Madame’s Pioneers

s Pioneers booklet

The following excerpts are taken from a booklet, put together by Jane Claydon (Dartford 1968) called Madame’s Pioneers.

The Bergman Österberg’s Archive commissioned the research to be undertaken to mark the 100 years that had passed since the death of Madame in July 2015.


Madame’s Pioneers: Winifred O. Legg

W.O. Legg 1913 1

Winifred O. Legg (1913)

Winifred was a pupil at Highbury High School before she entered MBÖ’s college in 1911. Her first teaching post was at Berkhampsted High School where she joined her college Senior, Florence Jaeger, in the Games Department. Winifred later undertook a course at Swanley Horticultural College and, during WW1, taught at Baliol School in Sedbergh .

Winifred played lacrosse for England in 1913. In 1924 she published a book called Lacrosse for Beginners. (It was a fore runner of Margaret Boyd’s book about coaching lacrosse which she wrote in 1959.)

Winifred’s description of the lacrosse goalkeeper’s outfit: cricket pads, a chest and abdominal protector and good padded gloves demonstrates the limited amount of protection these players had at that time. The rules suggest that the tunic should be of regulation length – three inches off the ground when kneeling. On the inside cover is an advertisement for Hattersley’s and at the back of the book are advertisements showing a line drawing of a tunic available from Grahame’s of Leicester. A Lally’s lacrosse stick cost from 15/6 and the “Watson” lacrosse boots were advertised from 7 shillings a pair. This equipment was available from Alec Watson’s in Manchester.

In 1927 Winifred was elected a member of the Ling Council and was appointed to the staff of Chelsea College of Physical Training in 1928 where she remained until 1942. Winifred was a well known hockey and lacrosse umpire.


Madame’s Pioneers: Norah S. Strathairn

Norah S. Strathairn (1912)Norah Strathairn 1912

Norah attended St Leonards School in St Andrews and, while still at college, was identified as a very good games coach. She gained the Bergman Österberg Certificate with First Class Honours in Hockey, La Crosse, Cricket, Gymnastics and Teaching. Madame invited her to join her staff in 1912. There are many photographs in the BÖU archive of Norah coaching hockey, cricket and lacrosse. Norah left Dartford in 1917 and taught at Berkhampsted Boy’s School before returning to St Leonards in 1919 as Drill and Games Mistress.

Norah was a talented games player and played for Scotland in the first Home Internationals in 1913, alongside Rosabelle Sinclair and six another graduates from MBÖ’s college. (Nineteen of MBÖ’s former students or present students played for either England, Scotland or Wales in these inaugural matches.

Between 1921-29 Norah captained the Scottish Ladies Lacrosse team. She also played in the team in the 1930s. Norah presented E.R. Clarke, Captain of England’s Lacrosse team in 1921, with a silver spoon to commemorate the start of internationals after WW1. ER Clarke spoon bNorah also played hockey for Scotland from 1919 until 1925 and was Captain for two seasons. She was selected as an ‘A’ Umpire in 1927. Norah also wrote articles about coaching hockey and lacrosse in Hockey Field and Lacrosse in the 1930s.   Norah was linked with the Women’s Cricket Association in the late 1920s and early 1930s. W.C.A .matches took place at St Leonards in that era.


Madame’s Pioneers: Phyllis Clubbe

Phyllis Clubbe 1912

Phyllis Clubbe (1912)

Phyllis was born in Australia, although both her parents were English. Her father was Sir Charles Clubbe, an eminent Australian surgeon. Phyllis came to England with her Mother at the age of three. She attended Wycombe Abbey School, where she showed great aptitude for games. She returned to Australia where she helped to found the New South Wales Hockey Association in 1908 and launch hockey to women in Australia.

Phyllis met Winifred West playing hockey and together they decided to start a school for girls. However, further training was necessary before embarking on the project. Phyllis returned to England and entered MBÖ’s college in 1910, aged 25.

On completion of her two year course she returned to Australia and, with Winifred, founded Frensham School in Mittagong in 1913. On the first day the school had three pupils but by 1919 there were over one hundred. Phyllis taught gymnastics and games and was also in charge of the health of the school. In the very first term a small pox scare resulted in the whole school being vaccinated against the disease by the local doctor.

From the beginning, tennis, hockey and cricket were played and inter school matches began in 1914. Girls who attended the school remember not only the traditional games but the game she occasionally organised called Bobbies and Bushies. This took place by the creek, trees, caves and boulders at the far end of the estate.


Madame’s Pioneers: Mary Stewart Tait

           Mary Stewart Tait (1892)M.S.Tait

Mary achieved Class II in Final Honours in Modern Languages at Oxford in addition to gaining the Hampstead Physical Training College Certificate. She is well known for introducing to Madame ‘a simple pleated tunic, which reached the ground when the student knelt’. It eventually became the usual school uniform for many girls all over the world. At one stage Mary taught Kindergarten children and working class girls in Edgbaston and also had some private patients. In 1893 Mary was listed as the Superintendent at Dartford and was Vice Principal for six years. The photograph, dated about 1903, in the BÖU Archive shows her wearing a Madame Bergman Österberg College brooch.

Mary was appointed Lady Principal of Dunfermline College of Hygiene and Physical Training in 1908. During her time in office, in 1909, the Scotch Education Department recognised the college as a Central Institution for the purposes of Education and it was therefore eligible to receive grants. The History of Dunfermline College quoted the minute of the Committee of Council on Education in Scotland, which was presented to both Houses of Parliament in June 1909: The Diploma is recognised by the Scotch Education Department as the basis of a special qualification to conduct Physical Exercise and School Gymnastics… Candidates for admission to the college were expected to hold the Intermediate Certificate of the Scotch Education Department or an equivalent. Mary appointed three of Madame’s former students to her staff: *Anna Holmblad (1902), Vera Volkhovsky (1904) and Ruth Craigmile (1906). Five male students were enrolled in 1908 and by 1909 there were sixteen, but the experiment was not deemed to be a success in the long term. The men found it difficult to obtain posts. Mary resigned her post as Principal in 1910 as a result of a disagreement with the Dunfermline College Trustees re her salary.


*Anna was seconded to the Scotch Education Department in 1913 to be an assistant inspector of physical training.




Madame’s Pioneers: Hanna Gustava Flyborg


Hanna Flyborg bHanna Flyborg (1897)

Madame Bergman Österberg’s College in 1897 and was listed as a member of staff at the Women’s College of Baltimore in 1897-98.

Madame Bergman Österberg’s report, dated 1898, indicated that Hanna had reported that hockey had been introduced to the college in 1897. This was well before Constance Applebee started her pioneering programme in 1901.

Hanna also made reference to the use of Zander machines at the college, which were popular in gymnasiums in America.

She also stated: I have had an admirable opportunity of keeping up my studies in Anatomy at the Women’s Medical College. In May I passed the final examination for the doctor’s degree in Anatomy. Madame invited Hanna to join her staff in 1898.


Madame’s Pioneers: E.R. Clarke

Clarke E R

Edith R. Clarke was a pupil at Rochester Grammar School before she became a student at MBÖ’s college in 1904.

On completion of her course, E.R. as she was known, was appointed a member of staff at Roedean School and then, in 1910, Madame invited her to return to college to join her staff. E.R. took charge of games, dancing and assisted with teaching practice.  E.R. was a very well respected hockey coach and she played hockey for England for many years.

She was a founding member of the Ladies Lacrosse Association in 1912.

E.R. was also a lacrosse internationalist and she was the Captain of the very first England Lacrosse Team in 1913.  E.R. was a talented games player and also played tennis at Wimbledon.

Madame was clearly forward thinking as she asked E.R. to attend a Dalcrose Course in Europe in 1913. Unfortunately, the outbreak of WW1 meant E.R. had to return to England and resume her post on the staff at college.

E.R was a well known figure in the world of women’s sport in the first decades of the 1900s. She regularly wrote columns with ideas for players and coaches in Hockey Field and Lacrosse.  In 1911 she wrote a letter to the magazine supporting the Southern Ladies Lacrosse Club’s decision to adopt gymnastic dress for their matches.

E.R. was appointed an H.M.I. just before Madame died.


Madame’s Pioneers: Gwynneth Morris

1907 Gwynneth Morris - Copy   Gwynneth Morris (1906)

Gwynneth’s older sisters, Miss Mary and Miss Edith Morris, joint Headmistresses of the Melbourne Girls’ Grammar School, sent her to MBÖ’s college in 1904.  Gwynneth returned to Australia in 1906 and took over the responsibility for games and gymnastics at the school. Miss Gwynneth, as she was known, promptly introduced Swedish gymnastics to the school and also a navy blue box pleated tunic. The girls’ and their parents were initially unhappy about the revealing outfits, although the girls appreciated the greater freedom of movement the tunics allowed. The tunic eventually became part of the school uniform in many of the Melbourne schools.

The girls already played hockey, cricket and tennis, but Gwynneth added rounders and basketball to the curriculum. Swimming became popular and the school entered competitions. Lacrosse and basketball were tried but did not become popular. Baseball was introduced as a good preparation for cricket and quickly took over from the traditional game.  Swedish Gymnastics attracted interest from members of the medical profession. Gwynneth formed a special gymnastic class to be prepared and ready to give demonstrations to doctors, educationalists and other interested groups.

In 1908, Gwynneth, a keen hockey player, formed the Victorian Women’s Hockey Association. In 1910 she was the first President of the All Australian Women’s Hockey Association. Gwynneth was forced to resign from her post in 1913 when she married but, in her seven years of teaching, she had introduced pioneering ideas and new concepts to the school   Another of MBÖ’s graduates, Miss J. M. Thomson, had been appointed to assist Gwynneth and the Melbourne GGS led the way in having qualified staff for physical training.



Madame’s Pioneers: Vera Volkhovsky

Vera Volkovsky 1905 Vera Volkhovsky (1905)

Vera was born in Siberia and smuggled out of Russia, at a very early age, disguised as a boy. Her mother had committed suicide and her father, Felix, a well known dissident, was already living abroad, having left Russia a few years earlier because of his political views.

Vera attended St Felix School, Southwold and then spent two years at Somerville College, Oxford, before embarking on her training at MBÖ’s College. In 1907, the Principal of Dunfermline College of Hygiene and Physical Training, Ethel Adair Roberts appointed Vera to her staff. Vera went on to teach at St Paul’s School for girls in 1910 until about 1913. In January 1917 she returned to Dartford and joined the teaching staff.  Vera is included in a staff photograph, alongside E.R. Clarke and Norah Strathairn, dated 1917. As Senior members of staff, Vera and E.R. were both presented to King George V and Queen Mary when they visited Dartford in 1918.

Vera moved in unexpected circles. Early in 1914 she went to stay with D.H. Lawrence for a month in Albergo delle Palme. She fell in love with Bertrand Russell who did not return her interest. In Bertrand Russell and the Volkhovsky letters it records that she worked in the Women’s Land Army during WW1 and also engaged in Russian émigré politics. She was the representative of the Social Revolutionary Party and on the Committee of Delegates of Russian Socialist Groups in London. Vera married Montague Fordham in 1921 but it was not a happy relationship and they separated.  Vera obtained permission to go to Russia in 1923 and during her year there she adopted two Russian Civil war orphans, a boy and a girl.

The ODNB suggests that Vera taught for a while as a gym. mistress in Cardiff and the BOU Archive records that she developed a private Physiotherapy Practice.  Robert Spence Watson was a friend of Felix, Vera’s father.  Robert was the father of Evelyn, one of Madame’s Hampstead students, who completed her course in 1891. Vera translated many of her father’s books but very little is known about her subsequent life. She dropped out of Russian émigré circles which she had been proud to be involved with and died in London in 1966.


Madame’s Pioneers: Christabel Lawrence

Christabel was one of Madame’s very early students in Hampstead. She taught drill and games at Wimbledon House School, which three of her older sisters: Penelope, Millicent and Dorothy Lawrence had founded. In 1888 Christabel was in charge of the school cricket team. She was reportedly scathing in her criticisms of the girls and said: girls whose absence from cricket practices result from their innate frivolity, going to riding, bathing or even playing tennis.

Christabel was very involved with the establishment of a Hockey Association for women. After the first England trials, organised by Miss Johnson of the Molesey Club at Neasden on 30th March 1895, the Misses Lawrence, Johnson and Jamieson held a meeting to discuss the possibility of forming a Ladies Hockey Association. (Hockey was introduced in the Autumn Term 1895 to Madame’s college which, by then, was at Dartford.)

Although neither team could be described as representative an English v Irish match was held on 10th April 1895. After the game, Christabel, together with the Misses Johnson, Guinness, Tatham and Jamieson, met in a tea shop in Brighton to make further plans for an Association. At this meeting Christabel volunteered to be the first Honorary Secretary and Treasurer and her offer was accepted.

Christabel’s obituary in the Roedean School Magazine dated 1952, recorded that: Mrs Cope Cornford was also present at the first formal meeting of the Ladies Hockey Association on 23rd November 1895 when she represented Wimbledon House School, which is now Roedean School. It was she who obtained permission from the A.E.W.H.A. to form the Sussex team which caused the whole question of County Teams to be discussed.

Christabel married Mr Cope Cornford in 1898 and, unusually for the time, continued to teach after her marriage. Christabel was made an Honorary Life Member of the A.E.W.H.A.