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Jane Falconer Coulter

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Jane Falconer Coulter (1863-1910) was a former head teacher of James Allen Girl's School, who grew up In Dumbarton. She is the earliest identified female Oxbridge graduate from the town.

Early life[edit]

Coulter was born in Aberdeen in 1863. Her father John, a ship joiner and mother Catherine Falconer moved the family to Dumbarton around 1870 where Jane attended Dumbarton Academy and was individually tutored by the headteacher Mr AT Watson.

In 1882 she enrolled in LLA programme run by the University of St Andrews. The LLA (Lady Literate in Arts) was a way for women to access higher education in the time before they could attend university or be awarded degrees.

Awarded her LLA in 1882 Jane then won (coming second on the list) a place to study Classics at Girton College, Cambridge. In 1869, Girton became the first residential institution in the country to offer women a higher education.

In 1886 Jane qualified with second class honours having been denied the higher class; “there being no first class for women”.

Professional life[edit]

Coulter went on to teach around England, first in Gateshead, then Birmingham and then in 1896 she became Headmistress of James Allen’s Girls School (JAGS) in Dulwich, which remains one of the most prestigious girls’ schools in the country.[1] She was head teacher from 1896 until her death, from breast cancer in 1910.

Both of Ralph Vaughan Williams, in 1903, and Gustav Holst, in 1904, were taken on as teachers at JAGS during Coulter's incumbency. She persuaded the governors to give Holst a raise, pointing out that his loss would be "irreparable as he manages the girls splendidly and is a thorough musician, but his work as a composer is unfortunately not remunerative".[2]


  1. Green, Brian (1991). To read and sew - : James Allen's Girls' School : 1741-1991. Dulwich: Governors, James Allen's Girls' School. p. 37-38. ISBN 978-0-9517218-0-3. Search this book on
  2. Galinou, Mireille (2015). The Dulwich Notebook. Your London Publishing. p. 63. ISBN 978-0-9933610-0-5. Search this book on

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