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Medina Griffiths, 1840-1927

Inspirational headteacher

Medina Griffiths was the first headmistress of the Salt Girl’s High School which opened in Saltaire in 1876.

She was committed to providing excellent education for her girls, and promoting the opportunities that came with it.

First headmistress

In 1868 a new building was opened on Victoria Road in Saltaire to host the ‘factory school’  providing education to children up to the age of ten. By 1876 Sir Titus Salt had decided to open new high schools for girls and boys and to locate them in this building.

The girls’ school was opened in 1876, although it did not move into the Victoria Road building for two years until a new school on Albert Road was ready to provide elementary education. The first headmistress of the girls’ school was Medina Griffiths, who proved to be a woman of outstanding character and ability. 

Medina was born in 1840, the daughter of a Congregational minister in Wales. She had been teaching in a school near Cardiff when she was appointed headmistress in Saltaire.

E1b-080a: Medina Griffiths
E1b-080a: Medina Griffiths

A broad education

E1b-074a-b: Cast of Salt High School for Girls production of 'The Dragon' 1923
E1b-074a-b: Medina's promotion of performances as part of education had a long legacy. Here is the cast from a Salts Girls High School production of 'The Dragon' in 1923

Medina’s view about girls’ education is summed up in her words,

I would have girls placed on an equality with boys so far as educational advantages are concerned…I would have girls stand in the foremost rank.

Medina was progressive in her teaching methods and introduced a wide curriculum that included Latin, Greek, French, English, maths, drama, art and music. She encouraged the girls to remain in education and take a university degree. Many of the girls in the school did so.

Harriet Byles, who taught at the school (and was the second headmistress), recorded an address given by Medina to parents and friends before a school entertainment. In this she said:

This evening’s entertainment is part of my scheme for girl’s education. I believe that lessons of patience, unselfishness, self-control and attention to detail can be learned through a well-directed play as thoroughly as from schoolwork. Opportunities are given for a clever use of knowledge and for the strengthening of imagination and taste. (a Play) can educate young girls to control undue shyness of strangers (which is) a valuable lesson in itself

An enlightened education

Medina was deeply interested in the girls’ education and was an inspirational teacher. She read to students at mealtimes, was witty and musical and her approach to discipline was unusual.

For example, the school rule ‘no more time for homework than the allotted time’ was based on Medina’s idea that ‘with 5 hours work during the day, one hour’s homework was the most girls should have’.

On her birthdays, she entertained students at her home, and each brought toys or clothes for donation to charities.

E1a-021a: Salt Schools certificate' for Ada Fox on leaving the school in 1879 signed by Medina Griffiths and Titus Salt Junior
E1a-021a: Salt Schools certificate' for Ada Fox on leaving the school in 1879 signed by Medina Griffiths and Titus Salt Junior

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