Between 1896 and 1954 the role of School Secretary, the senior administrator in the School, was held by three women apart from a brief period between 1938-1940. LSE Archivist, Sue Donnelly, looks at the career of the last of these women, Eve Evans (1894-1971) who worked at the School from 1920 to 1954.
At the end of summer term 1954 LSE held a dinner in the SCR attended by a record number of members. The dinner was held in honour of Eve Evans, School Secretary, who was about to retire following 34 years of service at the School.
Edith Evans (who was usually known as Eve) was born in Wales on 14 February 1894 – her middle name was Valentine – where her father, William Evans, owned a farm at Blaenffos in Pembrokeshire. The family later purchased a farm in Sussex and Eve attended Brighton and Hove High School, taking her Higher Certificate in 1911 and London Matriculation in 1912. In 1914 she began her studies at Royal Holloway College, receiving a bursary of £30 for three years and took the Intermediate Arts course focussing on Latin, Greek and Ancient History. In the following two years she followed the Classics course graduating with a second class degree in 1917. Eve also found time to be Secretary and then President of the Christian Union, a member of the Classical Club Committee, President of the Dickens Club and Secretary of the Shakespeare Society.
After leaving Royal Holloway Eve joined the Civil Service for a brief period before arriving at LSE on 1 June 1920 as assistant to the Dean, then the former School Secretary, Christian Mactaggart. David Mair, head of the Civil Service Commission and husband of the School’s new School Secretary Jessy Mair, had granted permission for Eve to be released from her civil service contract and to begin work at LSE. Eve’s duties included registering students and answering queries, with a starting salary of £210 per annum rising to £250 pa on the completion of 6 months’ probation. She received three weeks holiday each summer.
However soon after Eve’s arrival Christian Mactaggart took retirement and in June 1921 Eve Evans was given the title of Registrar and rank of assistant. In June 1923 Jessy Mair wrote “She is devoted to her work and I have a great respect for her zeal in carrying it out” and proposed raising her salary to £325 per annum. In November 1923 Eve Evans was promoted to the grade of Assistant Secretary retaining the title of Registrar.
Throughout the ’20s and ’30s Eve Evans continued in her role as Registrar, her service occasionally broken by bouts of influenza, a sprained ankle in 1929 and deaths of her parents in 1932 and 1935. In 1937 as William Beveridge and Jessy Mair were preparing to leave LSE it appears that Eve Evans was also seeking a new appointment.
In January 1937 Beveridge recommended her for the post of Assistant in Higher Education at Kent Education Committee saying “I should like to recommend to you a candidate (a woman) who has had what I think you will regard as first-rate experience here at the School under the Secretary and myself, and of who personally I have the highest opinion.” However it was likely the post required some teaching experience. The following month Jessy Mair recommended Eve for the post of Warden at the London School of Medicine for Women based at the Royal Free Hospital. Unfortunately as Eve Evans was 43 she was above the age limit for the post of Warden and Secretary.
In the end Eve Evans remained at the School, working with Alexander Carr-Saunders as Director and the new School Secretary, Walter Adams. During the Second World War she moved with the School to Cambridge during its evacuation. In the first year of the war she was offered a Principalship in the Civil Service but the School would not release her from employment and in 1940 when Walter Adams joined the Political Intelligence Department at the Foreign Office Eve Evans took on many of his duties and the title of Acting Secretary. In 1941 an additional £100 pa was added to her salary in recognition of the additional work and responsibility.
Still in the alumnus newsletter produced by the Reader in English Law Seaborne Davies, Eve Evans is described as “just the same as ever, full of fun”. But she must have borne a great part of the burden of ensuring that LSE survived the war and was able to return to London in 1945 in reasonable shape.
On the 1 June 1945, 25 years after her arrival at the School the Standing Committee resolved to appoint Eve Evans to the post of School Secretary. In 1951 she applied for sabbatical leave and the Director expressed his support. A note in the LSE Society Magazine, July 1957 reports that Eve Evans was in Italy taking her first sabbatical leave.
From 1 August 1953 Eve Evans’ salary was £1,900 pa but on 1 October she wrote to the Chairman, Sir Otto Niemeyer, that she would be retiring at the end of the summer term 1954. The Governors awarded her a supplementary pension of £408 pa on top of her retiring pension. In his Director’s Report for the year Carr-Saunders noted that
Those who worked with Miss Evans will always remember her unfailing equanimity under all circumstances, however trying, her consideration for all those with whom she came into contact and her most effective discharge of the important duties attached to the post of Secretary.
In retirement Eve Evans lived in the Cotswolds, sharing a cottage with Kay Lewis, a friend from her Royal Holloway days. They finally settled in Blockley where she died on 8 August 1971. Her funeral was held in Blockley Parish Church. In his Times obituary Professor Lionel Robbins noted:
Her desk was always clear: and even at the height of those crises which so frequently beset academic life, with its innumerable committees and disproportionate tensions, she was as cool as a cucumber and seemed always to have time for clarifying and sympathetic discussion … With a natural elegance of manner enhanced by height and distinction of appearance, she was a warm human being, intensely loyal to the institution to which she belonged and devoted to a wide circle of friends.
Sadly we have yet to find a photograph of the woman who played a key role in School life for over 30 years.
Edith Valentine Evans, Royal Holloway College Student Record
LSE/Staff-Student Files/Eve Evans
Lord Robbins Miss E V Evans obituary, Times, 16 August 1971
Alexander Carr-Saunders Director’s Report, 1953-1954.
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