Esuantsiwa Jane Goldsmith

“When I was President I had to go to Senate meetings, me with 90-odd white guys, so I always turned up wearing banana yellow and big hair to scare the mortar boards off them.”
Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith, 2015

When elected President of Leicester University Students’ Union in 1975, Jane scored a double first, being both the first female student* and the first black student to hold the office. ‘Students pick woman!’ was the headline in the Leicester Mercury that week.

Studying for a combined arts degree, Jane later admitted to being “your number one dungareed, dangly ear-ringed activist”. She served as President of the SU’s Women’s Liberation Group and Anti-Apartheid Group, as well as Vice-Chair of the Union, before being persuaded to stand for a Sabbatical position. Right from her first year at Leicester, she had been active in student politics, successfully proposing a motion of ‘This house is against sexism’ to censure the Rugby Club for their Rag Week activities.

Drawing on more than 30 years’ experience as an activist in women’s human rights worldwide, Jane is a consultant to over 100 different voluntary organisations nationally and internationally. Among many other positions, she has been Commissioner for the Women’s National Commission, Chair of the Gender and Development Network, Vice-Chair of ActionAid UK, a member of the Equality and Diversity Forum and a member of the UK Government delegation to the UN Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. 

Jane was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws in 2015. She now uses her Ghanaian name, Esuantsiwa – or Esua for short.

“Jane’s continuing involvement in the University reflects her commitment to using her own often difficult experiences to empower others, and to highlighting the history and leadership – too often told too quietly or not at all – of inspirational black women.”
Dr Holly Furneaux, Honorary Degree oration

* Due acknowledgement to Nellie Bonsor (1923-26) and C Edith Baseley (1936-37) who held the equivalent position in the days of University College, Leicester.

Painted by Rebecca Foster

Rebecca Foster is a London based artist whose work is focused on contemporary portraiture. She studied at Central St Martins and was awarded an MA in Drawing from Wimbledon School of Art 2006. She has exhibited internationally and her work is widely collected. Her recent solo show of portraits exploring modern masculinity was an overwhelming success and she is currently showing work in a group exhibition focused on female creativity.

“It was a privilege to be selected by Leicester University as one of the artists commissioned for International Women’s Day. The commission was of particular interest as it seeks to rebalance the representation of women in public spaces. As a female artist the opportunity to paint a subject chosen for her excellence and intelligence was an honour and I am delighted with the finished painting.”