Sir Francis Ronalds and his Family

Emily Ronalds

Clifton Terrace in Brighton. Emily spent her last years at No. 27, while four of her Field maternal cousins lived at the other end of the street in No. 2

Sir Francis Ronalds' third sister Emily (1795-1889) epitomised the family's interest in social reform, forming friendships with socialists Robert Owen, Fanny Wright and James Pierrepont Greaves that her siblings shared. She was in Owen's nucleus of strategists, and helped to plan and fund Fanny's experimental community for the emancipation of slaves near Memphis, Tennessee, in 1825 - forty years before America abolished slavery.

She also had strong theoretical and practical interests in early childhood development. With her sister Maria, she established an early infant school in Croydon in 1826 and they studied the educational philosophy of the famous pedagogue Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. In 1841 she was the first British person to visit Friedrich Froebel's newly-established "Kindergarten" in Germany, which he urged her to transplant in England.

Like Sir Francis, Emily did not marry, although the topic of beaus came up in their letters. She chose instead to travel widely. Being fluent in German, she spent considerable time in that country, often accompanied by her nephew Dr Edmund Ronalds, and she also visited her brother Hugh in Illinois, USA, in 1824-5. She contemplated taking a trip to Ontario, Canada, in 1865 to see her distant cousin Lucy, but did not do so.

Emily reached the age of 94 and was the last of the siblings to die.

Further Information

Emily Ronalds (1795-1889) and her Social Reform Work (2023)
- published in the Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society, Vol. 28, No. 2

Sir Francis Ronalds: Father of the Electric Telegraph (2016) - published by Imperial College Press

Alfred Ronalds: Angler, Artisan and Australian Pioneer (2022) - published by Medlar Press

Emily Ronalds' entry in Wikipedia