A blue plaque has been unveiled at Library of Birmingham to honour Marie Bethell Beauclerc (1845-1897), credited as England’s first female reporter.

Marie Bethell Beauclerc is perhaps most well-known for the shorthand reports she wrote of George Dawson’s speeches and lectures. However, she was a trailblazer in her own right. She is credited with being England’s first female reporter, the first female teacher in an English public school for boys, and for helping to introduce Pitman’s shorthand and typewriting to Birmingham through her teaching.

During a period when learning shorthand and occupations using shorthand were largely reserved for males, Beauclerc taught herself from an old Pitman’s shorthand manual. By the time she was 20 Beauclerc was teaching shorthand to others and, in 1871, reporting for George Dawson at the Birmingham Morning News. Contemporaries, including Dawson, praised Beauclerc’s work.

Sue Beauclerc (great great-grandniece of Marie), reflecting on the legacy of shorthand and persistence of typing – both of which Marie Bethell Beauclerc taught – noted:

“I find it fascinating that although shorthand is fast disappearing, typing is our most common form of written communication and looks likely to remain so.”

The blue plaque to Marie Bethell Beauclerc was unveiled on 9th October 2020, to commemorate the 175th anniversary of her birth on the 10th. A big thank you to Library of Birmingham and the Everything to Everybody teams, as well as to Councillor Jayne Francis. It is the first unveiling Birmingham Civic Society has streamed live (thank you Sarah and Anne-Marie Hayes for making this happen) and we were pleased so many of Beauclerc’s relatives were able to join us from the other side of the world, even though they couldn’t be with us in person. The blue plaque will hang outside the Shakespeare Memorial Library on the 9th floor of the Library of Birmingham.

Helen Blain, great-grandniece of Marie Bethell Beauclerc:

“I hope [people who see the plaque] will be inspired to persevere against all odds in pursuit of their aspirations, and that they will encourage others to follow their dreams regardless of their circumstances.”

Know of someone who has helped put Birmingham on the map? Nominate them for a blue plaque.  Anyone can nominate someone. All nominations are researched and considered by our heritage committee. The only criteria is that the individual died 20 years ago or more and lived in the city for at least five years.