Commemorating One Hundred Years of Degrees for Women

13th October 2020

Education and Activism

Women at Oxford University, 1878-1920

2020 marks the centenary of the formal admission of women to the University of Oxford. From October 1920, women could matriculate and therefore take degrees for the first time, despite having studied at the University since the late 1870s. Vera Brittain, who matriculated that year, described the atmosphere in the Sheldonian when women were first admitted to degrees as ‘tense with the consciousness of a dream fulfilled…’. The Principal of St Hugh’s recalled it as ‘a woman’s day, and a day for women to remember’.

In recognition of this milestone, a team representing the History Faculty, the Bodleian Libraries, the former women’s colleges (Lady Margaret Hall, Somerville, St Anne’s, St Hilda’s and St Hugh’s) and the Oxford Martin School Programme on Women’s Equality and Inequality, has created Education and Activism: Women at Oxford University, 1878-1920, a new research project and online resource. This collaborative project commemorates the centenary and contributes to research on women, education and political activism.

The new Education and Activism website features a digital library of thousands of documents and images, including a wide range of original documents from the Bodleian and the former women’s colleges. It will also feature an interactive timeline, short histories, a crowdsourced archive, and commissioned research articles by leading scholars. Its companion, an interactive women’s history walking app, will provide a new perspective on the history of the University and the city. All resources will be freely available.

Our Principal, Professor Sir Gordon Duff, said:

'St Hilda's was founded to enable women to acquire university-level education. We continue to take pride in our pioneering past, and in our present commitment to inclusivity and access to higher education at the top international standard. We are delighted to be part of 'Education and Activism: Women at Oxford 1878-1920', bringing together a fascinating collection of historic material and literature to mark the centenary of the formal admission of women to the University of Oxford, the results of which we can see all around us today, in all spheres of human achievement.'

This project has been generously funded and supported by the IT Innovation Fund, the former women’s colleges, the van Houten Fund, and the History Faculty’s Sanderson Fund.

You can find out more with the Education and Activism: Women at Oxford, 1878-1920 website and by following @1stoxfordwomen on social media. For further information connected to this project, please contact Project Coordinator, Dr Alexandra Hughes-Johnson