Bluestocking Hampstead educator reveals life story at 94

A former farm girl who led a whirlwind life amongst the European social and intellectual elite and became a celebrated educationist has published her life story at the age of 94.

Mildred Mashender’s dream of becoming a spy may never have been realised.

But the Belsize Lane resident has just published the second of two books detailing her transformation from “country bumpkin” to firebrand socialist and student of the Sorbonne and Oxford University.

Having grown up in rural Oxfordshire in the Spartan inter-war years, Mrs Mashender was desperate to escape to the bright lights.

“I was determined not to be a farmer’s wife and spend my days skinning Rabbits,” she said. “I longed to be amidst the dreaming spires of the university city, which I could glimpse from my village.”

Her new book details her progress From The Shires To The Spires as she made her dream come true.

She progressed from humble beginnings on her parent’s dairy farm in Elsfield, Oxfordshire, to take the entrance exam to a local grammar school, followed by scholarships at the Sorbonne in Paris and entrance to a women’s college at Oxford University.

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As a French literature student in Paris, she mixed with the intellectual elite and once met Goebbels in Berlin.

She had her first taste of champagne, got engaged but not married to a man from the French Riviera, and developed socialist sympathies.

But her weighty education came at the cost of isolation from certain relatives and village school friends.

Her teaching career began during the Second World War when she was initially disappointed to be called up as a teacher rather than a spy. She soon fell in love with the profession and began a long and prestigious career in education, while never losing sight of her socialist ideals.

Whilst teaching at the City of London School for Girls near Fleet Street and the North London Polytechnic in Kentish Town she led a “double life” selling the Daily Worker in Kilburn High Road and met her husband Harry through communist activities.

To this day she continues to support anti-war and anti-capitalist protests.

Despite her passion for London, Paris and Oxford, Mrs Mashender’s educational philosophy remains indebted to her Oxfordshire childhood.

Her experience “running wild, growing up with great freedom” inspired her belief in “learning by doing” and the importance of nature in a child’s education. Nowadays the nonagenarian insists upon “growing old disgracefully” and enjoys a packed programme of theatre, painting and pottery, as well as many other interests.

To buy From The Shires To The Spires, the sequel to Carrier’s Cart To Oxford, contact Mrs Mashender on 020 7435 2182.