St. Anne's College

Pages 351-353

A History of the County of Oxford: Volume 3, the University of Oxford. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1954.

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(till 1942 the Society of Oxford Home-Students).

It is necessary to preface an account of the Society of Oxford Home-Students by a short history of the Association for the Education of Women, which was not only responsible for a large part of the educational administration of all the Women's Societies from 1878 to 1920 but was actually the parent of the Home-Students.

The Association for the Higher Education of Women in Oxford (known familiarly as the A.E.W.) was founded on 22 June 1878 at a meeting held at Jesus College. Its object was to provide a system of lectures, with reference to the 'Oxford Examinations for Women over 18', just instituted by the University. It continued its activities till 20 November 1920, when it dissolved itself as the University, by admitting women to membership, had made itself responsible for them. Its first chairman was the Master of University College, Dr. Franck Bright; the first Honorary Secretary was Mr. S. H. Butcher, fellow and tutor of University College: he was succeeded for a short time by Professor T. H. Green, then by Mr. Arthur Sidgwick. There were also the following women honorary secretaries: Mrs. T. H. Green (1880–3), Mrs. A. H. Johnson (1883–94), Miss Annie Rogers (1894–1920). The council and officers of the A.E.W. laid down general rules for the conduct of students and their attendance at lectures, and made itself responsible for arrangements with tutors and payment of fees, and for the negotiations by which University Examinations were gradually opened to women. The dates were as follows: 1884 Honour Classical Moderations; Final Honour Schools of Mathematics, Modern History, and Natural Science; 1886 Responsions; 1888 Final Honour School of Literae Humaniores; 1890 Final Honour School of Jurisprudence; 1893 Final Honour School of Theology and Oriental Studies; 1894 all other examinations. But special Honour Examinations for Women were held till 1895 in English, and till 1904 in Modern Languages, at which dates the University instituted Final Honour Schools in these subjects. These special examinations were set and marked by University teachers, but were organized by the A.E.W. They were not accepted as qualifying for the degree, when this was thrown open.

By a curious irony, the University continued till 1910 to publish in its Examination Statutes the statement that only a member of the University could take these examinations, though they had been thrown open to women by statute, women were residing in Oxford for the express purpose of taking them, and women's names were published in the Class Lists.

In 1892 the A.E.W. secured a room for an office at the top of the Clarendon Building, Broad St., and in 1895 accommodation also for the Nettleship Library, a reading and lending library open to all registered students, founded in memory of Professor Henry Nettleship.

In 1888 the important measure of registration was introduced, and from 1889 onwards a yearly report and calendar was published. From this time till the establishment of the Delegacy for Women Students in 1910, all students were entered on the books of the Association as well as on those of their own college and an exact record of examinations was kept. These records, with the register of residence preserved by the Hall or Society, enabled women of this period to prove their qualifications for the B.A. degree when this was thrown open in 1920.

It should be noted that the Association was largely composed of members of the University, but that it had no legal or statutory relation to it, though from 1893 onwards the Hebdomadal Council appointed one member of the A.E.W. Council, and the Vice-Chancellor lent a room in the Clarendon Building for its office. In many ways the whole position of women in Oxford was thus a stage secret. Students attended lectures, were taught by University tutors, and took the Degree Examinations, achieving a high level of 'Honours': but the University was officially blind to their existence, laying down no regulations as to their residence, discipline, or education.

The main result of this neglect was an elasticity of system which actually assisted development. A variety of courses was permitted, many women devoting three years to the Final Honours work and omitting any intermediate examination. Three years' residence was not always kept, and a few women took the examinations without residence. This was regularly done for a time by students from the Royal Holloway College for Women.

In 1911 an important change was made in this state of affairs by the institution of a Delegacy for Women Students. By this innovation the University for the first time formally recognized the existence of the four women's halls and of the Home-Students. The Delegacy consisted of the Vice-Chancellor, Proctors, nine members of Convocation, and nine women, of whom one was the Principal of the Society of Home-Students ex officio. The eight women were elected by an electoral roll of women engaged in the teaching or administration of women students. The granting to women of places on a University Delegacy and the establishment of this electoral roll were both important steps forward, as were the recognition of the five Societies, and the confirmation, by decree, of the appointment of Mrs. Johnson as Principal of the Home-Students. The Delegacy had a short and useful life, under the chairmanship of Professor W. M. Geldart. Registration and admission to University examinations were transferred from the Association to the Delegacy, which was charged with the duty of making an annual report of all 'Registered Students', with full details as to examinations and residence; this was published in the University Gazette.

In short, this stage of constitutional development, by giving recognition, prepared the way for the full membership of the University which was granted to women directly after the 1914–18 war. There had been a great 'fight for Degrees' in 1896, but even then full membership was not asked for. In 1920 the 'Statute of Women Students' (Univ. Statuta, Titulus xxiii), which was passed by Congregation without a division, admitted women to matriculation and to all degrees (except B.D. and D.D. which were thrown open in 1935) under the same conditions as men. Further legislation also made them eligible for membership of Congregation, Convocation, the Hebdomadal Council, and Boards of Faculties.

In all this growth and development the Home-Students were closely involved. The Society was not founded in the sense that other colleges and halls were founded, but in 1879, besides the students resident in Somerville and Lady Margaret Hall, there were also 25 students residing in their own homes or with friends. This class of student was welcomed and was under the special supervision of the Lady Secretary to the Association, first Mrs. T. H. Green (1879–81) and then Mrs. A. H. Johnson. They seem to have had no positive title till 1891, when the title 'Home-Students' first appears in the A.E.W. Report.

In 1893 the Association appointed a special Committee for Home-Students, with Mrs. Johnson as their Principal. At this date there were 44 Home-Students. On 30 Nov. 1898 the A.E.W. bestowed on them the full title of 'Society of Oxford Home-Students', and by this name the Society was recognized by the University in the Statute establishing the Women's Delegacy in 1910. Mrs. Johnson was the first woman to hold an appointment direct from the University. By this date the number of students had risen to 91.

The recognition of a non-collegiate body of women students was remarkable. No such body has ever developed at Cambridge, and in some sense the Home-Students had actually outstripped their male counterpart in Oxford, the Non-Collegiate, who had not yet acquired the title of Society. This development was acknowledged in the A.E.W. Report of 1910 to be due to Mrs. Johnson, their first Principal, who 'by her wise care and unfailing devotion not only won the respect and affection of the individual students, but has created a Society which has received the same recognition that has been granted to the Colleges and Halls'.

Under the same statute a committee of the new Delegacy became the governing body of the Society, and from 1911 onwards the annual reports of this committee were published in the University Gazette as part of the report of the Delegacy for Women Students. The committee drew up a constitution for the Society and secured a small contribution from the funds of the Delegacy towards a salary for the Principal. It also obtained from the Cassel Educational Trust a grant of £500 a year, and from the Gilchrist Trustees a small scholarship. These were notable financial developments. Another innovation was the appointment of tutors of the Society in 1913. Up to this date Home-Students had been taught by tutors who were upon the staff of the Association. (All women tutors were in the first place Association tutors; but from the early nineties the Halls had been developing their own staffs).

In 1919 the number of Home-Students rose from 88 to 167, of whom 39 were foreign students.

In October 1920, when women were admitted to the University, the degree of M.A. by decree was conferred on the Principal, Mrs. Johnson, and upon those tutors of the Society who had held office for not less than five years. Other tutors and senior women, if not fully qualified for the degree of B.A., had to complete their qualification by taking the examinations which they had omitted. It was a curious situation for a woman who had been an Honours Tutor for some years to find herself obliged to take Pass Moderations or Divinity, or to learn enough Greek to complete an exemption from Responsions.

At this date the Society received as the Latin version of its name the title 'Societas mulierum Oxoniae privatim studentium'.

Shortly after, the Delegacy for Women Students was abolished, and the Home-Students were placed under the government of a Delegacy for Home-Students, of which the Vice-Chancellor was official chairman, and the Principal an ex-officio member.

In 1927, by an amendment to the statute, the tutors were given the right to elect four of their number as Delegates, and the number of students was fixed at 220, the number already chosen by the Delegates. The Delegacy now consists of the Vice-Chancellor, the Proctors, the Principal of the Society, the VicePrincipal, four tutors of the society elected for a period of four years by the Principal and tutors, the Controller of Lodgings, and six members of Convocation holding office for six years, of whom two are elected by the Hebdomadal Council, two by Congregation, and two nominated by the Vice-Chancellor and Proctors.

Certain points should be made clear. Originally the majority of Home-Students lived, as the title suggests, in their own homes; but even in 1879 there were a few students boarding in families other than their own. The system, being both natural and economical, attracted a steadily increasing number of students, and in 1900 they were thus classified in the annual report: 18 living in their homes, 14 living in other private houses, 6 living in lodgings. In 1909 the numbers were: 29 living in their own homes, 34 living in other private houses, 8 in lodgings. At the present date (1939) there are 25 in their own homes, 118 in other private houses, 6 in lodgings, and 71 in hostels. By University regulations every Home-Student under 25 must live either in her own home or in a house approved by the Controller of Lodgings. The hostess of such a house must be personally known to, and recommended by, the Principal of the Society, to whom she is responsible for a general supervision of the students in her charge. Only students over the age of 25 are allowed to reside in lodgings. There is also a large hostel provided at Springfield St. Mary, Banbury Road, by the Anglican Community of St. Mary's, Wantage. Another class are the members of religious communities (Roman Catholic), who come to Oxford for University education, and who rank as Home-Students: viz. the nuns of the Order of the Sacred Heart at 11 Norham Gardens, of Notre Dame at their convent in Woodstock Road, and of the Holy Child, whose large house in St. Cross Road contains also a hostel for lay Catholic Students, i.e. Cherwell Edge, founded in 1907. Strict university control is assured by the close relation with the Delegacy of Lodgings, the Controller being ex officio a member of the Home-Students Delegacy, and the Principal of the Society ex officio a Delegate of Lodgings.

About the close of the century a desire arose for some central meeting-place for Home-Students, and successive rooms were hired in the town to serve as a junior common room—131 High St. in 1898, then 41 High St., then 44 Broad St., and 16 Ship St. in 1910. The lecture-rooms and Nettleship Library in the top floor of the Old Clarendon Building were also available for Home-Students, as well as for other students of the A.E.W. There was also a small office in the same place, where all fees were paid and lecture lists made out. In 1921 the University assigned the two lecture-rooms to the Society, as the A.E.W. had ceased to exist, and also allowed it to occupy several rooms in 1 Jowett Walk, as Principal's room and general office, and as Common Room. The Nettleship Library was also moved to the same house. In 1937 the society moved into Musgrave House, South Parks Road. This large private house provides ample rooms for the Principal, the administrative staff, and for two or three tutors, as well as junior common rooms and a pleasant garden. The Society has the lease until 1967 by the bequest of Mrs. Florence Hawkesley Musgrave.

An even more important stage in the history of the Society has been a magnificent benefaction from Mrs. Amy Hartland, who in 1929 established a trust for the erection and maintenance of a central building. A site of about 2 acres lying between the Banbury and Woodstock Roads has been bought, and a large building has been designed by Sir Giles Scott. This will include library, senior and junior common rooms, assembly hall, Principal's and tutors' rooms. In July 1938 the first instalment of this building was opened at 56 Woodstock Road, containing library, stack rooms, lecturerooms, and three tutors' rooms. It is faced externally with Bladon stone, with dressings of Clipsham stone, and is roofed with Cotswold stone slates. The rooms are panelled in Japanese oak and the bookcases and furniture are of the same wood. The library is divided into two parts, the Nettleship and the Geldart. The former, consisting of about 15,000 volumes, has developed out of the original library of that name, which was handed over to the Society in 1934 by the four women's colleges, which had by that date acquired libraries of their own. The latter, founded in 1922 by Mrs. Emily Geldart in accordance with the wishes of her husband, W. M. Geldart, Vinerian Professor of English Law (1909–22), consists entirely of law books, and is open to all women members of the University studying law.

The finance of the Society is dependent on three sources: (1) the fees of graduates and undergraduates on the books; (2) grants from the University, variable in amount and in no sense permanent; (3) the income derived from various funds, which have been collected, or have been given or bequeathed to the society, and which are held in trust for it by the University. The Delegates are also trying to build up a fund for the maintenance and the extension of the Central Buildings. Not being a college or an incorporated body, the Society cannot itself hold money in trust. For the same reason it has no coat of arms. A rebus, carved in stone above the door of the new building, commemorates the benefactress, Mrs. A. G. Hartland; the beaver supporters of this shield refer to the beaver crest, informally adopted by Home-Students in 1913.

The Society has reached an important stage of development—collegiate in the educational, but not in the residential sense of the term. Its aim is to complete as soon as possible the Hartland building as a centre for all its social and intellectual life and administration, but to continue to provide its students with varied opportunities as to residence. This elasticity of system is its great characteristic, and enables it to meet the needs both of the older students and graduates of other Universities, who chiefly read for research degrees, and of the ordinary undergraduates, who come direct from school, and are admitted by a competitive entrance examination to read for Honour Schools. It may be noted that the expenses of a student of the Society are rather less than that of a college student, but the only scholarships that the Delegates can offer are small.

The striking development of the Society from a small unorganized group to the position of the largest body of women in the University is markedly due to the three Principals who ruled it during its growth to maturity—Mrs. Bertha Johnson, wife of Arthur H. Johnson, Fellow of All Souls College (1893–1921); Miss Christine E. Burrows, formerly Principal of St. Hilda's (1921–9); and Miss Grace E. Hadow (1929–40). Much also has been due to Miss Annie M. A. H. Rogers, a member of successive governing bodies for fifty years, who devoted herself to building up the finance and constitution of the Society.

Important changes have taken place in St. Anne's during the past ten years. In January 1940 Miss Hadow died and was succeeded as Principal by the Hon. Eleanor Plumer. The title of the Society was altered to St. Anne's Society by a Statute passed in Congregation on 3 March 1942 and approved by the King in Council 13 July 1942. The Latin version is Societas Sanctae Annae. In 1945 Mrs. Hartland died, bequeathing her estate to St. Anne's. With her previous gifts it constitutes one of the largest bequests made to a women's society in this country, and will suffice for the completion of the central block of the building designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. Building is now in progress. It has also been possible to use part of the bequest for the purchase of residential hostels for students, and there are now six of these. The provision of hostels marks an important development in the history of the Society. Out of 258 students on the books in Trinity Term 1950, 146 were living in hostels, 40 in Approved and Authorized Houses, and only 4 in their own homes.

The Society has received the following benefactions: Endowment Fund (1913) given by various donors; Bertha Johnson Scholarship (1921) given by various donors to commemorate the work of Mrs. Johnson as Principal; Ethel Simon Scholarship (1921) given by the Rt. Hon. Sir John Simon in memory of his wife Ethel Venables, a member of the society (1890–2); Hilda Ainley Walker Prize (1923), given by Mrs. Poulton in memory of her daughter, a member of the Society (1903–7); Tutorial Fund (1923), given by various donors; Goodwin Prize (1923) given by Miss Una Goodwin; Ernest Cassel Fund (1925), given by Sir Ernest Cassel; Crocker Bequest (1926), bequeathed by Miss Florence Crocker, a member of the Society; Hartland Trust Fund (1929); John Gamble Fund (1930), bequeathed by the Rev. John Gamble for furtherance of the higher education of women; Musgrave Bequest (1934); Johnson-Smyth Bequest (1934); and Spurling Bequest (1940), both from former members of the Society; Annie Rogers Bequest (1938); Hilda Matheson Prize, founded by Mr. D. Macleod Matheson in memory of his sister (1943); Hadow Memorial Fund (1942); Ruth Butler Prize (1943), founded by friends of Miss R. F. Butler; two 'St. Anne's History Scholarships' given by an anonymous donor (1945); Violet Butler Prize (Economics) (1947); Hartland Bequest (1945). All these funds, with the exception of the Hartland Trust, are held by the University in trust for St. Anne's Society.


  • 1. The fullest account is in The Society of Oxford Home-Students, printed in 1930 for private circulation, and in A History of St. Anne's Society, vol. ii (1921–46) by Ruth F. Butler, printed for private circulation by the University Press, 1949.
  • 2. Since this article was written a request for incorporation was submitted to the University in 1950 by the Society. This was agreed to by Hebdomadal Council and in June 1951 the draft Charter and Statutes were approved by Congregation. On 29 Apr. 1952 the Queen signed the Charter incorporating the Society as a College; on 28 May 1952 additional buildings were opened.