Education & Activism: Women at Oxford, 1878-1920

"Even the unchanging passivity of Oxford beneath the hand of the centuries must surely, I thought, be a little stirred by the sight of the women's gowns and caps… the visible signs of a profound revolution." - Vera Brittain

October 2020 marked the centenary of the formal admission of women to the University of Oxford, one-hundred years since women were granted the right to matriculate and therefore to take degrees. Despite the significance of this landmark year, women had studied at the University of Oxford long before 1920. In fact, they had been making their mark on the University and advocating for women’s access to an Oxford education since the 1860s.

Education and Activism: Women at Oxford, 1878-1920, is a digital archive project that commemorates the centenary year by bringing together records of the former women’s colleges (Lady Margaret Hall, Somerville, St Anne’s, St Hilda’s and St Hugh’s) into a central digital archive. Through the digitization of more than 7,000 archival images, which include admissions records, annual reports, calendars, photographs, scrapbooks, minutes and letters, this project will change the way that we understand and research the history of higher education in Oxford, the United Kingdom and beyond. The digital archive project will also facilitate scholars in developing a better understanding of the overall history of women’s education and activism, as well as the experiences of individual women, campaign groups and institutions. Digitization of this material is expected to be completed by April 2021.

The Education and Activism project team would like to thank the IT Innovation Fund, the History Faculty’s Sanderson Fund, the van Houten Fund, Lady Margaret Hall, Somerville College, St Anne’s College, St Hilda’s College and St Hugh’s College for funding this project. We would also like to thank our wider project partners from the History Faculty, the Bodleian Libraries and the Oxford Martin School Programme on Women’s Equality and Inequality for their support for this project.

Further information and resources are available on the Education and Activism website: