Marion Grace (‛Maisie’) Kennedy (1836‒1914)

Marion Grace Kennedy was a Classics scholar, a fighter for women’s education, and active member of the suffragette movement.


Marion was born in Shrewsbury on 23 November 1836. She was the second child of Benjamin Hall Kennedy and Janet Caird Kennedy. She lived with the family first at ‛The Lodge’, School Lane, Shrewsbury, and from 1867, when her father was elected as Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge, at ‛The Elms’, Bateman Street, Cambridge.


"The Elms", Bateman Street
“The Elms”, Bateman Street

After her mother’s death in 1874 Marion and her younger sister Julia continued to maintain the household at Bateman Street with four servants. From 1891 to her death, she was head of household at ‛Shenstone’, 7 Selwyn Gardens (off Grange Road), Cambridge, where she lived with Julia and a domestic staff of three servants (cook, parlourmaid and housemaid).

From 1870, she sat on the Committee for Promoting Lectures for Women in Cambridge, and in 1877 became executive secretary of the Association for Promoting the Higher Education of Women in Cambridge. She and Julia became well known in liberal-minded circles in the University. She was much concerned with residential arrangements for women students in the city, and was involved in the establishment of Newnham Hall in 1875, which became Newnham College five years later.

Marion Grace Kennedy (James Jebusa Shannon, 1892)
Marion Grace Kennedy (James Jebusa Shannon, 1892)

She collaborated with Anne Jemima Clough, the first Principal of the College and an early suffragist; and retained a close association with Newnham, serving as its Honorary Secretary from 1880 until 1904. Her role in the College, and that of the Kennedy family, was commemorated in 1906 with the building and naming of the ‛Kennedy Building’, designed by architect Basil Champneys. In 1896 or 1897 she wrote a paper ‛Proposed Titles of Degrees for Women’. She also sat on the governing body of the Girls’ County School, and was an advocate for the participation of women in local government. In 1913, she corresponded with the publishers of her father’s Revised Latin Primer (Longman), disclosing that she and Julia had made significant contributions to the book at the time it was revised in 1888.

Marion was spending Christmas 1913 with her sister Edith and family in Torquay when she suffered a fatal heart attack on 11 January 1914. Her remains were cremated at Golder’s Green Crematorium, London, on 13 January, then brought to Cambridge on the 15th. Her funeral service took place in St John’s College Chapel on 16 January, and her ashes were interred in her parents’ grave in Mill Road Cemetery. (See obituaries and an account of her funeral.)

A fine portrait of her by Sir James Jebusa Shannon, painted in oils in 1892, is held by Newnham College (see illustration).

Marion Grace Kennedy : obituary (Cambridge Daily News)

Marion Kennedy : funeral report (Cambridge Daily News)


The Siblings of Marion Grace Kennedy (not buried in Mill Road Cemetery)

Charlotte Amy May Kennedy (1832‒95), as the first child of Benjamin Hall Kennedy and Janet Caird Kennedy, was born at ‛The Grove’, Harrow School, Middlesex, before the Kennedys moved to Shrewsbury. She was baptized at St Mary’s Church Harrow on 19 June 1832. She married William Burbury on 10 June 1852. The couple had no children. Burbury was then second master at Shrewsbury School, and in 1861 became Rector of West Felton parish near Oswestry, dying there in 1866. At the 1881 census, Charlotte was staying with her brother Arthur and family as a visitor in Buckinghamshire (as, too, was Benjamin). At the 1891 census, she was lodging with a family in Spital Street, Guildford, Surrey. She died at 4 Cambrian Villas, Queen’s Road, Richmond, Surrey, on 14 November 1895, aged 63.

For ten years, Charlotte was secretary to the Cambridge Local Examinations Board, and from 1871 to 1876 secretary to the London National Society for Women’s Suffrage. From 1870 to her death she was a member of the committee of the Society for the Employment of Women, and a governor of the London School of Medicine for Women and the North London Collegiate School.

Julia Elizabeth (‛Poppy’) Kennedy (1839‒1916) was born in Shrewsbury on 23 December 1839, the third child of Benjamin Hall Kennedy and Janet Caird Kennedy. She lived with her parents in Shrewsbury, moving to Cambridge in 1867, when Benjamin took up the Regius Chair of Greek in the University. She and Marion Grace remained with their father at ‛The Elms’, 63 Bateman Street after Janet’s death. Although not listed at ‛The Elms’ in the 1881 census, it seems that she continued to live with Marion. During the late 1860s and 1870s, Julia was trained as a philologist (i.e. a scholar of languages and written texts), acquiring a good knowledge of Latin and other languages; by the 1880s she was giving lectures on Anglo-Saxon at Girton College, and in 1890 she was elected a member of the Cambridge Philological Society. It is thought that she contributed the philological introduction to her father’s Revised Latin Primer, published in 1888. Julia died on 9 December 1916 at ‛Shenstone’, 7 Selwyn Gardens, Cambridge.

Edith Janet Kennedy (1842‒1922) was born in Shrewsbury in autumn 1842, the fourth child of Benjamin Hall Kennedy and Janet Caird Kennedy, and baptized there on 28 December 1842, living with her parents until the early 1860s. On 24 January 1866 she married William Henry Kitson, a west country solicitor, at St Peter’s Church, Eaton Square, London. The couple had no children. In 1871, they were living at 2 Vaughan Parade, Torquay, Devon with a domestic staff of four servants; in 1881 they resided at ‛Harmworth[?]’, Barton Road, Torquay, by which time William was a banker;  in 1891, by when he was a Justice of the Peace, they lived at Hengrave, Shiphay, Newton Abbot with six servants (including a coachman and a footman), and in 1901 at Shiphay House, Cockington, Newton Abbott. William died on 25 August 1904, leaving his wife an estate of £80,059; and in 1911 Edith was living a ‛Bemerton’, Torquay (a 14-room house) with five servants. Edith died there on 4 October 1922, leaving £17,604.

Arthur Herbert Kennedy (1846‒85) was born in Shrewsbury in the summer of 1846, the fifth child of Benjamin Hall Kennedy and Janet Caird Kennedy, and lived with his parents in Shrewsbury and presumably attended Shrewsbury School, until he went to Oxford, where took a B.A. degree. He married Agnes Goodrich Catherine Dick in the summer of 1869 in Totnes, Devon. In 1871 and 1881 the couple were living in Upton-with-Chalvey, in Buckinghamshire, where Arthur was a wine and spirit merchant. By 1881 the couple had had one son (Gerald H, aged 14) and three daughters (Edith M, Isabel S, and Mary A, aged 7, 6 and 4). At the time of the 1881 census, both Benjamin Hall Kennedy, by then a widower aged 76, and Charlottte Amy May Burbury, a widow of 46, were visiting them. Arthur died on 29 March 1885.

Kennedy grave
Kennedy grave



Parish : All Saints

See family grave page for more information





Sources :
Census reports 1841‒1911
Births, Deaths and Marriages
Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 22, pp. 1302‒1304 (Benjamin), 1321‒1322 (Rann)
Oxford Dictionary of National Biograph (Online) (Marion; Charlotte; Julia
Yamaguchi, Midori, Daughters of the Anglican Clergy: Religion, Gender and Identity in Victorian England (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 191‒92, read here
Women’s Suffrage Collection, Manchester Central Library

We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Anne Thomson, archivist, of Newnham College. The materials that she has provided are presented here with thanks to the Principal and Fellows of Newnham College.

By Ian Bent

Marion Grace Kennedy