Pernel Strachey

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Pernel Strachey
Joan Pernel Strachey by Ray Strachey.jpg
portrait by Ray Strachey; painted circa 1930
Born4 March 1876
Died19 December 1951 (aged 75)
NationalityUnited Kingdom
Known forhead of Newnham College

Pernel Strachey or Joan Pernel Strachey (March 4, 1876 – December 19, 1951) was an English scholar of French and a head of Newnham College.


Strachey was born in Clapham Common in London in 1876, she came from a large family led by Lieutenant General Sir Richard Strachey and the suffragist Jane Maria Strachey. Her mother was a friend of Millicent Garrett Fawcett who had co-founded Newnham College in Cambridge.[1]

The sons and daughters of Sir Richard Strachey and Lady Strachey. Pernel is fourth from the left

Strachey went to Allenswood School,[2] she was then a scholar of French after initially studying history at Newnham College in 1895. Her course was modern and medieval languages, but she was talented in French. By 1900 she was lecturing at Royal Holloway College in London after briefly studying in Paris, she returned to her alma mater in 1905 and by 1917 she was leading the modern and medieval languages department. In 1921 she used her suffragist background to help lead a campaign to get real degrees for women at Girton College and Newnham; the campaign failed.[1]

She became principal of the college in 1927,[2] she used her friendship with the Bloomsbury Group and Virginia Woolf to get Woolf to deliver a talk in 1928. Woolf stayed at Newnham[1] and her talk to the Newnham Arts Society was the basis for her essay A Room of One's Own.[3] Strachey retired in 1941.[2]

Strachey died in Gordon Square in London on 19 December 1951, aged 75.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Rita McWilliams Tullberg, ‘Strachey, (Joan) Pernel (1876–1951)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 6 March 2017
  2. ^ a b c Pernel Strachey, National Archives, Retrieved 6 March 2017
  3. ^ Newnham Essay Prize, Newnham College, Retrieved 6 March 2017
Academic offices
Preceded by
Blanche Athena Clough
Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge
Succeeded by
Myra Curtis