By Amara Thornton (Research Officer, Ure Museum)

Born in Dublin, Vivian Whitfield studied at Trinity College Dublin, winning a Gold Medal for excelling in Classics.  She attended Somerville College, Oxford subsequently, obtaining her B. A. degree, first-class, in 1924 – just four years after women were finally allowed full membership (and degrees) from the University.

She was appointed Classics lecturer at University College Reading for the 1924-25 session, and at the she was admitted as a student to the British School at Athens for the 1924-25 session.  She intended to study the landscape of Greece so she could better understand its ancient society, particularly in relation to Sparta. Two years later, she was granted a leave of absence from Reading to return to the School at Athens.  This time, she would be focusing on the material being uncovered during the School’s ongoing excavations at Sparta.

Detail of Vivian Whitfield’s signature, from her letter to Percy Ure. There is no year on the letter, but it probably dates to the mid-1920s (Ure Museum archive D40/E.4.15).

She married Henry Theodore Wade-Gery, who had also studied at the British School at Athens, in 1928. She returned to the School with her husband for a session in the early 1930s, continuing her work within archaeology and classics. However, after her marriage her personal contributions are more difficult to trace. She is credited by her husband with providing valuable photographs for his 1932/3 co-authored article on inscriptions in the National Epigraphic Museum in Athens.  In the 1940s, she and Norah Jolliffe (who had also been a Classics Lecturer at Reading) were both credited with edits and revisions to Victor Ehrenberg’s The People of Aristophanes (Basil Blackwell, 1943).  Vivian Wade-Gery also worked at the Admiralty during the Second World War (though in what capacity is at present unclear).

After the war, Vivian Wade-Gery continued her archaeological activities. In the 1950s she was involved in cataloguing finds made during the American School excavations at the Agora in Athens. She died in 1988.

References/Further Reading

Hood, R. 1998. Faces of Archaeology in Greece. Leopard’s Head Press.

University College Reading Annual Reports.

Wade-Gery, H. T. and McGregor, M. F. 1932/33. Studies in the Attic Inscriptions of the Fifth Century B. C. Annual of the British School at Athens 33: 101-136.