst sisters, as well as leading female figures of today such as journalist and presenter, Emma Barnett, and entrepreneur Jenny Campbell of BBC’s Dragon’s Den.
“The thought of not being able to have an education as a young woman is incomprehensible to me, let alone not being able to have a say in how this country is governed. I am looking forward to voting for the first time, and that brings this year’s 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act even closer to my heart.”
Mrs Claire Hewitt, Head Mistress at Manchester High School for Girls, said:
“We are very proud of our forward-thinking founders. Our ethos of inspiring girls to pursue the highest academic, personal and moral standards and empowering them to become responsible global citizens remains the same as what our founders intended 144 years ago.”
Pictured at the top: Pupils from Prep, Senior School and Sixth Form gather around a maquette of former MHSG pupil and pioneering women’s rights activist, Sylvia Pankhurst. The full size statue is to be erected in Clerkenwell Green in Islington next year. A statue of Sylvia’s mother, Emmeline, will be raised in Manchester city centre later this year.