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Highlights from the Archive – Isaline Blew Horner


In a week that promoted opportunity and ambition for women, marked by International Day of the Girl, school archivist Mrs Halford cast light on a Prior’s Field Old Girl whose language studies took her to Cambridge in the early 1900s, to Asia and ultimately to receiving an OBE: ‘Her name was Isaline Blew Horner and she was at Prior’s Field from 1912 until 1914. This photo from the School Archive shows her sitting between two friends in the garden at Prior’s Field in 1913. At school her flair for language began to shine through as she quickly became one of the editors of the School Magazine. She was also a member of the lacrosse 1st XII. She was one of a line of early Prior’s Field Old Girls who went on to Newnham College, Cambridge. In 1917, the College awarded her a BA in Moral Sciences. In 1921, she travelled to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), India and Burma where she was first introduced to Buddhism, its literature and related languages. On her return to England, she accepted a Fellowship at Newnham and became its librarian. In 1928, she became the first Sarah Smithson Research Fellow in Pāli Studies. Pāli is the name given to the language of the texts of Theravāda Buddhism. Isaline went on to become a leading scholar of Pāli and was President of the Pāli Text Society from 1959-1981. In 1980, the Queen awarded her an OBE for her lifelong contribution to Buddhist literature. I think you’ll all agree that Isaline is a really inspirational Prior’s Field linguist and wonderful example to our girls.’