150 years ago, in 1869, Girton College at Cambridge University opened its doors to female students for the first time. Girton College was the first university residential establishment to accept women in the United Kingdom.
Back in 1869 however, women did not have the same privileges as male students at the University of Cambridge. Despite enrolment, female students had to ask for permission to attend university lectures, and they were only rarely allowed to sit examinations, then under special arrangements. It was almost 100 years later in 1948, that female students were awarded degrees for their studies.
The journey towards equal university education was long and hard. The year 1897 saw large scale protests from the male student populous, opposing the prospect of women’s degrees. During the demonstrations, eggshells and fire works were set off and thrown at female students around campus.
Now, to mark the 150 year anniversary of women at Cambridge, the University is holding an exhibition called ‘The Rising Tide: Women ad Cambridge.‘ The exhibition aims to celebrate women at the university while highlighting the trials and tribulations they’ve gone through to get to where they are today. ‘The Rising Tide‘ will open on the 14th of October 2019 in the University Library, and will remain open until March 2020. The exhibition will showcase remnants of materials thrown at female students during the protests as well as the 400 page petition supporting the awarding of women’s degrees.
Dr Lucy Delap, Co-curator of ‘The Rising Tide’, stated that the exhibition will display the continuous discrimination the women at Cambridge have faced as well as their ‘ongoing campaigns for gender justice.’ Dr Delap also said that ‘from the founding of the first women’s college to the present day, the experience of women at Cambridge has differed greatly from their male counterparts.’
Dr Delap’s words seem to ring true as Cambridge University still faces allegations of inequality to this day. The University’s recently revealed to have large disparity between male and female staff earnings, with a a 15% gender pay gap. Moreover, studies have shown that while women generally do better at all other UK universities, female students at Oxbridge are less likely to obtain top marks, which many students have put down to gender discrimination. Female students at the university also reported a lack of support from the university, something which was not noted by surveyed male students. The results further indicated that BAME students, especially BAME women, faced even further adversity at Cambridge.