Katharine Stephen
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Katharine Stephen
Katharine Stephen
Katherine Stephen of Newnham by Glyn Philpot.jpg
Stephen by Glyn Philpot
Born(1856-02-26)26 February 1856
Died16 June 1924(1924-06-16) (aged 68)
Other namesSarah Brook
EducationBedford College
Known forPrincipal of Newnham College

Katharine Stephen (26 February 1856 - 16 June 1924) was a librarian and later principal of Newnham College at Cambridge University.

Early life and family

Katharine Stephen was born in London on 26 February 1856, the daughter of Mary Richenda Cunningham (1829-1912) and James Fitzjames Stephen (1829-1894), a judge.[1] She was the niece of Caroline Stephen and of Leslie Stephen and the cousin of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell.


Katharine Stephen worked at Newnham College, Cambridge. She first joined the college as Helen Gladstone's secretary,[2] and worked with Anne Jemima Clough to teach working men on Sunday mornings in St Matthew's Schoolroom, Barnwell.[3] She was appointed Librarian of Newnham's 'first purpose-built library' in 1888.[4] She went on to become Vice-Principal and, in 1911, Principal of the college during the First World War years,[5] and kept her seat on the Council after her retirement in 1920.[4]

Stephen sat for a portrait by her cousin Vanessa Bell but that painting is lost. The painting at Newnham College is by Glyn Philpot.[6]

Stephen died of cancer on 16 June 1924 at her home in South Kensington. Stephen was loyal to her family. Every day she would either see her mother or write her a letter. Her aunt, Caroline Stephen, was another relative; she was a friend too. Caroline came to live in Cambridge in 1895 where she evangelised her Quaker beliefs to Newnham students.[7] Caroline's final book contained a biography written by Katherine.[1]


The Katharine Stephen Rare Books Library at Newnham was built in 1981-82. It was designed by Joanna van Heyningen and was listed Grade II in 2018 with other post-modern buildings.[8]



  1. ^ a b "Katharine Stephen". www.oxforddnb.com. Retrieved 2017.
  2. ^ Gardner, Alice (1921). A Short History of Newnham College. Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes. p. 113.
  3. ^ Gardner, Alice (1921). A Short History of Newnham College. Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes. p. 70.
  4. ^ a b "Significant contributors in the history of Newnham College". Newnham College. Retrieved .
  5. ^ Hamilton, Mary Agnes (1936). Newnham: an informal biography. London: Faber. p. 169.
  6. ^ Frances Spalding (May 2015). Vanessa Bell: Portrait of the Bloomsbury Artist. I.B.Tauris. p. 82. ISBN 978-1-78453-241-3.
  7. ^ Margaret M. Jensen, "Stephen, Caroline Emelia (1834-1909)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2014 accessed 10 Dec 2015
  8. ^ Historic England. "Details from listed building database (1450935)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 2018.

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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