Beatrice Ensor

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Beatrice Ensor (1885–1974) was an English theosophical educationist, pedagogue, co-founder of the New Education Fellowship (later World Education Fellowship)[1] and editor of the journal Education for the New Era[2]. She was a vegetarian and anti vivisectionist.

Early years

Born in Marseille on August 11, 1885, Beatrice Nina Frederica de Normann was the eldest child of Albert Edward de Normann and Irene Matilda (née Wood). Her father was in the shipping business and her early years were spent in Marseille and Genoa, hence her fluency in Italian and French. She was greatly influenced by a theosophical book that a visitor to her home had left. This led in 1908 to her joining the Theosophical Society, which came to play an important part in her life. She had two brothers - Sir Eric de Normann (K. B. E., C. B) and Albert Wilfred Noel de Normann ("Bill").

Coming to England to complete her education, she trained as a domestic science teacher and for a short while taught the subject at a college in Sheffield. This led to her being appointed Inspector of women’s and girls’ education by Glamorgan County Council. She became disenchanted with the regimented and passive teaching she saw but when she inspected a Montessori school in Cheltenham, she became very interested in the ideas of Maria Montessori whom she met and corresponded with. She attended a conference in East Runton in 1914 organised by the New Ideals in Education group; the topic of the conference was 'The Montessori Method in Education'.

Theosophy and St Christopher School

She played a major part in founding the Theosophical Fraternity in Education. In 1915, she was invited to become Organising Secretary of the Theosophical Education Trust. She worked closely for a time with George Arundale who became the President of the Theosophical Society (Adyar).

In 1917 she married Robert Weld Ensor, of Northern Irish/English descent, who had served in the Canadian North West Mounted Police [3] and was then a Captain in the Canadian Army coming to England, fighting in France and then going on the Murmansk Expedition. It was Theosophy that brought them together. They had one son, Michael, born in 1919. Annie Besant, Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa and Harold Baillie-Weaver were his godparents.

New Era in Education

In 1922 through the auspices of the Save the Children Foundation she helped to bring under nourished Hungarian children to Britain for a spell to recover their health. She travelled to Budapest and returned with the first party. For this she was awarded a medal by the Hungarian Red Cross [4]. But a more enduring role to her Theosophical role was the production, with A. S. Neill for a time as joint editor, of the Journal Education for the New Era[5], which still flourishes some 90 years later.

The New (World) Education Fellowship

In 1921, she organised a conference in Calais on the ‘Creative Self-Expression of the Child’, with attendance of over 100. Although this was inspired by Theosophists anxious to prevent another world war, what emerged was the New (later World) Education Fellowship [6], an entirely non-political and non-sectarian forum for new ideas in education. It was not to advocate any particular method but to ‘seek to find the thread of truth in all methods’. It still has active sections in some 20 countries. Beatrice Ensor, together with the editors of the other two journals, formed the initial organising committee of the N.E.F., which held international conferences at two yearly intervals, presided over by distinguished educationists and pedagogues.

The second conference of 1923 was held in Montreux, Switzerland and there she met Professor Carl Jung whom she invited to speak at a meeting in London (where she introduced him to H G Wells), Emile Jacques-Dalcroze, Professor Franz Cizek and Alfred Adler.

The N.E.F. and Unesco

Just as Theosophy had a profound influence on the N.E.F., so the N.E.F. had a profound influence on the creation of UNESCO [7]. It was described as "the midwife at the birth of UNESCO" (Kobayashi) and has been an NGO[8] of UNESCO since 1966 (Hiroshi Iwama). It changed its name to W.E.F. that year.

Notes