How women shaped University history

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.

Photograph of University College Leicester Women’s Hockey Club (1951 – 1952) © University of Leicester Archives, ULA/FG3/8/9

Among their discoveries is a press cutting from 1930 (© University of Leicester Archives, PCB2) 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”

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.

Watch a video about the portraits:

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.