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Newnham College

The need of a college for women was felt, where they could live and avail themselves of the opportunities then possible. Mother used to describe the first meeting about Newnham, held in the house of Professor Henry Fawcett, the blind Postmaster-General, when Mrs Fawcett (afterwards Dame Millicent) sat on a little stool by the fireside, next to her husband, in order to give an informal air to the proceedings, which were felt to be revolutionary!"

Hester Mary Kempthorne (Peile) c. 1869
Newnham College

As a College founded by innovators and radicals, determined to make learning available to a wider audience, Newnham College is delighted to see some of its treasures made available to everyone, through the Digital Library initiative. 

Founded in 1871, when women had no access to the University’s libraries and laboratories, Newnham College took learning firmly into its own hands. With generous support from benefactors, it created and developed a library, which allowed a Newnham student to study on equal terms with the men around her. The result is that this women’s college has a large and comprehensive working collection, as well as rare book and archival collections of some distinction – all set within three interconnected ‘jewel boxes’ of libraries. 

Newnham College Archives are recognised as an important resource for those studying the history of the higher education of women. In addition to official College records, there is a large photographic collection, and various realia and memorabilia including scrapbooks, student magazines and students’ own photographs and reminiscences. The Archive also holds papers of individuals  associated with the College, including Jane Ellen Harrison, Hope Mirrlees,  Graham, Ada and May Wallas and Olive Cook.

Benefactors and donors of rare books to the College included Mr Henry Yates Thompson, a collector of early printed books and manuscripts, who took a particular interest in the College Library over a number of years. In 1897, he and Mrs Yates Thompson presented the College with its first purpose-built library (the Basil Champneys-designed Yates Thompson Library), a beautiful Grade 2* listed building still in use today. 

Other significant collections held at Newnham include the Renouf collection of German literature, the Rogers collection of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century children’s literature and fairy tales, and the library of the Skilliter Centre for Ottoman Studies. 

For information about archival material in Newnham College, and to contact the College Archivist, please visit the Newnham College Archives website. Further information about Newnham College Library may be found by visiting the College Library website.