Forgotten Women Wake
Margaret & Ellen Gissing
Margaret “Madge” Emily Gissing was born in 1863, followed by her sister Ellen “Nellie” Sophia Gissing in 1867 at the chemist shop at 60 Westgate, Wakefield.
While their brother George has earned standing as an author, the sisters were constrained by the time and had far fewer opportunities. And yet, despite this huge obstacle, the “Misses Gissing” dedicated their lives to teaching and passing on the skills they had learned, a vocation that would mean their legacy is truly one that can be felt in Wakefield even today. Chiefly, they are renowned for founding Wakefield’s Boys Preparatory School in 1898. The school, though small, served to provide a thorough education for almost fifteen years before closing when the sisters moved from Wakefield to Leeds in 1912. On top of the usual reading and arithmetic, the Gissings oversaw sports education as well as ensuring the boys received instruction in music and languages. Accounts say the sisters, though apparently formidable, were well thought of among pupils. They even earned the affectionate nicknames “Big Gis” and “Little Gis”.
The other major aspect of the sisters’ lives was their religion, and this appears to have been a source of strength, particularly in their declining years.
Margaret and Ellen are 4 and 5 in our quest for #BluePlaqueParity.
We unveiled the Gissings’ plauqe as a ‘back by popular demand’ theatre production of “Difficult Women?” at The Mechanics’ Theatre in June 2019.
Find out all about Ellen and Margaret’s history and the lives they touched with our broadsheets below. Just click on broadsheet page you wish to read and then double click to zoom in and read at your leisure. Please contact us if you require the text in a different format.
Press & Media Coverage of Our Gissing Sisters Work