Jessie Reid Crosbie (1876-1962)

group photograph in garden with 3 men and 2 women seated at the front and another 3 women behind them

Crosbie family portrait. Jessie Reid Crosbie is on the back row, far left. Accession number MMM2004.95.6

The Little Missus

Jessie Reid Crosbie was born in Everton in September 1876 and dedicated her entire life to teaching. She was a well known pioneer in education reform throughout the country and was an active member of many local welfare groups.

Miss Crosbie became headmistress at Salisbury Street Primary School shortly after the end of the Great War in 1918. At that time poverty and hunger were widespread. The inner city Islington district where she taught was particularly affected. Miss Crosbie, known locally as 'The Little Missus', cared deeply about the children in her care and was always more than just a headmistress.

Miss Crosbie believed that the complete wellbeing of the child was crucial and that in order to learn at school it was necessary to be clean, well rested and well fed. She decided that the living conditions of her pupils were a factor in how each child would learn. She felt that the hungry, tired, half-dressed urchins who attended her school each day would not learn unless she looked at their general welfare. She arranged meetings with their parents developing parenting fellowships to involve the parents in the education of their children.

The changes Miss Crosbie made were groundbreaking. She led the way in changing the education system.

She founded mother and father fellowships, the forerunners of the Liverpool Parent Teacher Association.

She instituted the first school bathhouse system in the country. The installation of a bathhouse within the school, manned by volunteers from the mothers group resulted in up to 30 children per day going home scrubbed and happy in clean clothes.

Aware of the nutritional needs of her pupils, she started a free daily milk scheme. This was another national first and often meant coaxing local shopkeepers into donating the produce.
Many of the children came to school without having breakfast, so she started to give all of her pupils cocoa in the morning.

She found that many of her pupils roamed the streets till as late as midnight and decided to institute a curfew. Any child found out of their homes after 7pm was often on the receiving end of a severe telling off from Miss Crosbie herself, who regularly policed the curfew.

Miss Crosbie campaigned to make the curfew more widespread and used the local media to get her message across. However as the small inner city houses were already cramped and overcrowded, mothers did not welcome the idea of having all of their children in the house under their feet every evening, and the curfew remained popular with just the families from her own school.

Cross shaped medal on a large purple bow

MBE medal. Accession number MMM2004.95.1

Miss Crosbie was headmistress at the Salisbury Street School for more than 25 years and is fondly remembered by her pupils. She was made an MBE in 1933 for her exceptional work in education and was also awarded an honorary MA degree by the University of Liverpool in 1942

She was also an active member of the Girls Guild and for forty years she was a leader in 1st Liverpool Company. Miss Crosbie devoted her life to those less fortunate than herself and on her eightieth birthday several of the groups of which she was a member held parties in her honour.

Miss Crosbie died in January 1962 aged 85. Her MBE medal and the letter from 10 Downing Street informing her that she had been awarded the MBE are in the museum's collections. You can see her MBE on display in The People's Republic gallery. |