Atiya Fyzee, an Indian Student at Maria Grey College 1906-1907

Published: Wednesday 1 July 2015
Close-up of Atiya Fyzee from the MGC Year Group Photo, 1905-1907

Recently a researcher drew our attention to an alumna of Maria Grey College, one of Brunel’s predecessor colleges, and its former Twickenham campus. Atiya Fyzee [also known as Atiya Begum], came to Maria Grey College from India in 1906-07, aged c. 30.  Although Atiya did not complete her studies due to ill health, she went on to devote herself to promoting female education. Whilst in London she kept a travel diary, which was serialised for an Urdu magazine in Punjab (A Time in Education, 1921).

Atiya dedicated her life to promoting the arts and crafts. She toured the world giving talks on various aspects of Indian culture, while her husband, the artist Samuel Fyzee-Rahamin, exhibited his paintings.

In the Maria Grey College (MGC) Archives we found her on the student list for 1907 as well as a photo of her with her year group, 1905-1907. It seems that from around 1904 two students were sent over from India each year to be trained at MGC, sometimes on the sponsorship of the Indian Government. In 1906, alongside Atiya Fyzee, it is thought that Mrs Sarala Bala Mitter, aged 41, came to the college from Calcutta.  She went on to become principal of an Indian training college. It is possible that she is the lady pictured on the bottom left hand side of the below year group photo.

To discover more about Atiya, we recommend the book, Atiya's Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain by Siobhan Lambert-Hurley and Sunil Sharma. Siobhan Lambert-Hurley used the MGC Archives for research into Atiya in 2007 and 2012. Their book also contains a translation of Atiya’s travel journal from her time in London.


The MGC Archives are a wealth of information about the training of women to be teachers, dating from 1876 to the merger of the college to become part of West London Institute of Higher Education in 1976. They are open to all for research. For more information on the MGC archives and our opening hours, please see here or contact


Sources used in this article: The Wall Street Journal India online, Q&A: ‘Atiya’s Journeys,’ From Bombay to Edwardian England, Oct 6, 2010: (accessed on 01/07/2015); Oxford Scholarship Online: (accessed on 01/07/2015); Irene M. Lilley, Maria Grey College 1878-1976 (1981).

Page last updated: Wednesday 01 July 2015