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Spotlight on the Principal

By day

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The Royal Holloway archives are full of references to Miss Higgins who was Principal from 1907 to 1935. Throughout the reminiscences there are descriptions of her masculine day wear and the elegant transformation she went through each evening when she changed for dinner. These personal accounts from the people around her paint an intriguing picture of Royal Holloway’s long standing principal.  

Students from the 1920s recollected that:

"Miss E C Higgins was always known as ‘Chief’ and I really need only three words for her. They are ‘masculine’ and ‘law and order’…Seated at her desk where her long full skirt was not visible, she looked and sounded exactly like a man. I can’t swear that her severely tailored jacket was black and her collar starched but that was the impression I got" (RHC/RF/132/8).

RHC-A57-ECH-suit-thumbnailRHC A57; c. 1920s  

"Miss Higgins wore man’s suits almost, with skirts just showing her tip-toes and she rode a bicycle down to Egham Station and in the summer she had black straw hats and in the winter black felt hats" (RHC/RF/132/6).


RHC-PH-285-1-17-ECH-hat-thumbnailRHC/PH/285/1/17; c. 1920s

Dr Edith Batho, Principal 1946 – 1962 recalled a story she heard when Queen Mary met Miss Higgins:

"Queen Mary came along and everybody was presented and when Queen Mary had got to a discreet distance she said in her deep voice “But why did that man curtsey to me?” Miss Higgins you see belonged to the generation that wore stiff collars and a tie and had very Eton cropped hair" (RHC/RF/132/3).

RHC-uncatalogued-ECH-hockey-committee-thumbnailRHC uncatalogued; c. 1920s

Miss Higgins’ Private Secretary from 1941 to 1962 described her as:

"Rather severe and masculine looking. But it was only her clothes that were masculine. When she was first appointed Principal she was not very interested in clothes. So she went to Worth, and Worth dressed her as he thought suitable for the Principal of a woman’s college, and she stuck to the style for the rest of her life" (RHC/RF/132/4).



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