A sister’s pride

When we chose the names of our Houses, three years ago, we wanted them named after iconic women, women who stood up for what they believed in and through their actions made a difference to the lives of others. Never did I imagine that when we chose the names that the school would meet the sister of one of these iconic women.

On Thursday the girls in Franklyn were greatly privileged to hear Jenifer Glynn, 85, speak most eloquently about her sister, Rosalind Franklyn.  Rosalind was nine years older than Jenifer and as a younger sister, following in her footsteps, remembers a woman, fiercely determined, who had a phenomenal capacity for work and a very sharp intellect. Mrs Glynn shared with us very personal memories of her sister working in post war France, where heating, food and supplies were in short supply, as she worked on carbon imaging. Her work there paved the way for her famous photograph 51 which enabled Watson and Crick to imagine the double helix structure of DNA.

She spoke of the difficult time Dr Franklyn had working in a male environment in London in the early 1950’s  where she was expected to fulfil the role of assistant rather than lead researcher, the latter being the post she had accepted to do. As a woman she was not allowed in the staff common room, which not only prevented her from having lunch provided but more importantly to her the exchange of ideas so crucial for the advancement of science. It is well documented that Watson and Crick used her photograph without acknowledging her work but her sister’s greatest sadness was not the lack of proper recognition at the time but the ovarian cancer that took her life at such a young age. Her revolutionary work was produced when Dr Franklyn was 32, she died at 39. The world lost a significant scientist and one is left thinking what secrets an extraordinary mind could have unlocked if she had had the luxury of a longer life.

The girls asked Mrs Glyn what Dr Franklyn would have made of being the name of their House – she said humbled. Franklyn shied away from the limelight, she did what she felt was right, her passion was her work. The pride Mrs Glyn had for her sister was palpable, she gave us a sense of the extraordinary achievement of her sister and we shared that pride.  To us Dr Franklyn was remarkable not just for her achievements but that she had achieved it at such a challenging time in history. The values she embraced are the same values that underpin the ethos of our school. For the girls to have the chance to sit and reflect on this was a wonderful way to start the school day.

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