Marjorie Ethel Reeves was born at Bratton, Wiltshire on July 17, 1905 the second daughter of Robert John W. Reeves and Edith Sarah Whitaker. Her father’s family owned and ran a successful iron works in the village making agricultural machinery. Her mothers family could trace its continuous presence in Bratton from 1576. Marjorie was brought up in Wiltshire and educated at the High School for Girls in Trowbridge before studying modern history at St Hugh’s College, Oxford.
Marjorie was brought up in Wiltshire and educated at the High School for Girls in Trowbridge before studying modern history at St Hugh’s College, Oxford. Her first appointment was as Assistant Mistress at Roan School, Greenwich from 1927 to 1929. But it was as a Research Fellow at Westfield College, London from 1929 to 1931 that her research career began with a PhD on medieval heretical mystics, concentrating on the career of Abbot Joachim of Flora. From 1931 to 1938 she was a Lecturer at St Gabriel’s Training College, Camberwell.
In 1938 she became a Fellow and Tutor in History of the Society of Oxford Home Students, which was later to become St Anne’s College, Oxford, with which she was connected until her retirement in 1974. She was twice Vice-Principal of St Anne’s, from 1951 to 1962 and again from 1964 to 1967. As an educationalist she served as a member of Central Advisory Council of the Ministry of Education from 1947 to 1961. In 1974 she was appointed a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).
In 1975 she spent a semester at Columbia University, New York and two years later she was Distinguished Professor in Medieval Studies at the University of California at Berkeley. Further public honours followed, D.Litt. of Oxford University, Honorary Fellowships at St Hugh’s and St Anne’s colleges, a Corresponding Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and in 1996 Commander of the British Empire (CBE) for her services to history and education.
In addition to her many academic works She also wrote three books using her family papers: Sheep Bell and Ploughshare: the story of two village families (1978), The Diaries of Jeffrey Whitaker, Schoolmaster of Bratton 1739-1749 (1989) and Pursuing the Muses: female education and Nonconformist culture 1700- 1900 (1997). The first two being invaluable in my own family research.
She spent her retirement writing, gardening and travelling, especially in Italy where she was made an honorary citizen of the town of Fiore in recognition of her research on Abbot Joachim
Marjorie Ethel Reeves died at the age of 98 at Oxford on November 27, 2003