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Women in ELT History

"When one comes to think of it there are Hordes of Us but less loudly sung." (Shelagh Rixon, personal communication, March 2017)

This page has been constructed as a first step towards counteracting the preponderance of male figures in the Warwick ELT Archive 'Hall of Fame'. See note at the end for the background to development of this page (and this associated blog post).


Phenomena / names of interest

Below are some names / phenomena which seem worthy of investigation by those who wish to contribute to constructing the herstory of ELT. We welcome suggestions of further names/groups/phenomena to include, and will update the information here accordingly. We also look forward to hearing about any research you may carry out or have carried out in this area. Note: the emphasis at present is mainly on women in the history of UK-based and to some extent Europe-based ELT. For now, we are only including those known for achievements up to the 1980s, in order to keep the focus historical.


19th century

British governesses - e.g. in Tsarist Russia. See Hardach-Pinke (1993).

Women missionary teachers teaching (through) English?

Women who were English teachers e.g. in late 19th-century German girls' schools: their 'conversational' teaching was to inform Reform Movement Direct methodology, though this was theorized by men (e.g. Viëtor). See Doff (2002).


First half of 20th century

Ida Ward (1880–1950) and Lilias Armstrong (1882–1937), co-authors of A Handbook of English Intonation (Heffer, 1926). Employed by Daniel Jones in the UCL Department of Phonetics, c. 1920s–30s. See Collins & Mees, 1999.

M. [Mariel] G.M. Faucett - co-author of Supplementary Readers to the Oxford English Course (OUP, 1933–36), with L. Faucett.

Dorothée Palmer (b. 1905) – Harold E. Palmer's daughter, co-wrote English through Actions with him (publ. 1925, Kaitakusha), having tried out oral ostensive ideas in her teaching at Furuya English School for Girls in Osaka. Also, sole author of The Mollusc (annotated phonetic edition with tone-marks of a comedy by H. H. Davies, publ. 1929, Heffer).

Constance Ripman - author of Let's Talk English: Everyday Conversations for the Use of Foreigners (1938). Recordings

Isabelle Frémont - author of various Oxford English Readers, connected with L. Faucett's Oxford English Course. Missionary in Tanganyika?

Betsy UldallLink opens in a new window (1913–2004) - teacher for the British Council in Athens, Tel Aviv, Baghdad, Cairo and Alexandria during World War II, then in Argentina and Paraguay until 1949, when she moved to Scotland to teach from 1949 onwards in the newly-established Department of Phonetics.


Known / Should be known for work in 1950s (onwards)

Jean Forrester – structural syllabus work in India, 1950s. PhD (rare at the time). The first structural syllabus for India, according to Prabhu interview. One of the two women among the 56 initial named 'sponsors' of (I)ATEFL (with June Derrick, q.v.). Secretary of IATEFL, 1968–9 and Secretary/Treasurer, 1970–74.

Brita Haycraft - co-founder of International House schools with John Haycraft (started in Córdoba, Spain, in 1953). First woman to win the British Council Lifetime Achievement ELTons Innovations award.


Known / Should be known for work in 1960s (onwards)

June Derrick – Author of Teaching English to Immigrants (1966, Longmans, Green). One of the two women among the 56 initial named 'sponsors' of (I)ATEFL (with Jean Forrester, q.v.).

A. [Audrey] J. Thomson & A. [Agnes] V. Martinet - Co-authors of A Practical English Grammar, first published 1960 (OUP) and still in print (4th edition): 'The world's best-selling language reference book', according to OUP. Thomson was born and educated in Ireland, and taught English in Poland, Spain and London; Martinet was born and educated in Edinburgh, and taught in the UK and Spain.

Mary Underwood - Co-author of Realistic English with B. Abbs and V. Cook, 1968 onwards. Author of listening comprehension materials: Listen to This! (1971), What a Story! (1976), Have You Heard? (1979), all OUP.


Known / Should be known for work in 1970s onwards

Gillian Brown - Author of Listening to Spoken English (1977, Longman), Teaching the Spoken Language (1983, CUP). Professor and Director of Centre of English as an International Language, Cambridge University from 1988. See ELTJ 43/3.

Leni Dam - pioneer in field of learner autonomy, beginning with classroom experiments in the 1970s (Denmark).

Opal Dunn – English for children pioneer.

Ingrid Freebairn - co-author, Strategies (1975 onwards) and other textbook series, for Longman

Edie Garvie (b. 1928) - author of Breakthrough to Fluency: English as a Second Language for Young Children (Blackwell, 1976); Story as Vehicle: Teaching English to Young Children (Multilingual Matters, 1989). (SR: 'respected figure in UK ESL; based in Peterborough').

Marion Geddes, worked at British Council’s English Language Teaching Institute in Portland Place, London – with McAlpin and Sturtridge and, latterly, Rixon (all q.v.). Co-author of Listening Links (1979) and Reading Links (1982), both with Sturtridge). Member of IATEFL Executive Committee, 1982–4.

Paula Khan - publisher at Longman. Responsible for publication of Strategies.

Janet McAlpin - worked at British Council’s English Language Teaching Institute in Portland Place, London – with Geddes and Sturtridge and, latterly, with Shelagh Rixon (q.v.). On IATEFL Executive Committee as Conference Organiser, 1985–87.

Patricia Mugglestone - 'prolific ELT author' (SR) - starting with Holiday English (Mary Glasgow, 1979).

Jane Revell - author of Teaching Techniques for Communicative English (Macmillan, 1979). (SR: 'a very long-standing methodologist')

Shelagh Rixon - British Council Italy, then British Council ELTI; co-author of Communication Games with D. Byrne (1979, NFER) and listening materials for OUP in 1980s; later, University of Warwick; pioneer in field of English for young learners.

Carole Robinson - member of IATEFL Executive committee, 1973–81, 1984.

Gill Sturtridge, worked at British Council’s English Language Teaching Institute in Portland Place, London – with McAlpin, Geddes and, latterly, Rixon (all q.v.). Co-author of Listening Links (1979) and Reading Links (1982), both with Geddes. Later, at Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Reading. Member of IATEFL Executive Committee, 1984–90 (for several years as 'first SIG Representative' - 'Mother of SIGs' in IATEFL (Rixon & Smith 2017).

Cristina Whitecross. Highly respected OUP editorial figure, 1978 onwards.

Mary Willes -Member of BAAL Executive Committee, 1973–78. West Midlands College of Education; later, Professor in Hong Kong.

Valerie Kinsella (SR: 'Editor of Language Teaching Abstracts for the British Council, Died in the early 1990s. Not an ELT teacher but part of the scene').


Known / Should be known for work in 1980s onwards

Melanie Butler - Editor, E(F)L Gazette. Active in Women in TEFL.

Gail Ellis - co-author of Learning to Learn English (CUP, 1989) with B. Sinclair (q.v.)

Jill Florent - commissioning editor, Heinemann. Active in Women in TEFL.

Diana L. Fried-Booth - author of Project Work (OUP, 1986).

Judy Garton-Sprenger - textbook author, e.g. Exchanges (with P. Prowse, Heinemann), 1980), Encounters (Heinemann, 1982).

Francoise Grellet - author of Developing Reading Skills, (CUP, 1981), etc.

Ann Hayes, as was, later Ann Malamah-Thomas (author of Language Laboratory Management (British Council, 1980) and as Malamah-Thomas Classroom Interaction (OUP, 1987). (SR: Worked in ELTI and later as British Council English Language Officer in Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and Paris, following Alan Maley).

Tricia Hedge - author of Using Readers in Language Teaching (Macmillan, 1985), and Writing (OUP, 1988); also, Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom (OUP, 2000); first woman to be appointed editor of ELT Journal (1992–95).

Susan HoldenLink opens in a new window (1941–2023) - editor, Modern English Teacher. Publishers' representative on IATEFL Executive Committee, 1986–88. (Further tributes hereLink opens in a new window and here.Link opens in a new window

Friederike Klippel - author of Keep Talking (1984, CUP); later, Professor at Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich.

Christine Nuttall - worked at British Council Malaysia (SR), wrote Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language (Heinemann, 1982)

Gillian Porter-Ladousse - author of Role Play (OUP, 1987))

Jenny Pugsley - British Council, then Trinity College London.

Barbara Sinclair - co-author of Learning to Learn English (CUP, 1989) with G. Ellis (q.v.)

Liz Soars - co-author of Headway (OUP, 1985 onwards) with J. Soars.

Catherine Walter - co-author, The Cambridge English Course (CUP, 1985 onwards). First woman as IATEFL President,1993–95.

Penny Ur - author of Discussions That Work (CUP, 1981).

Jane Willis - Co-author of Collins Cobuild English Course with D. Willis (Collins, 1989) and books on task-based language teaching.

Tessa Woodward - author of Loop-input (Pilgrims, 1988).


Groups / Sectors / Activities of particular possible research interest

Governesses --> English teachers in girls' schools

Women missionary teachers of English

Department of Phonetics, UCL in 1920s–30s (see Collins & Mees, 1999).

Writers of early graded readers and other materials - e.g. Faucett, Frémont

Teachers of English to immigrants and refugees (Derrick, and ...?)

English Language Teaching Institute, Portland Place, London (British Council) - Geddes, McAlpin, Sturtridge, Rixon

Post-war ELT publishing – e.g. Holden, Khan, Florent

Women in TEFL / Women in EFL Materials (1980s) – Florent, Pugsley, Khan, Walter, [Kathryn] Fuller, [Annemarie] Young - see On balance: Guidelines for the representation of women and men in English Language Teaching materialsLink opens in a new window (1991).

English for Young Learners – Garvie, Dunn, Rixon etc.



Ayres-Bennett, W. & Sanson, H. (eds.) (2020). Women in the History of Linguistics. Cambridge University Press.

Collins, B. & Mees, I.M. (1999). The Real Professor Higgins: The Life and Career of Daniel Jones. Mouton de Gruyter.

Doff, S. (2002). Englischlernen zwischen Tradition und Innovation. Fremdsprachenunterricht für Mädchen im 19. Jahrhundert. Langenscheidt-Longman.

Doff, S. (2008). How language teaching started afresh: Origins and repercussions of the Reform Movement in German foreign language teaching curricula. Journal of the American Association for Curriculum Studies 4 (February 2008): n. pag.

Finotti, I. & Minerva, N. (eds.) (2012). Voix Féminines. Ève et les langues dans l'Europe moderne. Themed issue of Documents pour l'histoire du français langue étrangère ou seconde, 47–48.

Hardach-Pinke, I. (1993). Die Gouvernante. Geschichte eines Frauenberufs. Campus Verlag.

Pennycook, A. (1989). The concept of Method, interested knowledge, and the politics of language teaching. TESOL Quarterly 23(4), 589–618.

Rixon, S. & Smith, R. (2017). A History of IATEFL. Faversham: IATEFL.

Rogers R. (2006). Les femmes dans l'enseignement des langues vivantes : éléments pour une histoire à construire. Études de linguistique appliquée, 142: 135–149.


Background note

I constructed the present 'Women in ELT History' page (beginning in August 2021) under stimulation of the following:

(1) Nicola Prentis approached me in March 2017 with regard to a presentation she wished to give at the Barcelona InnovateELT conference that year. In fact, the presentation was never given, but

(2) I sent Nicola the names of a number of figures and phenomena of possible interest, together with further suggestions from my colleague, Shelagh Rixon (SR in the list above); my and Shelagh's suggestions together form the basis of the list of names above, though we're now hoping to add to them via crowd-sourcing ideas.

(3) following his own conversations with Nicola at that time, Scott Thornbury wrote a blog-post in July 2017 on the topic, 'W is for Women'. I responded to this by commenting I'd like to try to feminize the ELT Archive Hall of Fame in some way but didn't get round to doing so at the time. I did, though, put up a 'health warning', saying we'd be deliberately exploring the role of women in the history of ELT further. 

(4) 2020 publication of the book Women in the History of Linguistics led me to propose that HoLLTnet events should have a Women in the History of Language Learning and Teaching theme. A few proposals were received in relation to the history of ELT, but not many – most concern the history of teaching French or other languages. So, it seems high time to stimulate historical investigation in this area.

(5) In August 2021, Clare Lavery, in a Tweet, again pointed out the problem of under-representation of women in ELT history, in response to a review by Deborah Cameron of the above book. Compiling this page has been my response. Now I'm hoping others will join in with researching in this important and neglected area.

Richard Smith (contact:



For suggestion of A.J. Thomson & A.V. Martinet (1960s) and their short OUP bios, thanks to Graham Burton. For drawing attention to Constance Ripman's (1938) textbook, thanks to Etain Casey. Thanks to Kathryn Fuller for supplying the digital copy of On balance linked to under 'Groups / Sectors / Activities ...' above.


Appendix 1: Beyond the UK and Europe

As names come up of women active/known beyond the UK and Europe for their work in the 1980s or earlier decades in ELT / TESOL / English language education we will list them here:

Maria Junqueira Schmidt (Brazil) - mainly French and education in general, but also English

Wilga M. Rivers (1919–2007) (Australia/USA) - modern languages but also influential in TESOL Further information

Sandra J. Savignon (USA)

Mary Finocchiaro (1913–1996) (Italy/USA)

Christina Bratt Paulston (1932–2016) (USA)

Maria Antonieta Celani (1923–2018) (Brazil)

Zakia Sarwar (Pakistan)

Rama Matthew (India)

Gertrude Moskowitz (1928–2021) (USA) - modern languages but also influential in TESOL as author of Caring and Sharing in the Language Class (1978)

Diane Larsen-Freeman (b. 1946) (USA)

Please send suggestions for addition to Richard Smith (

Appendix 2: Presentation on 'Generating HERstory in ELT' at IATEFL 2023, Harrogate

Presentation slidesLink opens in a new window

Link to padlet: opens in a new window (please feel free to add your suggestions / contact details even if you weren't at the presentation but are viewing the slides later)

charlotte bronte portrait

Charlotte Brontë (in a portrait by her brother Bramwell), who taught English in Belgium both as a governess and in a girls' school - cf. her novel Villette.