How women shaped University history

Posted by pt91 at Mar 08, 2018 10:42 AM |
Images provide snapshots of women’s influence

Issued by University of Leicester on 8 March 2018

Download the photographs from the Archives (© University of Leicester Archives) here:

Download copies of the three women of influence portraits at:

From the decision to allow women the ‘privilege’ of smoking on campus in 1930, to a female scientist working in a 1990s laboratory, the University of Leicester is offering a glimpse into the lives of women within the institution through some of its rarely seen archive materials.

The Special Collections team in the University’s Library has unearthed a selection of treasures from the University Archives providing an insight into the University’s history and revealing how women have helped shape the institution from its foundation to the present day.

They will be presenting their finds to an audience of staff and students on Friday 9 March as part of the University’s week of events to mark International Women’s Day.

Among their discoveries is a press cutting from 1930 announcing the decision to permit women the ‘privilege’ of smoking, but only on the College grounds. Until then only men were permitted but “Women students in the hostel rebelled and made application through the college warden for permission to smoke.”

Further on in time, the members of the Women’s Hockey Club (1951 – 1952) smile together in a black and white team photograph that shows them with their equipment and uniforms, while a female student in the 1990s examines some yew tree cuttings in a hi-tech laboratory in another photograph.

During the session, staff and students will learn of the vital role women played as early benefactors to the University during its foundation in the 1920s, examine the changing experience of the female students through photographs and memorabilia, and discover the significant impact women staff have made through their research and discoveries.

The drop-in event will provide an opportunity to handle rare and unique material from within the University Archives.

Elizabeth Blood, Research Associate in the School of History, Politics and International Relations, said: "International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to shine a light on the experience of women at the University. The story of our early years as a University College often misses out the contribution of women. Some committed women benefactors, pioneering researchers, courageous students, and strong professional staff have all helped to shape the University's history as much as men. We are currently trying to highlight these roles as we revisit the University's life story as part of the Special Collections team's University History Project."

Sarah Wood, Assistant Archivist said: “Through exploring the University’s archives we gain a shared understanding of our history, which strengthens our sense of identity and locality. Archives provide a contemporary record of events, and can often challenge our preconceptions of the past, transforming what we think we know about individuals and events. For International Women’s Day in particular, this is an exciting chance to discover new histories of the staff and students who have shaped the University and its culture.”

The University has this week unveiled three portraits of its women of influence painted by three talented female artists at an event attended by staff, students and invited guests. Marking this year’s International Women’s Day on 8 March, the paintings are just a few of the inspirational stories of women working in universities and science that will be told this week to encourage staff and students to #pressforprogress in gender equality. The chosen women all represent watershed moments for the University in its history: its first female Professor, its first female graduate, and the first black female President of its Students’ Union.

Events at the University of Leicester to mark International Women’s Day have been taking place across the whole week from 5 – 9 March and shine a light on the challenges that women face in all walks of life.  Through these events, the hope is that staff and students will come together to recognise gender inequalities that exist whilst celebrating the significant achievements of women.

Dr Kate Williams, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, said: “International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress that has been made, continue to call for change but also to celebrate those women who are determined to make a difference. Our events over the week of International Women’s Day all celebrate those women who have or still are making a difference. We hope that you are able to come along to one or more of the events that colleagues have organised that demonstrate their passion to #pressforprogress.”


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