Women in Our History

The current Special Collections exhibition explores the role of women in our University's history

The exhibition runs from 11 May until 31 August 2018 in the basement of the David Wilson Library, and may be viewed from Monday to Saturday between 9.30am and 5pm and on Sunday between 12.30pm and 5.30pmon Sunday. Entry to the Library is free but security controlled. Ask for admission to the Special Collections exhibition at reception. See Maps and Directions for further information about how to find us.

A student conducting an experiment in the Adrian Building, c.1968
Established in 1921 as a memorial to the First World War, Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland University College had humble origins. Higher education was provided for 15 students during the first year, in one building, and with a small number of subjects offered. Nearly 100 years later, University of Leicester couldn’t be further from this description.

How do women fit into this? In our first decade, female students made up the majority of students, whilst in the first academic year, 3 out of 8 members of staff were women. Across the decades, significant achievements have been made in many areas of research, where female researchers have demonstrated their commitment, passion and expertise in their subject. Watershed moments within the University’s history such as our first female professor (1973) or the first black woman president of the Student’s Union (1975) all reflect moments of significant cultural change within the University. Where such achievements by individuals may previously have received less attention, this exhibition celebrates their contribution to the University and firmly places their story within our history.

The University’s archives, alongside donations from alumni, are held within the Library’s Archives & Special Collections. Combined, they provide evidence of women’s place in the University’s history.

The four cabinets display themes that highlight the important achievements women have made in overcoming stereotypes, social boundaries and growing opposition. The exhibition showcases archival material which brings their stories to life.

Compare and contrast the student experience through exploring the University’s publications, photographs and ephemera. What was it like to live in single sex halls, with a residential warden and her pet dog? Learn how annual reports and administrative records are used to reveal ‘female firsts’ of the University’s staff and students. Discover the University’s origins, and how the women of Leicester raised thousands of pounds to support the establishment of a University College. Read newspaper articles highlighting the ground breaking research made by female staff, captured and preserved in the University’s press cuttings books.

Through looking at our collective past, we gain a sense of belonging and identity. How will the women in our University’s history inspire and shape your story?

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Archives and Special Collections is currently closed until further notice. For further information about onsite services please visit see our Covid-19 Library Advice.