Welcome to the Hilary edition of the SJC Women’s Network eNewsletter!
‘Happy International Women’s Day’ to all women around the globe and to our supporters; we hope you can embrace this year’s theme which is #ChooseToChallenge. Additionally, this month celebrates Mother’s Day here in the UK. It seems only right to take stock and show our gratitude for the important women in our lives. Success and obstacles take many forms, especially during the current situation, and many of us are reflecting on the importance of our loved ones.
As the new Communications Officer for the Network and editor of this eNewsletter, I want to focus on giving a voice to all types of women and honouring their choices - past, present and future. Fittingly, this edition of the newsletter features an article with Kate Summerscale, an SJC alumna and author who writes biographies of unknown and mysterious figures. In Kate’s words, "The best [stories] were about the people that you’ve never heard of"!
Whilst searching the College's photographic archive, I was surprised by the lack of any evidence of women in the College of yesteryear. Women were often hidden figures, obfuscated from the annals of St John's without a visible trail. During the early twentieth century, there were only two regular occasions that allowed women to enter the grounds of St John's: one was the socially elite Archery Club’s Ladies' Day and the other was as 'plus-ones' to the Commemoration Ball.
The photograph included below is from the 1906 ball. Whilst men’s white tie styling remains very similar, women’s couture certainly shows a bit more ankle these days! By the time this photograph was taken, all Oxford colleges had opened lectures to women, although individual lecturers could still refuse a woman's attendance. It was not until 1920, 14 years later, that women could officially matriculate at Oxford University. One must look ahead to 1979 before women become a more natural feature at St John’s, which you can see in the matriculation photograph below.
We are lucky, that clearly, things have changed a great deal, and women are now firmly established at all levels of St John’s life. On top of the 2000 Women celebrations in the 2014/15 academic year and the 40 Years of Women at St John's celebration in the 2019/20 academic year, we have just celebrated the centenary of women at Oxford, and you can view a wonderful timeline of that journey here.
This edition of the newsletter also introduces two new steering group members, myself and Joanne-Louise Harrison-Gross, who is the alumni representative for the 80s and was one of the first women at St John’s. She has had a fascinating international career, which you can learn more about below. You can also discover my motivations for joining the Steering Group in that article. In a nutshell, I think the power of this network is exponential and I am really looking forward to seeing it blossom in the post-COVID renaissance.
Best wishes for spring,
Rose Sundt (2011, Oriental Studies)
Alumna Rose Sundt (2011, Oriental Studies) speaks to fellow alumna Kate Summerscale (1984, English Language & Literature), author of the number one bestselling The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.
Student representative Isabella Stephens (2017, Chemistry) reports on the Women's Network's recent Not the Milk Round event.
Click here to read more about the event
We have recently welcomed new members to our Steering Group, including Joanne Harrison-Gross and Rose Sundt.
Soon we will be launching a LinkedIn group for the women of St John's. Are you interested in joining? Click the button below and hit send on the auto-created email to let us know so that we can automatically add you.
I am interested in joining the SJC Women's Network LinkedIn Group
Check for updates on the Women's Network Facebook Page