Meet four of the women whose work shaped the School we have today. From its earliest days in the 1890s through to 1970s, their duties included day to day operations, finance and student management and their impacts were huge and lasting. LSE institutions like the motto and the Students’ Union can be traced back to their actions. But their tenures were not always without controversy.
Christian Mactaggart (1861-1943) was School Secretary 1896-1919, taking on the job while also an occasional student at LSE, though she did not officially receive the title until 1909. In 1919 she was made Dean, but retired from the School in 1920, largely due to ill health. LSE statistician Arthur Bowley described Christian as “Deputy director, hostess, accountant, and lady of all work” and upon his own arrival at LSE in 1919, Director William Beveridge described the School as “a one woman show”.
One of Christian’s legacies was the creation of a community. At LSE’s first home, Adelphi Terrace, Christian instituted an informal afternoon tea hour for staff and students, which led to the foundation of the Economic Students’ Union in 1897, a precursor to today’s Students’ Union.
One of LSE’s more controversial appointments was Janet (known as Jessy) Mair (1876-1959). Her husband David was a cousin to William Beveridge and she worked for Beveridge at the Ministry of Munitions during the First World War. Following his appointment to the Directorship of LSE in 1919, Jessy also moved to LSE as Business Secretary. On Christian Mactaggart’s retirement in 1920 Jessy became School Secretary and Dean.
However, Jessy was increasingly unpopular with staff who thought she came between them and the Director. They both left LSE in the late 1930s and were married in 1942. Jessy’s successor as School Secretary was Walter Adams. Jessy’s legacies to LSE include launching a competition to find a motto for the School, a series of lunchtime concerts, and a modern languages department.
Born to a Welsh farming family and raised in Sussex, Edith (known as Eve) Evans (1894-1971) attended Royal Holloway. She left the Civil Service to join LSE in 1920 as an assistant to Christian Mactaggart, who had just been made Dean. Eve registered students and answered queries. On Christian’s retirement, Eve was made Registrar.
Eve continued working as registrar to the 1940s, including during evacuation to Cambridge in World War II. She was given the title of Acting Secretary during the war, when School Secretary Walter Adams joined the Foreign Office. Eve herself had been offered a role at the Civil Service but the School would not release her. Eve was finally appointed to the role of School Secretary in 1945 and retired in 1954.
Anne Bohm (1919-2006) was born to a Jewish family in Breslau (now Poland) and studied in Germany, earning a PhD in history and working as a secretary to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games committee. She moved to live with her uncle in London in 1938. In 1941 they moved to Cambridge where she began working for LSE historian and Dean of the Graduate School L G Robinson, as the School was stationed there during the war.
In 1950 Robinson had a stroke, retaining his role as Dean in title only until his death in 1957. Anne ran the Graduate School from 1950 for 20 years but was never given the title Dean. When she retired in 1977 Anne was made a roving ambassador to the School, which included fundraising, alumni relations and recruiting graduate students. She was made an Honorary Fellow in 1988 and received an OBE in 1991. Her portrait hangs in the Shaw Library.
This post was originally published to mark LSE’s 125th anniversary in 2020, with profiles adapted from LSE History Blog posts by Sue Donnelly.