Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Beale, Dorothea
BEALE, DOROTHEA (1831–1906), principal of Cheltenham Ladies' College, born on 21 March 1831 at 41 Bishopsgate Street Within, London, was fourth child and third daughter of the eleven children of Miles Beale, a surgeon, of a Gloucestershire family, who took an active interest in educational and social questions. His wife, Dorothea Margaret Complin, of Huguenot extraction, was first cousin to Caroline Frances Cornwallis [q. v.], to early intercourse with whom Dorothea owed much. Educated till the age of thirteen partly at home and partly at a school at Stratford, Essex, Dorothea then attended lectures at Gresham College and at the Crosby Hall Literary Institution, and developed an aptitude for mathematics. In 1847 she went with two older sisters to Mrs. Bray's fashionable school for English girls in Paris, where she remained till the revolution of 1848 brought the school to an end. In 1848 Dorothea and her sisters were among the earliest students at the newly opened Queen's College, Harley Street. Their companions included Miss Buss and Adelaide Procter [q. v.]. In 1849 Miss Beale was appointed mathematical tutor at Queen's College, and in 1854 she became head teacher in the school attached to the college, under Miss Parry. During her holidays she visited schools in Switzerland and Germany. At the end of 1856 she left Queen's College owing to dissatisfaction with its administration, and in January 1857 became head teacher of the Clergy Daughters' School, Casterton, Westmorland (founded in 1823 by Carus Wilson at Cowan Bridge, the Lowood of Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre'; cf. Dorothea Beale, Girls' Schools Past and Present, in Nineteenth Century, xxiii.). At Casterton Miss Beale's insistence on the need of reforms led to her resignation in December following; many changes in the management of the school were made next year. In 1906 Miss Beale established a scholarship from Casterton School to Cheltenham.
While seeking fresh work Miss Beale taught mathematics and Latin at Miss Elwall's school at Barnes, and compiled her 'Students' Text-Book of English and General History from b.c. 100 to the Present Time,' for the use of teachers (published Aug. 1858; 5th edit. 1862).
On 16 June 1858 Miss Beale was chosen out of fifty candidates principal of the Ladies' College, Cheltenham, the earliest proprietary girls' school in England, which had been opened on 13 Feb. 1854 with eighty-two pupils on a capital of 2000l. With Cheltenham the rest of Miss Beale's career was identified. When she entered on her duties there were sixty-nine pupils and only 400l. of the original capital remained. For the next two years the college had a hard struggle. In 1860 the financial arrangements were reorganised, and by 1863 the numbers had risen to 126. Thenceforward the success of the college was assured. In 1873 it was first installed in buildings of its own, which were enlarged three years later, when there were 310 names on the books. In 1880 the college was incorporated as a company. The numbers then had reached 500. Numerous additions were made to the buildings between 1882 and 1905. In the present year (1912) there are over 1000 pupils and 120 teachers, fourteen boarding houses, a secondary and a kindergarten teachers' training department, a library of over 7000 volumes, and fifteen acres of playing-fields.
As early as 1864 Miss Beale's success as a head-mistress was acknowledged, and in 1865 she gave evidence before the endowed schools inquiry commission, the seven other lady witnesses including Miss Buss and Miss Emily Davies. The evidence, published in 1868, gave an immense impetus to the education of girls in England [see Grey, Maria, Suppl. II, and Shirreff, Emily, Suppl. I]. In 1869 Miss Beale published, with a preface by herself, the commissioners' ' Reports on the Education of Girls. With Extracts from the Evidence.' It is a remarkable exposure of the low average standard of the teaching in girls' secondary schools before 1870.
Miss Beale perceived that the absence of all means of training teachers was a main obstacle to improvement. A modest endeavour to meet the need was made by a friend at Cheltenham in 1876. Next year, on her friend's death, Miss Beale undertook to carry on the work. The progress was rapid ; a residential training college for secondary women teachers, the first in this country, called St. Hilda's College, was built in Cheltenham, and opened in 1885. It was enlarged in 1890, and incorporated under the Companies Act in 1895. In order to give teachers in training the benefit of a year at Oxford, Miss Beale purchased in 1892 for 5000l. Cowley House, Oxford, which was opened as St. Hilda's hall of residence for women in 1893, and was in 1901 incorporated with the Cheltenham training college as 'St. Hilda's Incorporated College.' The students at St. Hilda's Hall, Oxford, are mainly but not exclusively old Cheltonians. A kindergarten class was also started by Miss Beale at Cheltenham in 1876, and a department for the training of kindergarten teachers soon followed, and became an integral part of the college work.
In 1880, mainly with a view to supplying a link between past and present pupils, Miss Beale founded 'The Cheltenham Ladies' College Magazine,' and remained its editor until her death. With the same aim, she established in 1884 'The Guild of the Ladies' Cheltenham College,' which now (1912) numbers 2500 members. On 26 Oct. 1889 the guild started in Bethnal Green the Cheltenham settlement, which is now carried on as St. Hilda's East, a house built by past and present pupils and opened on 26 April 1898. An earnest church-woman of high church principles, Miss Beale, who was guided through life by deep religious feeling, instituted at Cheltenham in 1884 Quiet Days—devotional meetings for teachers—generally at the end of the summer term, when addresses were given by distinguished churchmen.
Outside her college work Miss Beale associated herself with nearly every effort for educational progress, and with local philanthropic institutions. She was president of the Headmistresses' Association from 1895 to 1897, and was a member of numerous educational societies. In 1894 she gave evidence before the royal commission on secondary education, of which Mr. James Bryce was chairman. In collaboration with Miss Soulsby and Miss Dove she embodied her matured views on girls' education in ' Work and Play in Girls' Schools' (1898). She identified herself with the movement for women's suffrage, being a vice-president of the central society.
Miss Beale's activities remained unimpaired in her later years, despite deafness and signs of cancer, which became apparent in 1900. On 21 Oct. 1901 the freedom of the borough of Cheltenham was conferred on her. On 11 April 1902 the university of Edinburgh awarded her the honorary degree of LL.D., in recognition of her services to education. Eleanor Anne Ormerod [q. v. Suppl. II], the entomologist, was the only woman on whom the degree had been previously conferred. The staff at Cheltenham presented her with the academic robes.
Miss Beale died after an operation for cancer in a nursing home in Cheltenham, 9 Nov. 1906. The body was cremated at Perry Barr, Birmingham, and the ashes buried in a small vault on the south side of the Lady chapel of Gloucester Cathedral. From the time of her appointment to Cheltenham until her death Miss Beale devoted her life to the welfare of the college and to the improvement of girls' education. Living frugally, she spent large sums of her own money on the college, and at her death made it her residuary legatee, her residuary estate amounting to 55,000l. As a teacher Miss Beale's main object was to kindle a thirst for knowledge rather than merely to impart information (cf. for her method in teaching English literature her Literary Studies of Poems New and Old, 1902). She herself taught literature and the exact sciences equally well, and she attached chief importance to the teacher's personality and character and mental outlook (cf. Addresses to Teachers, 1909). The most original features of her organisation of the college were the rule of silence among the pupils, the absence of prizes, the weekly hearing of marks in every class by the principal herself, whereby she gained knowledge of the progress of every girl in the college, and the placing of the boarding-houses—there are now fourteen—under the direct supervision of the college authorities. A benevolent despot in her government of the college, she allowed large liberty of procedure to those members of her staff who showed capability. Open-minded and willing to experiment in new methods, she combined business ability with the enthusiasm of a reformer and shrewdness with a mystical idealism.
Miss Beale was of short stature, with an expressive face and a beautiful voice. Her bearing was somewhat cold, shy, and reserved, but to her intimate friends she was tender and sympathetic. A portrait in academic robes by J. J. Shannon, R.A., presented to her by old pupils on her jubilee, 8 Nov. 1904, hangs in the college library. Another portrait, also in the college, was painted in 1893 by Mrs. Lea Merritt at the request of the council. A miniature painted by Florence Meyer was bequeathed to the college by Miss Mary Holmes Gore in February 1907, and a marble bust by J. E. Hyett was presented to the college in May 1905. Another bust in white plaster—a better likeness than Mr. Hyett's—modelled by Miss Evangeline Stirling in 1893, was presented by the artist to St. Hilda's Hall, Oxford, in May 1905. A bronze tablet to her memory, with medallion portrait by Alfred Drury, A.R.A., is in the Lady chapel of Gloucester Cathedral; a stone tablet by L. Macdonald Gill, with an inscription, is in the college, and a memorial fund has been formed for the benefit of the staff past and present, and of old pupils who may be in special need.
[Raikes, Dorothea Beale of Cheltenham (with reproduction of Shannon's portrait), 1908; History of the Cheltenham Ladies' College, 1904; The Times, 10, 17, 19 Nov., 4 Dec. 1906; Journal of Education, Dec. 1906, Jan. 1907; Cheltenham Ladies' College Magazine, Memorial Number, 1906; private information.]