Remembering Miss Gray
To mark International Women's Day on 8 March, Keith Rowntree explores the life of a long forgotten member of staff at the City of Leeds Training College.
Ethel Gray (front), Zoe Walford and Gertrude Clapham (standing) with Richard Parker (behind).
Ethel Gray (1879 -1957) was an artist, although her life in art and art education is largely forgotten, she did inspire generations of teachers and their pupils by her dedication to her own craft. Ethel’s main teaching post was at the Leeds Training College but also taught at York and Leeds Art Colleges. During the 1920s, she tutored at the Forbes School of Art in Newlyn; and had once been a student of Stanhope Forbes.
Ethel Gray was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the eldest of eleven children. Her father, Thomas Gray, was a mechanical engineer and her mother was Elizabeth Willis. Around 1882, the Gray family moved to Leeds and by the turn of the century were living in an affluent part of York. Ethel studied at York School of Art, Leeds College of Art and the Royal College of Art. She began teaching at York in 1904 and gained her Art Class Teacher’s Certificate in 1909. She had teaching posts at Leeds Thoresby High School and York Technical School before gaining her Art Master’s Teacher’s Certificate and beginning work at the City of Leeds Training College in 1913. Ethel was active in the National Society of Art Masters that placed emphasis on drawing and design in Art Education, its agenda helped shape art education in British art schools in the first half of the twentieth century. It was predominantly, but not exclusively, a male centred organisation. Ethel was elected Assistant Secretary to the N.E. District branch of the Society.
Ethel exhibited regularly throughout the country, her work was included in the 1946 Leeds College of Art Centenary Exhibition, she frequently exhibited at the Royal Academy from the 1930s to around 1950 and the New Zealand Government bought several of her plant studies.
It is unclear where Ethel died. Her sister Mary Ann married and moved to South Africa. Ethel visited South Africa at least twice, in 1936 and 1955. She did not marry and may have gone to live with her sister in her later years and died in Africa.