Wednesday, September 25, 2013

September 24 and 664 CE

Yesterday I visited Cheltenhem Ladies College in Cheltenhem, Gloucestshire. What a delight!  For full transparency here I must admit that I am fond of women's education, having been awakened by own educational path at Meredith College.  For additional transparency, I must admit that I am fond of Celtic Saint Hilda and her primary role in the development of the medieval church as we know from the ancient Celtic tradition.  Hilda presided over the Council of Whitby in 664 CE, an important crossroads moment in the life of the church, when women had access and Easter could be any holy day during the week in the lunar cycle, to a church where women were excluded and Easter had to fall on a Sunday (plus many other decisions that changed religious life in Ireland, Scotland, England, and Wales--particularly Ireland).

Now to the connection between Cheltenhem Ladies College--a premier residential community of young women from ages 11-18, who offer a strong International Baccalaureate program as well as A-Level study, was greatly influenced by Dorothea Beale.  Beale was an oustanding leader who helped to elevate the school into a progressive, academic learning community for young woman not just content to study arts and sewing. Beale was an active suffragette who co-founded the Kensington Society--a discussion group that became the London's Society for Women's Suffrage (that influenced our own foremothers in Seneca Falls (Stanton, Mott, and Anthony resulting in our full exercise of our citizenship rights in 1920--the right to vote).

But this is the connect---Beale left Cheltenhem Ladies College in good shape and then founded St. Hilda's College in Oxford in 1892!   This College, now part of Oxford University and serving both women and men, was given the name of St. Hilda.  Dorothea Beale must have "known" Hilda of Whitby too!   Like my own journey, Hilda, for Beale, must have stood as a sort of inspirational guidepost.  A woman religious from the seventh century leading men and women in literary, theological, and political insights, for both the church and government (Hilda was lead advisor to King Oswy), Hilda influenced Beale, who influenced women and men in educational communities in England in the nineteenth century.

The circle of influence goes on.  For the two women who I met from Cheltenhem Ladies' College are good examples of Beale's vision and Hilda's inspiration, the goals for women's education from both the seventh and nineteenth century continue to ring forward.  Thank you, Dorothea Beale!  Thank you, Hilda of Whitby!  Thank you, Cheltenhem Ladies' College!

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