6The description of Ethel Davies in Elizabeth Lloyd's unpublished book about the Caldecott Community begins "Ethel Davies was born in Liverpool in 1897, the youngest of two daughters of a well-to-do Ship's Chandler...."

For many generations of children who grew up at the Caldecott Community she was simply known as "Miss Dave"; and many of those generations will never have fully understood that she herself had been a child, and then a young woman, who shaped the nature and history of therapeutic child care in the 20th century, but whose life is otherwise largely unknown.

From 1931 until her death in 1974 she was a Co-Director of the Caldecott Community, and in his still unsurpassed 1971 book  Pioneer Work With Maladjusted Children, Maurice Bridgeland says of her, through the philtre of the Community's Founder Leila Rendel, "The effect of her personality and her rejection of dogma makes it difficult to analyse the principles and structures of her work. 'No theory is admitted by Miss Rendel, or her partner, Miss Davies, that has not been tried on the touchstone of many years' experience'." Not to mention the touchstone of many children's lives.

In these pictures, from the John Brown Collection, recently digitised by Barry Northam, the girl and the young woman stand out, the young woman surrounded by children. In her arms is an unnamed dog, perhaps the first (or second, or third?) in a line of companions who led to Miss D's golden retriever Silver, who was the mother of Leila Rendel's own Tess, known and celebrated by generations of post-War Caldecott children.

Let's have the research to help us understand this pioneer more fully. What about her growing up? What about her education? What about her family? What about her life before 1928, when she joined the Caldecott Community as a housekeeper. Assuming her year of birth is correct (Elizabeth Lloyd gives it as 1897, but on the back of the childhood photograph below it is given as 1895), she had just recently turned 30. How old is she in the photographs with children? Are they even Caldecott children? Was it she who introduced dogs famously into the Community?

 

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Ethel Davies aged about 16

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Elizabeth Lloyd writing about Ethel Davies: See here.

Maurice Bridgeland, Pioneer Work With Maladjusted Children, Staples Press (1971), p. 84. The Section is titled "Twentieth Century Originals".

On Tess and her mother Silver, see Barry Northam, "My Caldecott Memories".

For the most recent Caldecott Archive Weekend, where these photographs were digitised: See here.