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In this section:     Baroness Mary Stocks, Principal of Westfield College 1939-1951  

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Mary Stocks, c1945.
Mary Stocks, c1945.
Courtesy of Queen Mary, University of London Archives.

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Mary Danvers Stocks (1891-1975) was the Principal of Westfield College from 1939 to 1951.

Born in London in 1891, she was educated at St Paul’s Girls School, and, after she left, did voluntary work for a few years. She then attended the London School of Economics and graduated with a BSc degree in Economics in 1913.

Throughout her life, Stocks maintained an active interest in promoting women's rights. She participated in the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) until the vote was won in 1918.

From her teenage years, she rebelled again restrictive women’s clothing, recognising that women’s disabilities were aggravated by heavy and restrictive Edwardian dress. Stocks is remembered by her former Westfield students for her practical attitudes towards clothing, flouting modern fashion and what might be required on formal occasions.  

She married John Leofric Stock, an Oxford don, in 1913, after completed her degree at the LSE, and they had three children, one son and two daughters.  John Stocks shared his wife’s support for women’s suffrage and education, creating an intellectually equal and stimulating household.

Mary Stocks loved the theatre, was involved with amateur drama, and also wrote plays, such as Hail Nero! and Everyman of Every Street.

During the First World War, Mary Stocks taught at the LSE and King's College, London. After the war, she went to Oxford with her husband and taught economic history at Somerville College and Lady Margaret Hall. 

She later joined the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (NUSEC), persuaded them to adopt birth control as part of its platform, and helped to establish the first provincial birth control clinic in Manchester in 1926. She was also became deputy president of the Workers' Educational Association, and published The Workers' Educational Association: the First Fifty Years in 1953.

After her husband died in 1937, Stocks moved back to London. In 1939, she became Principal of Westfield College, and brought with her an unconventional and fresh approach which ensured that morale was maintained through the difficult wartime evacuation to Oxford. Westfield evacuated to St Peter’s Hall, Oxford from 1939 until 1945, and Stocks’ Principal’s Log gives vivid details of the day-to-day life of students, staff and wartime struggles during those years. 

During her time as Principal of Westfield, the College expanded and enrolment grew after the return to London after the war.  She supported grants to students and saw this as a way of opening education to students of different classes and backgrounds. 

Stocks also stood for parliament during her time as Principal; as an Independent Progressive candidate for London University in 1945 and for the Combined English Universities in 1946.  She was defeated both times, but only by a narrow margin.

After her retirement from Westfield in 1951, she became a popular BBC radio and television broadcaster. She was also active on the University of London Grants Committee, and remained active in her social and political work. 

She received several honorary doctorates, from Manchester in 1955, from Liverpool in 1956) and from Leeds in 1957. In 1966, she was appointed Baroness Stocks of Kensington and Chelsea. She died in 1975.

The College Archives hold various papers from Stocks' time as Principal, including photographs and the Principal's logbook, from which the material for the dramatised recording comes. Also available are her two of her books: My commonplace book (1970), Still more commonplace (1973), which include reflections on her life and work, including her time as the wartime Principal of Westfield.


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