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'Must it be a Man?' Women's contribution to the University of Oxford

An examination of women's contribution to the University of Oxford, to mark the centenary of women's graduation.

‘Must it be a man?’ wrote Charles Herford to James Murray when the latter was seeking an assistant to work on his Oxford English Dictionary. The expectation in 1906, when the letter was written, was that such positions would ‘naturally’ fall to men, and this epitomises the assumptions which governed the University of Oxford until long into the modern era. In fact, however, by 1906 women occupied many and sometimes surprising roles within the University – roles which ranged from college principals to college servants; from sitters whose portraits graced Oxford’s walls to librarians who laboured behind the scenes; from scholars who produced the knowledge in Oxford’s books to those who produced the books themselves in the OUP bindery; from very public figures in Oxford life to those known as somebody’s wife or daughter, if they were known at all.
Although women’s Oxford story has often been one of absence and exclusion, this conference reveals the many women who enriched Oxford’s life and scholarship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Everyone – scholars, Oxford alumni, and anyone with an interest in the theme – is welcome to join distinguished speakers from Oxford and other universities for a day of discussion in the centenary year of Oxford degrees for women.

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# Episode Title Description People Date
1 Introduction Richard Ovenden, head of the Bodleian Library, gives a short introduction to the event Richard Ovenden 02 Mar 2021
2 Women in the Oxford English Dictionary A fascinating insight into the role of women in the Oxford English Dictionary Charlotte Brewer 02 Mar 2021
3 Women workers at OUP A look back at women who worked at the Oxford University Press. Delivered by Peter Gilliver on behalf of Martin Maw Martin Maw, Peter Gilliver 02 Mar 2021
4 ‘Must it be a man?’: the women who helped to make the Oxford English Dictionary Peter Gilliver discusses the contribution women made to the Oxford English Dictionary Peter Gilliver 02 Mar 2021
5 All but absent from history? Women in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Womens roles in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Jane Garnett 02 Mar 2021
6 'The Lady Collationers': women and the study of medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Libraries A look at the careers of the Parker sisters known as the Lady Collationers Hope Williard 02 Mar 2021
7 The most woman-studentish? Somerville College and student life A look at early women students at Somerville College Oxford Mo Moulton 02 Mar 2021
8 Women college principals and their views on degrees, 1879–1920 Anne Keene explores the views of the 10 women principals of the 5 women's colleges estabished between 1879-1920 Anne Keen 02 Mar 2021
9 The domestic work of women at Oxford colleges A look at the history of the women service sector workers at Oxford Colleges and upon whom the comfortable academic life depended Kathryne Crossley 02 Mar 2021
10 Women of the Bodleian: personal stories behind progressive steps A look at the early women librarians of the Bodleian Library Anne Lawrence 02 Mar 2021
11 A subject ‘for Honours men’: women in the early School of Geography A look at early women geography students at Oxford Elizabeth Baigent 02 Mar 2021
12 Diversifying portraiture: women’s place in a project to change the representation of Oxford success Alice Prochaska discusses the Diversifying Portraiture project designed by the Equality and Diversity Unit at Oxford University Alice Prochaska 02 Mar 2021
13 The architecture of women’s higher education in England, 1869–1914 How University architecture reflects the presence of women and their perceived needs, and the generosity of female benefactors Geoffrey Tyack 02 Mar 2021
14 Learning since our mothers day Oxford's registrar gives a personal account of her mother's journey through education and early career, and the expectations for women at the time, and how that has shaped her own career. Gill Aitken 02 Mar 2021