The first-ever headmistress of a leading independent school has been honoured with a prestigious accolade.
Sophie Youngman was at the helm of Ipswich High School for Girls, now known as Ipswich High School in Woolverstone, when it opened in 1878 with just 43 pupils.
Now, in recognition of her achievements, a blue plaque has been unveiled for Miss Youngman at the first site of the school – the former Assembly Rooms in Northgate Street, Ipswich, which is now the EasyHotel.
The plaque unveiling ceremony on Wednesday was organised by Ipswich Women’s Festival Group in partnership with the Ipswich Society. Miss Youngman’s plaque is now one of eight for remarkable women in the town.
Oona Carlin, Head of School at Ipswich High School, said: “Our school was founded in 1878 out of a strong passion for women’s education, and for 21 years Sophie Youngman led and developed the school.
“She challenged local prejudice about education when opinions did not favour higher education for girls.
“Her leadership helped many girls access affordable education and gave them the opportunity to sit exams. It meant many pupils could go on to university and achieve professional qualifications.
“Her inspirational work is still celebrated today as we award the Sophie Youngman Prize for scholarly work every year.
“We are very proud of the heritage that the school has developed from.”
Miss Youngman retired in 1899 having dedicated 21 years of service to the school. She died in 1907.
Ipswich High School was based in the Assembly Rooms from 1878 until 1905. It then moved to Brakefield in Westerfield Road from 1905 to 1992, before relocating to its current home at Woolverstone Hall.
Agnes Hallander, from Ipswich Women’s Festival Group, said: “We are absolutely delighted to unveil a blue plaque to Sophie Youngman.
“Blue plaques celebrate the role of women throughout history and their link to the buildings in which they either lived or worked.”
Former Ipswich High School for Girls student Joanna Temple, who was a Sophie Youngman award winner, said: “The school’s motto is ‘Knowledge is now no more a fountain sealed’.
“It shows perfectly how the school was founded on that principle. Each generation has had more opportunities I believe, and I hope that carries on.”
Miss Youngman’s plaque was among two to be unveiled in Ipswich on Wednesday. Margaret Catchpole, a Suffolk folk heroine, has had a plaque installed outside the Manor House in St Margaret’s Green where she worked as a servant for Elizabeth Cobbold.
There are two other blue plaques for former pupils of Ipswich High School. Constance Andrews, the most prominent Suffragette in Ipswich was at the school during Miss Youngman’s headship, and has a plaque on Arlingtons in Museum Street.
Artist, illustrator and children’s book author Margaret Tempest has a plaque in her honour in St Edmunds Road.