Authors: Jane Robinson
Also by Jane Robinson
Unsuitable for Ladies
Angels of Albion
Parrot Pie for Breakfast
The Remarkable Story of the
First Women to Fight for an Education
an imprint of
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published 2009
Copyright © Jane Robinson, 2009
The moral right of the author has been asserted
All rights reserved
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book
For Mollie Haigh,
an inspirational lady
List of Illustrations
2. Constance Louisa Maynard of Girton and Westfield Colleges (courtesy of Queen Mary, University of London Archives, Westfield College Collection)
3. Emily Davies, founder of Girton College (courtesy of the Mistress and Fellows, Girton College, Cambridge)
4. Anne Jemima Clough, the first Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge (courtesy of the Armitt Collection, Ambleside)
5. Dorothea Beale, founder of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College,
1885 (courtesy of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College)
8. ‘The Ladies’ College’, Somerville Hall (from
, 31 July 1880, courtesy of the Principal and Fellows of Somerville College, Oxford)
11. Chinese student Pao Swen Tseng, 1916 (courtesy of Queen Mary, University of London Archives, Westfield College Collection)
15. Graduates of St Hild’s in Durham, 1898 (by permission of the College of St Hild and St Bede, Durham University and Durham County Record Office, ref. DRO E/ HB 1/652)
16. The Principal and Students of St Hilda’s, 1907 (courtesy of the Principal and Fellows of St Hilda’s College, Oxford)
18. A portable fire-escape,
.1890 (courtesy of Queen Mary, University of London Archives, Westfield College Collection)
20. A third-year performance of
at Girton, 1891 (courtesy of the Mistress and Fellows, Girton College)
24. The first women entitled to wear academic dress at Oxford, 1921 (courtesy of the Principal and Fellows of St Hilda’s College)
26. Students of Lady Margaret Hall prepare for punting,
.1890 (courtesy of the Principal and Fellows of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford)
27. The Oxford University ladies’ hockey team,
.1900 (courtesy of the Principal and Fellows of Lady Margaret Hall)
30. The entire student and staff population of Leicester University, 1922 (courtesy of Leicester University)
32. Physics research at Queen Mary College,
1930 (courtesy of Queen Mary, University of London Archives, Queen Mary Collection)
34. Medical students at Bedford College, London,
.1915 (courtesy of Royal Holloway, University of London)
36. Trixie Pearson’s Class of 1932, St Hilda’s College (courtesy of the Principal and Fellows of St Hilda’s College)
Illustrations in the Text
p. iii Girl with a quill pen, from
(the Oxford women’s colleges’ periodical), November 1924
p. 6 Dr Syntax woos a ‘Blue Stocking Beauty’, Thomas Rowlandson cartoon from William Combe,
The Third Tour of Dr Syntax in Search of a Wife
p. 166 Pupils practise in the gym at North London Collegiate School, from the
Girl’s Own Paper
, April 1882
p. 207 Cambridge alumna conquers the world, late nineteenth-century cartoon reproduced in Mountfield,
Women and Education
Landmark Dates in the History of
Higher Education for Women in England
The earliest record of Oxford as a centre of teaching and learning. It is the first university in the English-speaking world.
The University of Cambridge is (one could argue) indirectly founded by an Oxford woman, when scholars are banished from Oxford for her manslaughter, and decide to settle by the Cam.
Bathsua Makin publishes
An Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen.
A Serious Proposal to the Ladies
appears, suggesting a type of university education for women.
The heyday of the original Bluestockings, led by Elizabeth Montagu: mostly women, meeting in one another’s houses to discuss literature, philosophy, art, and intellectual discourse.
Vindication of the Rights of Woman
The founding of University College, London (originally known as London University).
The Governesses’ Mutual Assurance Society is established.
Birkbeck College (then known as the London Mechanics’ Institute) admits women to lectures.
Durham University is founded.
Whitelands (teacher-training) College opens in London.
London ‘Lectures to Ladies’ are instituted by Professor F. D. Maurice (whose sister is a governess).
Queen’s College, London, is founded by Professor Maurice.
Bedford College opens, later to become part of the University of London.
North London Collegiate School opens.
The Cheltenham Ladies’ College opens.
The Oxford University Act removes the requirement for religious tests for BA students, thus widening access; the Act for Cambridge is passed in 1856.
English Woman’s Journal
is first published, by the Ladies of Langham Place.
Girls are allowed to attempt Cambridge ‘Junior Local’ examinations.