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Lady Margaret Hall Library: Eglantyne Jebb

This is a previous exhibition, but if you are interested in viewing one of the objects you can make an appointment (email Exhibitions in the library rotate once or twice a year. Have a look at our current exhibitions to see what's on at the moment.

Eglantyne Jebb

Monochrome photograph of Eglantyne Jebb standing with one hand on the back of a chair.

1 of 7 | Eglantyne Jebb (1876–1928)

Eglantyne Jebb was a student at LMH from 1895–1898, who later rose to international fame as the founder (along with her sister) of Save the Children. This photograph was taken while she was at LMH. She was an outspoken critic of class divides, and railed against poverty in all its forms: she was known as the ‘White Flame’ due to her burning conviction and passion.

Photograph of Eglantyne Jebb at LMH. LMH Archives, Album 8

Title page and opposite page of 'The White Flame', including a photograph of Eglantyne Jebb labelled 'The Student of Social Welfare, Cambridge, 1906'. Text of title page transcribed in caption.

2 of 7 | The White Flame

'The White Flame: The Story of the Save the Children Fund, By Dorothy F. Buxton (Mrs. Charles Roden Buxton) and Edward Fuller, with an Introduction by Sir Philip Gibbs, K.B.E.

Her greatness was the greatness of the spirit - the White Flame, as we used to call her. She believed that beyond and above the frontiers of nations, creeds and opinions, there is a supreme cause which has the power to bring into union all the warring factions in one great endeavour to save the children. - Julia Eva Vajkai

Longman's, Green and Co. London. New York. Toronto, and The Weardale Press, LTD., London, MCMXXXI'

Dorothy F. Buxton and Edward Fuller, The White Flame: The Story of the Save the Children Fund (London: Longman's, Green and Co., MCMXXXI [1931]). Entrance Floor 362.7 2

Eglantyne Jebb's line drawings of students taking part in high jump, running and a three-legged race.

3 of 7 | Jebb at LMH

Whilst she was at LMH she apparently removed the carpet and all furniture from her room apart from a bed, desk, and washstand: “questions connected with luxury and expenditure are so difficult”, she explained. These sketches that she produced date from her time at LMH.

After leaving LMH she moved to Cambridge, where she studied the lives of the people in the town and pointed out the massive inequalities that many academics ignored. Then, following a trip to Macedonia in 1913 where she worked with refugees of the Balkan War, she became interested in foreign aid and the plight of refugees and those caught in famines.

Drawings by Eglantyne Jebb. LMH Archives, Deposit 21/5

Eglantyne Jebb's line drawings of various people labelled 'A Spectator', 'Miss Kempe May 1896' and 'Ready for Action'.

4 of 7 | Ready for Action

After Armistice, when the Blockade continued and Central Europe was plunged into famine, she helped to found Fight the Famine Council. However, it focused on political arguments, and she felt it wasn’t doing enough practical work, so on the 15th April 1919 she founded Save the Children. Many felt that a fund raising money for the children of their recent enemies wouldn’t be successful, but after a public launch on the 19th May in the Royal Albert Hall, money started to come in, with early support from the Miners’ Trade Union. This was boosted after she persuaded the Pope to support the fund on Innocent’s Day, 28th December 1919.

Drawings by Eglantyne Jebb. LMH Archives, Deposit 21/5

Logo with text: 'The Save the Children Fund, Salvate Parvulos, Founder Member of the Save the Children International Union'.

5 of 7 | Save the Children

Save the Children became an international organisation based in Geneva in January 1920, supporting children in Central Europe and then soon after in the Russian Famine. They used innovative publicity and fund-raising techniques, including large adverts with actual photos of suffering children, to hammer home the terrible conditions in which children were suffering.

They also pushed for political influence, successfully persuading the new League of Nations to endorse the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (drafted by Eglantyne Jebb herself) on 26th November 1924—the first human rights document approved by an inter-governmental institution.

E. Jebb, Save the Child! : A Posthumous Essay (London: Weardale Press, 1929). 362.7 1

Photograph of Eglantyne Jebb seated at a desk.

6 of 7 | Jebb's Poetry

Sadly Jebb was in failing health due to a thyroid problem, and after three operations for goitre she died in Geneva on 17th December 1928. Her death is still remembered in the Church of England liturgical calendar.

Her collection of poetry The Real Enemy, published in the year of her death, is deeply passionate and eloquent about all inequalities and every bit as relevant today – whether it’s discussing child sweatshop labour or the plight of refugees.

E. Jebb, Post Tenebras Lux (London: Weardale Press, 1929). 821.99 15

Extract from 'The Real Enemy' (transcribed in caption).

7 of 7 | The Real Enemy


Come into Hell, my little child, / Fair shines the sun on mead and hill, / But not for you the undefiled / Sweet air: for you the dusty mill.

And do your fingers drip with blood? / No matter, so they do not stain / Our silk. And do you starve? Eat mud, / Eat mud, with salt of helpless pain.

This lovely world is ours, and this is / Our plan for giving each his part: / To us - bright gold, gay music, kisses; / To you - torn limbs and breaking heart.'

E. Jebb, The Real Enemy (London: Weardale Press, 1928) Librarian’s Office 821.99 25

Commemorating Jebb at LMH

1 of 3 | Plaque

Eglantyne Jebb died on 17th December 1928, and her death is remembered still in the Church of England's liturgical calendar. It is fitting, then, that there are two memorials to her within LMH's chapel, built in 1933. The first is this plaque, in the corridor on the way to the chapel:

In memory of
Eglantyne Jebb 1876–1928
Lady Margaret Hall 1895–1989
Stockwell College 1898–1899
Founder of the Save the Children fund
And the Declaration of Geneva
of the Rights of the Child

2 of 3 | White Flames

The second memorial to Jebb in the chapel is the lights, which were given in her memory and inspired by her moniker of "The White Flame". Some people do not realise their significance these days—but one of them is inscribed "E. J. 1876–1928".

3 of 3 | Bust

The final memorial to Jebb in LMH is this fine bronze bust, given to the college by Save the Children in 2019, the 100th anniversary of the founding of Save the Children, when they held an event at LMH to remember her.

A plaque on the front of its plinth says:

Eglantyne Jebb
Founder, with her sister Dorothy Buxton, of
Save the Children 1919
Pioneer of Children's Human Rights

Whilst a plaque on the rear says:

Generously supported by
Peter Bennett-Jones
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of
Save the Children UK 2015–2019
Ian Wolter – Sculptor 2019

Contact the Library

LMH Special Collections are open to visitors by appointment (email during staffed hours, Monday to Friday, 9.30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Lady Margaret Hall Library
Norham Gardens
United Kingdom


Telephone: (01865) 274361

The librarian, Jamie

Jamie Fishwick-Ford

(Librarian, they/them)

Sally Hamer

(Assistant Librarian, she/her)