The Rising Tide: Women at Cambridge

Women have been part of Cambridge University for centuries, even though they were only formally admitted on the same terms as men in 1948. The University Library has an extraordinary collection that documents their philanthropy, their labour, their struggle for inclusion and their successes - from fireworks to Nobel prizes." Dr Lucy Delap





2019 marks 150 years since the founding of Girton College, the first women’s college at Cambridge, and the first in Britain to offer residential higher education for women. This moment of equality was however, short lived. Any ‘firsts’ in women’s education Cambridge could claim were undermined by the length of time it took the University to award women the degree, not doing so until 1948; it was the last British university to do so. This major breakthrough was hard won, as was equality in education, pay, and a say in how the university is administered.

Indeed, the University we see today is much different from the one encountered by those first Girtonians. And it was campaigning women who helped shaped an institution that has changed its ideas about what a university ought to be, what it should teach, and what an academic career should look like. Here is a selection of items from across the University Library, college, and private collections that reflect the history of women at Cambridge.


The Rising Tide

Much of the content in this collection has been made possible by a generous gift from the Howard and Abby Milstein Foundation.