History of Oxford women is unveiled


On September 2, the ladies of Morpeth Inner Wheel met after their summer break under their new President Suzanne Hamnett, at the Waterford Lodge Hotel.

Suzanne welcomed us and introduced as her first speaker her own daughter, Gillian Hamnett.

Gillian is a senior lecturer at Wolfson College at Oxford University and her subject was entitled The History of Women at Oxford.

Throughout history, women have been extremely limited in their opportunities to be educated, and indeed, only the wealthy in the past could afford some form of education.

However, we were told that in the 7th century it was St Hilda from Northumberland who first encouraged women to have some education, and it was she who formed a convent where women could study, although it was of a religious form.

Very slow progress was made until the 19th century, and we were amazed to hear that it was not up until 1920 that the first degrees were presented to women at Oxford University.

Even then women were treated differently. They were made to wear a kind of uniform, hence the name ‘Blue Stockings’ evolved.

Their college rules were very stern. For example, if they were seen walking out with a gentleman, they were dismissed immediately, even when it was later known to be their relative.

It is sad today when women here are so liberated that there are many places in the world where they are not allowed to study because of religious beliefs or ignorance and poverty.

Gillian’s talk was extremely well received and most informative.