Margaret Sutherland

8th July 2011 at 01:00
A nonagenarian who blazed a trail through academia and set an example for younger women

Margaret Sutherland, who has died at the age of 90, was one of an indefatigable breed of post-war working women who blazed a trail through academia, preparing the way for generations to follow.

Early success came at Hutchesons' Girls' Grammar School where she was dux in 1938, and at Glasgow University where she graduated with first-class honours and received the Herkless prize for the most distinguished woman graduate in arts.

After training as a teacher and gaining a first in education and psychology in 1945, she moved to Queen's University, Belfast, as a lecturer in education, marking the start of an association with Northern Ireland that was to last for more than 25 years.

She was helped to settle in by her head of department, Professor Stanley Nisbet, who was an important influence on the rest of her career.

Having completed her PhD thesis on the development of the imagination in education, she lectured throughout the province on psychology with the Workers' Educational Association.

Around this time she developed a love of foreign travel, visiting the Soviet Union as part of a UK delegation of 15 women in 1954, just a year after Stalin's death, when her command of Russian proved useful. She also spent 1962-63 as a visiting lecturer at Rhodes University in South Africa.

While at Queen's she was promoted to senior lecturer and then reader. In 1971, she published her first book, Everyday Imagining and Education, and soon afterwards became head of the department of education at Leeds University.

Following a reorganisation, she was appointed chair of the School of Education in 1975-76. Subsequently, she served as dean of the faculty from 1976-78 and as chair of the board of the Faculty of Education from 1978- 80. Her academic interests included aspects of educational psychology, sex differences in education and comparative education, including a comparative study of the career perceptions of female academics.

In addition to her work with the Board for Collegiate Academic Awards, she served nationally on both the education sub-committee of the University Grants Committee and the University Council for the Education of Teachers.

She retired to St Andrews in 1986 where her thirst for knowledge did not wane. She developed many friendships and new interests - including an enthusiasm for Gaelic and Northern Studies - continued her educational research and remained active in the Association Francophone d'Education Comparee. She was also a prominent member of the Dundee and St Andrews branch of the British Federation of Women Graduates, serving with distinction as chair of its charitable foundation, and was president of the St Andrews branch of the Franco-Scottish Society.

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