COMPANION

Ethel Webb

Ethel (‘Pip’) Mary Webb (1866–1952), English pianist, teacher of the Alexander Technique and assistant to F. M. Alexander.

Life

Webb was a daughter of George Webb, of the Mappin and Webb silversmith family business. She studied piano in the 1890s in Berlin and became a fine pianist but did not have the strength to perform professionally. In Berlin she befriended Alice Fowler and together they taught the piano privately in New York. Here she met and became friends with Wendell Bush.[1] In about 1900 Webb returned to London. She was so impressed with MSI (1910) that she immediately arranged to have lessons and from then on devoted her life to the support of Alexander and his technique despite the reservations of family and friends. In 1913 she went to Rome to study possible connections between Maria Montessori’s educational methods and Alexander’s work, and it was there she met and befriended Irene Tasker and Miss Naumburg who both became involved with the Technique. In New York – during WWI – she began to work with children with the Technique and took it up again during the Little School’s sojourn in the US during WWII. Disliking her first names, she was always known as ‘Pip’ to the students and other teachers at Ashley Place. She carried out many secretarial tasks for Alexander for many years but the help and support she gave Alexander in establishing his teaching practice and interviewing and looking after his pupils – as secretary, teacher and friend  – went far beyond ordinary secretarial duties. She retired as secretary after the war but continued to look after some administration until her death.[2] [3] [4]

The headmistress Mary Silcox arranged for Ethel Webb to teach at St. Felix School, which Ethel did a few times. It was in this connection that Alexander advised Ethel Webb: ‘Don’t do anything you have seen me do.’[5]

Writings

Ethel Webb collected quotes from F. M. Alexander teaching. As secretary she sat outside Alexander’s teaching room, which was frequently left ajar, and so she would write down interesting quotations. These were later published as Alexander’s aphorisms, in The Alexander Journal,[6] in Articles and Lectures,[7] and in Aphorisms.[8]

Short biography

The article, ‘Connected Lives – Ethel Webb’ by Ruth Diamond, is a biographical summary of Ethel Webb’s life and contribution to the Technique.[9]

References

[1] Frederick Matthias Alexander – A Family History by Jackie Evans (Phillimore & Co., 2001), pp. 153-154.
[2] Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), endnote 185, pp. 320-21.
[3] Frank P. Jones, Body Awareness in Action, pp. 29–30, 49, 57.
[4] Erika Whittaker, personal communication, 31 January, 22 February 1995.
[5] The Universal Constant in Living by F. Matthias Alexander (Mouritz, 2000), endnote 75, p. 260-61.
[6] The Alexander Journal no. 7 edited by Wilfred Barlow (STAT, 1972), pp. 41-48.
[7] Articles and Lectures by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 1995), pp. 192-208.
[8] Aphorisms by F. Matthias Alexander, edited by Jean M. O. Fischer (Mouritz, 2000).
[9] ‘Connected Lives – Ethel Webb’ by Ruth Diamond in AmSAT Journal issue no. 17 (Fall 2020), pp. 6–12.