Born in Bayswater in 1875, Edith Morley ‘did hate being a girl’, though she found the middle-class conventions of the day restrictive rather than repressive and benefited from a good education thanks to her surgeon-dentist father and well-read mother.
She obtained an ‘equivalent’ degree from Oxford University (the only type available to the few female students at the time) and was appointed Professor of English Language at University College, Reading, in 1908, becoming the first female professor in England. She is best known as the primary twentieth-century editor of Henry Crabb Robinson’s writings (the author of a comprehensive biography) and for her Women Workers in Seven Professions: A Survey of their Economic Conditions and Prospects (1914), published while she was a member of the Fabian Executive Committee.
This memoir, Before and After, written in 1944 a few years after leaving the post at Reading, was ‘intended to relate my experiences to the background of my period and to portray incidents in the life of a woman born in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.’ She was made a member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1950, for her work setting up the Reading Refugee Committee and assisting Belgian Jewish refugees in World War II. She died in 1964.