Jessie Reid Crosbie trained at Edge Hill College on Durning Road in Edge Hill Liverpool between 1895 and 1897. Born in Everton in 1876, she came from Liverpool, and, after her training, she spent her working life teaching in Liverpool until she retired in 1942. What marks her out from the many teachers who worked long hours at that time was that she was a pioneer and became a leading figure in education in Liverpool and gained national recognition.

In the aftermath of the First World War, she acted on her concerns about the health of her young charges by introducing one of the first free school milk schemes in the country at Salisbury Street School in Islington (initially known as St Augustine’s CE). Her concerns for the wellbeing of the children at her elementary school also led her to introduce a school bathing scheme and she provided clothing where necessary as she wanted them to take pride in themselves. In addition, she is remembered for her early efforts to build communications between the school and parents. A tribute to Jessie in the Edge Hill College magazine following her death in 1962 was written by a lifelong friend who suggested that it was from this small beginning that ‘thousands of Parent-Teacher Associations’ sprang.

Jessie discusses her approach to teaching and supporting her students in her book This Kingdom Called Home, published in 1954, which is held in the Edge Hill University archive. Material in the archive also uncovers how active she was in the College Guild (a forerunner of the Students’ Union). While she studied at Edge Hill, she formed meaningful, lifelong friendships with her peers. She also left a wonderful contribution in a friendship book. It was the custom of the time for graduating students to have a notebook into which their fellow students would contribute sayings, poems, drawings etc to be remembered by. In one of these Jessie included the following very decorative tribute to her fellow teacher trainees.

The care she took over this indicates not only a meticulous nature but what the time at Edge Hill meant to her. According to a friend, Jessie had an ‘intense love of Edge Hill College and all it stood for’ (EHC Magazine 1962, p.13). Indeed, she kept up friendships she had made at the college for the rest of her life and continued to visit for decades after she graduated. In turn the repeated mention of her in the College Magazine shows that the college was proud of her courage and untiring work amongst the poor and her contribution to education. Her hard work was rewarded by respect from the Salisbury Street and Edge Hill communities and an MBE in 1933 for her exceptional work in education.

Professor Alyson Brown