Elsie Bowerman

Elsie Bowerman

1889 - 1973
Elsie Edith Bowerman was born in Tunbridge Wells and died in Eastbourne. She challenged the establishment by becoming a suffragist whilst at Girton College, Cambridge and again when she became one of the first female barristers in the country. Her indomitable spirit carried her through life as she was also one of the Titanic survivors.


Barrister, Author and Titanic survivor


Born 18th December 1889 in Tunbridge Wells Elsie Edith Bowerman ended her days at the Princess Alice Hospital in Eastbourne.

Educated at Wycombe Abbey from 1901 to 1907 she entered Girton College Cambridge in 1908 to study Mediaeval and Modern Languages until 1911 passing the Tripo exam as at that time there were no degrees.

Elsie was accepted as a student at the Middle Temple in 1921 and called to the Bar in 1924.


Inspired by the feminist movement she became an activist with the Hastings branch of the Women’s social Political Union (WSPU) and formed the suffrage movement at Girton. In her thirties she decided to become a lawyer, was accepted at the Middle Temple in 1921, being called to the Bar in 1924. This was a tremendous achievement as up until 1919 females were barred from entering the legal profession and she became one of a select group of women forging a path for others to follow. To understand the impact this had listen to Mrs Justice McGowan giving her views on the life and times of Elsie Bowerman.

Her indomitable spirit carried her through the rest of her life as she was also one of the few Titanic survivors along with her mother. An author of ‘The Law of Child Protection’ (1933), ‘ Stands there a School’ (1965) and an unpublished autobiography ‘Reflections of a Square’, which epitomised her belief that after fighting for women’s rights the 1960s revolution reversed women’s role in society.

To read Anne’s full research click here


I was fascinated by Elsie not understanding why, after studying Mediaeval Languages she would go into Law. One fact that changed this for her followed the Sex Disqualification Act in 1919 that allowed women to enter professional careers that were previously barred including Accounting and Law. She was quite clearly a woman of spirit and I admire her for taking on the challenges that faced her and other women of the period. She was a champion for women’s causes and committed herself to using her position in society and gift of higher education to encourage women in learning and education to better themselves. From my viewpoint, Elsie Bowerman summed it up herself because she thought that today, after doing everything to win votes for women and trying to gain equality in employment and other areas of life she felt that women had regressed in their position. Women are being taken advantage of today because they are too frightened to speak out and not carrying on in the same spirit.

Anne Lohrey




Mrs Justice Maura McGowan for allowing me to interview her on 11th July 2017.
Girton College Library and Archives for photograph of 1st Year Student Group 1908
Girton Review for reference to social history between 1908 – 1911
Eastbourne History Society “Memories of the Titanic “ talk by David Clark
The British Library for: Sex Disqualification Act information facts to confirm information form websites and Case of Rex v Pollitt, Strudwick and Beech alleged Libel of David Scott link to Archive Microform collection (unused).
Notable Sussex Women, Helena Wijtczak, 2008 Hastings Press
Photograph of Girton College year group courtesy of The Mistress and Fellows, Girton College Cambridge
All other photographs are in the public domain



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