Ada Benson

Ada Benson occupies a treasured space in the history of Oxford High School. A fearless pioneer and advocate for women’s education, she was the school’s first headmistress and remains a shining example of tireless dedication, courage and aspiration.  

Ada Benson was the daughter of a chemical manufacturer and his wife. Orphaned at the age of 12, Ada was brought up in the household of a cousin. Her education was overseen by her elder brother, Edward, who was later to become Archbishop of Canterbury. At the age of 19, she went to study in Germany and also worked as a governess there for a time. She was appointed as the founding Headmistress of OHS when it opened in November 1875, with 29 pupils and three teachers. Ada also served as Head at Norwich High School and Bedford High School.  She died in 1882.

Ada Benson sought a voice and a role in society for herself at a time when this was usually denied to young women and travelled far afield to achieve her goal. She then spent her career enabling others to have a voice and a role in society through her pioneering work as an educationalist.

Images from the Ada Benson Lecture 2019 with Bart Van Es, Costa Award-winning author of The Cut Out Girl. Read more about the evening here.