Anne Jemima Clough 1820 - 1892
Anne Jemima Clough was the only daughter of James Butler Clough, a Liverpool cotton merchant, and his wife Anne, née Perfect. Between 1822 and 1836 the family were based in Charleston South Carolina, from which much of the cotton imported into Liverpool came in the days of sail. Anne Clough, however, pined for her own country and in 1836 the family returned to Liverpool.
Anne Jemima was educated entirely at home, as was common for middle and upper class women of the time; but she helped as a volunteer in a Liverpool charity school and became determined to run a school of her own. Her father’s bankruptcy in 1841 was her opportunity: she persuaded her parents that by opening a little day school for up to half a dozen middle class children in their home, she could help financially while not losing social status. When, after her father’s death, at the end of the 1840s, she and her mother moved to Ambleside in the Lake District, she was able to expand her operations. The school at her house, Eller How, educated over a dozen local children and several boarders.
In 1863 Anne Jemima handed her school on to her assistant and moved to Surrey. Her beloved brother, Arthur Hugh Clough, the poet, had died at the age of 42 and she felt duty-bound to support her sister-in-law Blanche in bringing up three small children. She drew on her Eller How experience, however, in giving evidence to a Royal Commission on secondary schooling; and through her friendship with Blanche’s cousin, Alice Bonham Carter, was drawn into more general campaigns for the transformation of the education of women. Her scheme for peripatetic lecturers was the germ of the University Extension Movement.
Anne Jemima was thus in 1871 an obvious person for Henry Sidgwick to invite to take charge of a hostel in Cambridge for ladies wishing to travel from a distance to attend the lectures there. Sidgwick had got to know the Clough family through his admiration for Arthur Hugh Clough’s poetry; and he and the poet had travelled the same route in gradually losing their Christian faith. This reinforced their shared commitment to the higher education of women with powerful personal bonds; and they were at one also in wishing the new enterprise to have no religious affiliation.
From this hostel and its first five students grew Newnham. Anne Jemima, who was eventually designated Principal, was in the thick of everything, from the negotiations with St John’s to lease the land, through to care for sick students. She was not a natural administrator: her style was homely and she was legendary for beginning sentences in the middle. But she had inexhaustible good humour, plenty of common sense and fun, and an enviable ability to admit when she was wrong. These qualities made her students cherish her and enabled her to work well and creatively with her colleagues.
The College Council named the largest of the Halls, completed in 1887, Clough Hall, in her honour; and following her death, her old students and friends commissioned from Basil Champneys the handsome wrought-iron gates which stand at the head of Newnham Walk. Those in Liverpool who had supported her early work for women’s education contributed the Liverpool Clough Scholarship funds.
Gill Sutherland, 2004