Francis Edmunds

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Francis Edmunds (born 30 March 1902 Vilnius, Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire) - died 13 November 1989 Forest Row, East Sussex) was an educator and Anthroposophist and the founder of Emerson College, Forest Row. [1] [2]



Early years

Louis Francis Edmunds was born into an orthodox Russian-Jewish family. His mother died when he was two years of age, whereupon his father emigrated to the United Kingdom, leaving Francis in the care of his grandparents until he was of an age to start school in England. He then joined his father in London, who had since acquired a second family with the sister of his first wife. On leaving school, Francis distanced himself from the faith of his family and embarked on a study of Medicine.

From 1922-24 he was part of a Quaker mission to Russia, distributing emergency rations on horseback to the starving farming population during the Bolshevik Revolution. On returning to England, his interests having switched from Medicine to Education, he was sent to a Quaker Friends School in Lebanon, and later taught at the International School in Geneva, Switzerland.

Steiner education

Through a friend he was introduced to Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy, studied briefly at the Goetheanum in Dornach and became a member of the Anthroposophical Society in 1930. In England once again, he took up contact with the teachers of “The New School” (today Michael Hall) that had been founded in Streatham, South London in 1925. In 1932 he was asked to take on the first grade, which soon led to various other responsibilities in the school.

In 1936 his colleagues asked him to direct what was to become the Michael Hall Teacher Training Course, the first organised Steiner training in Britain, which he ran for years besides his teaching work.

During World War II, the school, now called Michael Hall, was evacuated to Minehead in Somerset. Here Edmunds began to write the Michael Hall News and held many lectures for the soldiers stationed there to guard the coastline. [1] After the War the school moved to Kidbrooke Hall Forest Row in Sussex. It was then that he began to travel extensively, mainly to the United States, in order to help the Waldorf Schools in those parts to develop. Besides this, he and his wife Elizabeth for many years ran the school hostel, living together with the boarders in Kidbrooke Mansion with their own three children. [2]

Concerned that the British Steiner schools begin consequentially to work together he founded and was chairman of the "Steiner Schools Fellowship” for many years. [2]

Emerson College

Finally, in 1962, he was able to found an adult education centre for Anthroposophy which he named Emerson College after the American Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson. He was able to attract a number of inspiring lecturers to work at the college with him, including John Davy, Michael Wilson, William Mann, Anthony Kay, Herbert Koepf and his wife Elizabeth. The college offered a Foundation Year in Anthroposophy followed by a further year in either Education, Biodynamics or various arts. By the 1979’s it had an annual enrollment of around 200 students.

In the last years of his life Edmunds began to write the books, particularly on Waldorf Education, that have become well known introductory works into these concepts.

A series of audio sessions, conducted by William Hearst II and recorded by John Swain, are available at These recordings span approximately 7 hours over 4 sessions, and present an extended conversation with Edmunds on a variety of topics.

Published works

L.. F. Edmunds, Rudolf Steiner Press: 3rd Edition 1982 ISBN   978-0854402854

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  1. 1 2 The Story of Emerson College: Its Founding Impulse, Work and Form - Michael Spence, Temple Lodge Press, 2013.
  2. 1 2 3 'Francis Edmunds' - Biographischer Eintrag in der Online-Dokumentation der anthroposophischen ‘’Forschungsstelle Kulturimpuls’’