Dame Bertha Surtees Phillpotts (1877 - 1932)
Cambridge academic Dame Bertha Surtees Phillpotts was born in Bedford in 1877 and educated at home. Despite her lack of formal education, she won a scholarship to Girton College, Cambridge where she studied medieval and modern languages, Old Norse and Celtic. She graduated in 1901 with First Class Honours. A further scholarship enabled her to continue her research in Iceland and Denmark.
She worked as a librarian at Girton College between 1906 and 1909, and during the First World War she worked at the British legation in Stockholm. She was principal of Westfield College from 1919 until 1921, and the following year she became Mistress of Girton College. She held this post until 1925 when she moved to Tunbridge Wells to care for her father.
She continued her research at Cambridge, commuting from Tunbridge Wells by car. From 1926 until her death she was Director of Scandinavian Studies and lecturer at Girton College. Her extensive work included translations of old Icelandic sagas, and studies on the influence of Old Norse and Icelandic on the English language. She was awarded the OBE for her wartime service, and was awarded the DBE for services to education. Six months before her death in 1932 she married fellow Cambridge academic Hugh Newall.
portrait by Philip de László