Ann Dudin Brown (1822-1917) was the founder benefactress of Westfield College.
She was raised in Sydenham, on the borders of south London. She was the only child of an affluent family, who had donated both land and money for the establishment of almshouses in Penge.
Both of her parents died in 1855, and, according to Sondheimer, 'she felt compelled to devote her inherited wealth to the support of charitable and evangelistic enterprises'. This she certainly did, and she was therefore instrumental in the founding of Westfield College.
Around 1880, Dudin Brown learned about the pioneering work of Mount Holyoke Female Seminary (now Mount Holyoke College), located in Massachusetts, USA. That college was founded by Mary Lyon in 1837, and it was there that women missionaries provided and received education. Amongst early students was the poet, Emily Dickinson.
Inspired by the prospect of combining Christian mission with women's education, Dudin Brown made plans to found a residential college for women of a similar model in England. Through a turn of events, her plans encountered those of two young women, Mary Petrie, who was one of the first woman graduates from University College London, and Constance Maynard, who studied at Girton College, Cambridge.
Dudin Brown's original vision was slightly changed through this encounter, but all agreed to the founding of a residential women's college in London, which would be modelled rather on the women's colleges that had been established in Oxford and Cambridge. The site for the college, eventually named Westfield College, was located in Hampstead, and Dudin Brown provided £10,000 for its establishment.
Her vision was not lost, since Constance Maynard, the first Mistress, was committed to governing the College on Christian principles. Initially, the College Council, of which Dudin Brown was a life member, was made up only of Anglicans, particularly evangelicals. There were, however, no restrictions on the religious affiliations of students.
In 1890, pleased with the progress of the College's development and confident in its future, she made further donations in order that Kidderpore Hall (later Old House), the main college building, could be purchased. She also donated funds for scholarships and provided private financial assistant to students in need.
Sondheimer notes how in 1913, Dudin Brown confessed that in 'all my enterprises, Westfield has proved the most satisfactory'.
Dudin Brown never married, by she enjoyed the company of staff and students at the College during her frequent visits. She died in 1917.
The College Archives hold items related to Dudin Brown and her family, including three Victorian miniatures.