Women Making History: Centenary Events | University of Oxford
Women at Oxford: 100 years of Oxford degrees for women
Women at Oxford: 100 years of Oxford degrees for women

Women Making History: Centenary Events

To mark the centenary of women being admitted as full members of the University, we will be bringing together events, interviews and resources reflecting on, as well as celebrating, the history of women at Oxford...

This is a landmark year in the history of Oxford University; in October 2020, we marked a century since the first women collected their degrees in the Sheldonian Theatre. 

Image credit: Lady Margaret HallThe first women to be awarded degrees at Oxford University. Image credit: Lady Margaret Hall

Colleges and departments across Oxford have been and continue to hold centenary events reflecting on, as well as celebrating, the history of women at Oxford, exploring the present and future challenges for women’s education, gender equality and diversity, and celebrating Oxford women.

As well as upcoming events and exhibitions, below you will find other resources, links to where you can catch up with events you may have missed, as well as interviews with a group of remarkable women.

Centenary events will be listed together here and we invite departments, colleges and students that are planning centenary related events to get in touch. If you have any questions about event listings, please email the Information Office.

Read more about the history of women at Oxford on a dedicated website here.

Upcoming Events

'Must it be a man?'

An examination of women's contribution to the University of Oxford, to mark the centenary of women's graduation

Tuesday 2 March (9.30am-4.30pm - free, online via Zoom)

Must it be a man?’ wrote Charles Herford to James Murray when the latter was seeking an assistant to work on his Oxford English Dictionary.

The expectation in 1906, when the letter was written, was that such positions would ‘naturally’ fall to men, and this epitomises the assumptions which governed the University of Oxford until long into the modern era. In fact, however, by 1906 women occupied many and sometimes surprising roles within the University – roles which ranged from college principals to college servants; from sitters whose portraits graced Oxford’s walls to librarians who laboured behind the scenes; from scholars who produced the knowledge in Oxford’s books to those who produced the books themselves in the OUP bindery; from very public figures in Oxford life to those known as somebody’s wife or daughter, if they were known at all.

Although women’s Oxford story has often been one of absence and exclusion, this conference reveals the many women who enriched Oxford’s life and scholarship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Everyone – scholars, Oxford alumni, and anyone with an interest in the theme – is welcome to join distinguished speakers from Oxford and other universities for a day of discussion in the centenary year of Oxford degrees for women.

There is no charge to attend the conference, which is generously hosted by the Bodleian Library.

Find out more and register here

2021 Dorothy Hodgkin Memorial Lecture: Professor Dame Julia Higgins

Seeing is Believing

Thursday 4 March (6pm)

We’re delighted to welcome Professor Dame Julia Higgins to give this year’s lecture, 'Seeing is Believing'.

Professor Dame Higgins will take us inside the secret world of polymers, showing us how the cunning use of neutron scattering can allow us to ‘see’ the way that molecules in rubbery polymers give rise to their stretchiness, bounciness, or stickiness.

This event will also form part of the Oxford International Women’s Festival.

To attend the online lecture, register here on Crowdcast.

Find out more about the event here.

Gender Equality at Oxford Discussion

Monday 8 March (2pm-3pm. Free, online event.)

University staff only

Women have consistently made significant contributions to science and research for centuries.

Many were not recognised in their own lifetimes, but their achievements have helped generations of female researchers, and have been integral to our understanding of the world around us. After facing countless barriers to having their work peer-reviewed and accepted in major scientific journals, we are in a position where women are openly celebrated for their scientific accomplishments. This is evident in our Oxford COVID-19 vaccine team, where the majority of people are women.

Join the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, and Professor Sarah Gilbert, Professor of Vaccinology, along with Professor Anne Trefethen, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for People & GLAM and Professor Mary Daly, Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, as they discuss the strong representation of women in this high profile and incredibly successful work, and how at the higher pay grades, women are still outnumbered. The panel will seek to initiate a discussion on why this is, and what might change it.

To sign up for the event, visit the registration page. Please register by noon on Friday 5 March in order to receive joining instructions. This event is for University staff only.

If you have any queries, please contact the University Events Office at invitation@admin.ox.ac.uk.  

‘The Contest for the Equal Citizenship of the Mind’: Reflections on the Centenary of Women's Formal Admission to the University of Oxford

Monday 8 March (5pm-6pm. Free, online via Microsoft Teams.)

Professor Senia Paseta will give the History Faculty International Women's Day Lecture 2021.

The lecture will be followed by a Q & A which will be chaired by Baroness Janet Royall, Principal of Somerville.

If you would like to attend the event, please RSVP to pa@history.ox.ac.uk

This event is also the History Faculty's Women's History Month lecture for this year.

Find out more.


Image of a new exhibition at Mansfield to mark 40 years since the College became fully co-educationalA new exhibition has been unveiled at Mansfield to mark 40 years since the College became fully co-educational

100 years of women at Mansfield College

A bright and beautifully designed new exhibition has been unveiled at Mansfield to mark 40 years since the College became fully co-educational.

The exhibition will be on display at the College during the whole academic year, on the corridor between the main entrance foyer and the library, and is a visual exploration of the history of women at Mansfield from the arrival of the pioneering first women for ministerial training in 1913 and culminating with a lively celebration of all of the women of Mansfield today.

Find out more about the exhibition here

Celebrating 40 years of Women At Mansfield.

St Anne’s College - Degrees for Women: A Centenary Exhibition

Online exhibition, St Anne’s College

Material from the College archive explores key events in the early history of women students at Oxford.

Visit the online exhibition here.

Picture of Mrs Johnson (centre), the first principal of St Anne's (then the Society of Oxford Home-Students) at the head of a group of principals and tutors on a special degree day for women (1920)Bertha Johnson was the first principal of St Anne's (then the Society of Oxford Home-Students). Pictured: Mrs Johnson (centre) at the head of a group of principals and tutors on a special degree day for women (1920).

Enjoy again...

Women Making History: 100 Years of Oxford Degrees for Women

Thursday 15 October (available to watch online, see below)

Hosted by the Faculty of History

If you missed this event, you can now watch it online here.

'Women count. What they do with their lives on the grandest of international stages, or the smallest of domestic hearths; how they learn, work, love, raise their children, shape future generations; how they remember; how they think of the future - it all counts; it is half of history. Please join us as we reflect on the 100-year anniversary of Oxford granting academic degrees to women.'

With Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford; The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67th Secretary of State of the United States; Professor Maggie Snowling, President of St John’s College, Oxford; Professor Brenda E. Stevenson, The Hillary Rodham Clinton Chair of Women’s History.

Women in Oxford's School of Geography

Friday 16 October (1.30pm-3pm)

School of Geography and the Environment - Online Lecture

If you missed this event, you can now watch it online here.

Pictured are some of the first graduates of the Final Honour School in Geography in 1934, which is what the BA Geography degree has been known as since it was first introduced in 1932Pictured are some of the first graduates of the Final Honour School in Geography in 1934, which is what the BA Geography degree has been known as since it was first introduced in 1932. Image: courtesy of the School of Geography

Dr Elizabeth Baigent, Reader in the History of Geography at the University of Oxford and former Research Director of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, uncovers the contribution of women to Oxford's School of Geography - an institution whose history is generally told in terms of historic male endeavour.

By uncovering the lives of women staff and students from the establishment of the School at the end of the nineteenth century, Dr Baigent explores the varied contributions of the School's women and their connections with wider movements such as women's suffrage - as well as asking why we have until now regarded them as marginal and unimportant.

Women at Oxford 100 Years on: from Access to Equality and Inclusion

An online panel and Q&A for University Members

If you missed this event, you can now watch it online or read the transcription.
Large print transcription available on request to events.office@admin.ox.ac.uk.

Tuesday 10 November

Part of this year’s celebration of the Centenary of Women, this online event aims to foster University wide understanding, debate and dialogue about progress to date, as well as on-going challenges and our future vision for gender equality at Oxford.

Dr Rebecca Surender, University Advocate for Equality and Diversity and Pro-Vice-Chancellor, who will moderate this important and topical discussion along with panellists, including:

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Department of Physics
Sue Dopson, Deputy Dean, Saïd Business School 
Matthew Jarvis, Associate Head of People, Mathematic, Physics and Life Sciences (MPLS)
Nikita Ma, President, Oxford Students’ Union 
Saira Shaikh, Academic Registrar, Academic Administration Division

Panellists addressed the following questions:

  • What are our biggest challenges for advancing gender equality at Oxford in the next five years?
  • How can our vision of and approach to gender equality at Oxford be truly 'intersectional’ and inclusive?
  • What promising initiatives for advancing gender and other equalities, from within or outside the University, can we build on?

Recording and transcript available.

Women in Data Science Oxford - Get inspired and get involved!

Flyer to accompany WiDS Oxford – Get inspired and get involved!Meet researchers using cutting-edge data science in real-world research from COVID-19 to climate change
Tuesday 24 November (10am-12.45pm)

Hosted by NDORMS

If you missed this event, you can now watch it online here.

Welcome to Women in Data Science Oxford (WiDS) - a University of Oxford community to inspire, connect, and collaborate on data science research. Join us to meet researchers using cutting-edge data science in real-world research from COVID-19 to climate change!

WiDS Oxford is part of the Global Women in Data Science Network, which aims to inspire and educate data scientists all over the world, regardless of gender, and support women in the field.   

This event will be held as part of the University’s Celebrating 100 Years of Oxford Degrees for Women series.

For more information visit.

Previous events

Celebrating 100 Years of Oxford Degrees for Women

Thursday, 14 October (7pm)

Hosted by Somerville College

February, 1920 saw the approval of a University statute providing admission of women to degrees. On October 7, 1920, a ceremony in the Divinity School conferred the first round of these degrees.

As part of our celebrations on the centenary of this extraordinarily important event in the history of the University, Somervillian author Jane Robinson (BluestockingsLadies Can't Climb Ladders) will speak to Maya Szaniecki, Somerville JCR Women's Officer, about the key moments that illuminate Somerville's role in this historic struggle.

Click here to register

Special Faculty Lecture: Decently-Clad Women and Trousered Men. The Missionary and the Body

Friday 16 October (4pm)

Among the strongest and earliest of missionary impulses as Christian proselytisation spread across the globe was the urge to clothe peoples understood as naked. Bodies were central to, and always contentious, in religous practice and in the West, nakedness has long been a site of ferocious theological debate. But the struggles of the missionary movement illuminate not only theological anxieties but critically, too, those of gender, race, sexuality and imperial power. 

Online lecture via Zoom

For all queries, please contact regius.pa@history.ox.ac.uk

More details here.

Women in STEM networking event

Monday 1 February (6pm-8.30pm, free event)

Hosted by MPLS Women

Book your place now at the 2021 MPLS Women in STEM Virtual Networking Event.

Images showing a group of Women in STEM networkingHear from inspiring women across STEM. Image: John Cairns
Our soapbox style speakers will raise your awareness of the rich ecosystem of women working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) at Oxford by sharing their research with you in an engaging and informative way, including topics such as machine learning and renewable fusion to AI and computing in Physics. The full list of speakers can now be found on the Women in STEM Networking Event website.

As well as hearing from inspiring women across STEM, two different types of networking will be available, alongside the chance to visit booths run by Oxford's Women in Science, Engineering and Maths societies and industry partners.

We know that virtual networking can feel daunting for some, so to help up-skill and boost your confidence in this space you will also have the chance to join a networking skills workshop with Professor Nessa Carey (Entrepreneur-in-Residence - University of Oxford) before putting your new expertise into practice! 

The event will be run on the HopIn platform and requires registration. Registration link, instructions, and the password needed to secure your place can all be found on the event website.

Further reading

Women's History Month: 100 years of Oxford degrees for women

We celebrate Women's History Month by speaking to a group of remarkable women about life here now.

Find out more and read our interviews here.

Other resources

Gender equality at Oxford

Information about the University’s work to promote gender equality - https://edu.admin.ox.ac.uk/gender-equality

Women in science

The Women in Science website shares the experiences of successful women scientists. 

Athena SWAN Charter

The University’s participation in the Athena SWAN Charter provides us with a framework for analysis and results in a comprehensive action plan to promote gender equality. Our current priorities include increasing the proportion of women in senior academic roles and achieving strong representation and voice of women in decision-making at all levels. Read more about the Athena SWAN Charter here

Women Making History: University progress on gender equality

We celebrate women’s contribution to scholarship and progressive change at Oxford, and mark 100 years since the first women were awarded degrees, we take a look at what the facts and figures tell us about the progress Oxford University is making in the 21st century. Read University progress on gender equality here.