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Manchester High School for Girls



On Tuesday 19th January 2016, the whole School, from Prep to Sixth Form, came together for a special assembly to mark the founding of Manchester High.

“Has Manchester even realised the idea to give to girls as good opportunities for a thorough education as is given to boys is, to say the least, an experiment worth trying?”

It is 1873 and across the country there were fears that educating girls would be detrimental to their health, undermine social norms and be an unnecessary burden on parents and the tax payer.

In defiance of such prejudices, the Manchester Association for the Promotion of the Education of Women launched a public appeal to raise £3,000 in order to found a girls’ school.

Senior School girls in the early 1870s

In the space of just a few short weeks, over 140 Mancunians had contributed and Manchester High School for Girls was founded in January 1874.

We are all familiar with the names of the nine Founders and benefactors that hang proudly in School reception:

  • William James Kennedy
  • Benjamin Morgan Cowie
  • Matilda Mary Roby
  • Abigail Behrens
  • Harriet Ann Darbishire
  • Augustus Samuel Wilkins
  • Robert Dukinfield Darbishire
  • Margaret Mary Gaskell
  • Edward Donner

However, behind the scenes there were numerous others working hard to secure an education for Manchester’s girls.

Elizabeth Day

While the Founders had proved successful at raising the initial funds to create the School, most of Manchester citizens still needed convincing about the need to educate women. The School’s first Head Mistress, Elizabeth Day, and an army of supporters, had to go knocking door to door, across the city, handing out prospectuses to drum up interest.

The school opened with just 40 girls on the register, quite a contrast to the 921 girls currently benefitting from a Manchester High education today! 

Our assembly on Tuesday 19th January celebrated the well-known Founders of the School, as well as the unsung heroes and heroines that had a vital role to play in establishing Manchester High School for Girls.

You can watch a video of the assembly here:


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