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Leicester Special Collections

Annie Clephan


Photograph of Annie Clephan(1854-1930)

Annie was born in 1854 in Leicester. Her father, Edwin Clephan, was a partner in Paget and Kirby’s Bank, the predecessor of Lloyds Bank and one of the founders of the Leicester Colleges of Art and Technology. Annie, with her two sisters Mary and Jane Helen were sent to the board after their mother died.

During her adult years, Annie decided to step outside of England and started to travel around the world finding her interests instead of getting married and starting a family like her two sisters. Annie never married but created a great contribution to the community.

Annie joined her first society when she was only 18 years old in 1872. The Leicester Ladies Reading Society was founded in 1869, by Anne Pattison and a group of local women, which aimed to provide an opportunity for more concentrated study. ‘Annie became secretary of the Society for 1880/81 and president in 1885/86, 1896/97, 1905/06 and again in 1919/20.’ Annie often shared her travel experiences with the members of the society. She kept the membership until she died in 1930, in which the society disbanded in the same year.

The other society that Annie participated in was the Leicester Women’s Liberal Association. The organisation defined itself as ‘totally separate and independent of male Liberalism.' 'It regarded its autonomy as being vital to improving women’s position in society.’

In December 1891, the Leicester Ladies Liberal Association was reported as being ‘disgusted at only getting one woman amongst the Liberal nine’ selected to serve on the school board. The press- The Wyvern published an article to criticize the result of the election, it described these ‘self-opinionated men should be left to wallow in darkness unilluminated by a single ray of feminine iridescence’.

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'Women Demonstrates Her Power' The Wyvern, 4 December 1891.

After that, in 1892, four Liberal women were elected as Poor Law Guardians.
In 1903, Annie with Miss Noble and Mrs. R Pochin established the After-Care sub-committee of the Education Committee. It aimed to contact the children who have special needs to attend the schools at Milton Street, Elbow Lane and Willow Street. It included 2-3 home visits per year to maintain contact. This act continued for 12 years until the committee was handed over to the local authority.

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The successful election of four Liberal women as Poor Law Guardians: Fanny Fullagar, Charlotte Ellis, Mary Royce and Mary Ewing. The Wyvern, 15 April 1892.

In addition, the committee founded the "’Sunneyholme’, a Home for Feeble Minded Girls." Most of the girls came from the Union Workhouse, the home hoped that they could provide the girls with a safe environment to live and maintain their physical health such as cultivating their own fruits and vegetables.

Except for the After-Care Committee and ‘Sunneyholme’, Annie also served as the president of the Special Schools Committee and chairperson of the Deaf and Special Classes Committee, devoted herself in better care to deaf, dumb and disabled children. Moreover, she worked in the Art and Technology Committee at the Leicester School of Art and Technology and helped to raise funds for the establishment of University College, Leicester.

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The residents of 'Sunnyholme' Home for Feeble Minded Girls.

Annie desired to improve the position of women in society. She believed women have the right to vote. Therefore, she joined the National Union of Women Workers as well as the organizer of the National Conference in 1919 and the secretary of the Standing Committee of Midland Branches. During 1907-1913, Annie played an important role in women’s rights development. Her rich experiences allowed Annie to become a confident public speaker and the leader of the local movement for women’s suffrage.

She was the President of the National Conference Leicester Branch during the First World War, the Leicester branch took action on responding to the impact of the war on women’s lives quickly. Concerned about the morality of women in the town, the NUWW produced an instructive card on how to maintain morality and it was used in factories, Girls’ Club, Mother’s Meeting, etc. for various instructions.

Annie inherited his father's interest and actively promoted Art activities. She founded the Clephan Scholarship to help teachers and students of the Leicester School of Art and Technology and made a will to donate her Art collections after his death. Her will included many donation projects, including the founding of the University of Leicester.

Moreover, as an early supporter of the University College, she eventually bequeathing £200 to founding the university, as well as donating many books to the University Library.

Page curated by Ya-Chu Hsieh


Aucott, S., (2008), Women of Courage, Vision and Talent: Lives in Leicester 1870 to 1925, pp.52-56.

Leicester: Civic, Industrial, Institutional, Social Life, 1927. in chapter 'Women's Work as Citizens,' pp.252-53.

University of Leicester Archives, ULA/HIS/FOU/2, Memorial Portraits Book, photograph and biographical pages for Annie Clephan.

Description of 'Clephan Building, 1987 - 1993. Estates and Buildings, De Montfort University and Predecessors. De Montfort University Archives and Special Collections. GB 3071 D/037/02/11' on the Archives Hub website, [], (date accessed :02/09/2020)

Unknown, 2020. Inspirational Women - Preston Park Museum And Grounds. [online] Preston Park Museum and Grounds. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 August 2020].

University of Leicester, 2020. Our Founders — University Of Leicester. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 8 August 2020].