Charlotte Manning

Charlotte Manning (née Solly; 30 March 1803 – 1 April 1871) was a British feminist, scholar and writer. She was the first head of Girton College.[1]

Charlotte Manning
Charlotte Solly

30 March 1803
Died1 April 1871(1871-04-01) (aged 68)
Westminster, England
OccupationScholar and writer
Known forFirst head of Girton College
Spouse(s)James Manning
Parent(s)Isaac Solly
RelativesAdelaide Manning (step-daughter)


Charlotte Solly was born in 1803, daughter of merchant Isaac Solly of Leyton, Essex.[2] She first married William Speir, a physician, and they lived in Calcutta. She wrote a scholarly book titled Ancient India which was published in 1856. As a widow, she married James Manning, a widowed lawyer, on 3 December 1857.[3] Her second husband's daughters were Charlotte and Adelaide Manning. Her niece was Caroline Bishop who was an advocate for Kindergarten education.[4]

Kensington Society

In 1863, Manning helped found the Ladies' London Emancipation Society led by the philanthropist Clementia Taylor. Other founder members and executive committee members included Mary Estlin, Sarah Parker Remond, Harriet Martineau,[5] Eliza Wigham[6] and another women's college founder Elizabeth Malleson.[7] The Kensington Society was formed in 1865 and this gathered together intelligent women known to the secretary Emily Davies for their "thoughtfulness". This discussion group met at Manning's house and she was the President of the society from its formation to its dissolution in 1865. The group attracted many notable women, particularly those associated with the improvement in women's access to higher education in Britain.[8]

The Kensington Society charged the substantial sum of two shillings and sixpence annually and the same sum for each meeting. Manning's house was used because it could accommodate the number of women who attended. Some of the women were confident speakers, whereas others used the society as the only place where they could discuss a wide range of subjects privately. The opinions expressed at the meetings were not recorded but the subjects chosen included the obedience of daughters, whether boys and girls should be taught the same subjects and whether women could aspire to be members of parliament or magistrates should they ever be given the vote.[9]

Last years

In 1869, Manning published Ancient and Medieval India which was a major revision of her previous book. Manning was the first Mistress of Girton College in October of that year.[2] She was succeeded the following January by Emily Shirreff.[10]

Manning died in Westminster on 1 April 1871. The month before she died she started the London branch of the National Indian Association. This was an organisation that became very important to her stepdaughter, Adelaide.[11]


  1. Girton College Register, 1869–1946: Cambridge; CUP; 1948
  2. Gillian Sutherland, ‘Manning, (Elizabeth) Adelaide (1828–1905)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2007 accessed 20 July 2015
  3. "Manning, James" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
  4. Jane Read, ‘Bishop, Caroline Garrison (1846–1929)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 accessed 31 July 2015
  5. "The Ladies' London Emancipation Society, Bedford College for Ladies, Bloomsbury". Museum of London Archive. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  6. Crawford, Mary (2003). The Women's Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866–1928. p. 209. ISBN 1-135-43402-6.
  7. Mitchell, Sally (2004). Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer. University of Virginia Press. p. 132. Available with purchase. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  8. ‘Kensington Society (act. 1865–1868)’, Ann Dingsdale, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 21 July 2015
  9. Dingsdale, Ann (December 1995). "'Generous and Lofty Sympathies': The Kensington Society, the 1866 Women's Suffrage Petition and the Development of Mid-Victorian Feminism" (PDF). University of Greenwich. Retrieved 23 July 2015.
  10. Roach, ed. JPC (1959). A History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely: Volume 3, the City and University of Cambridge. Originally published by Victoria County History, London. London. pp. 490–493.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  11. Elizabeth Adelaide Manning, Open University. Retrieved 21 July 2015