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Sidgwick Hall and the sunken garden of Newnham College.
A view of Sidgwick.
Peile Building.
A view of Pfeiffer Arch and the Old Hall building.
Pfeiffer Arch - The original main entrance to the college before the Porters' Lodge moved to Sidgwick Avenue.

Newnham College is a women-only constituent college of the University of Cambridgemarker, Englandmarker.

The college was founded in 1871 by Henry Sidgwick, and was the second Cambridge college to admit women after Girton Collegemarker.


The progress of women in the university owes a lot to the pioneering work undertaken by Henry Sidgwick, fellow of Trinitymarker. In 1871, alongside Anne Clough – the college's first principal – and Eleanor Balfour (Sidgwick's future wife), Sidgwick oversaw the purchase of 74 Regent Streetmarker, which was to house five female students who wished to attend lectures but did not live near enough to the University to do so. After moving to Merton House on Queen's Roadmarker the next year; in 1875 the first building was built on the current site on Sidgwick Avenuemarker, now called Old Hall. Between 1875 and 1910 the college continued to grow with the construction of three more buildings.

In this initial period, all the buildings were designed by Basil Champneys in "Queen Anne" style to much acclaim. These and later buildings are grouped around some of the most attractive gardens in Cambridge, hidden from the road by the buildings that surround them. Not only are they lovely gardens, but (unlike most of Cambridge's colleges) all residents can walk on the grass for most of the year. Newnham also had laboratories because women were not permitted into the university labs. These now house a theatre space and a library. This library was originally Newnham students' primary reference source since women were not allowed into the University Librarymarker either. It remains one of the largest college libraries in Cambridge. Newnham is also renowned for having the longest continuous indoor corridor in Europe.

Newnham taught a varied curriculum, tailored to the students who generally had far less formal education than their male counterparts (unlike Girton which accepted women on the same terms, and taught them the same curriculum as men in the other colleges). Although it was usual for a male student to take his degree after three years of study, not all Newnham students completed an entire degree course after four years' work.

Women in the university

The idea of women attending the University was greeted with derision when first seriously raised in the 19th century, but matters progressed nonetheless; in 1868 Cambridge's Local Examinations Board (governing non-university examinations) allowed women to take exams for the first time. Concrete change within the university would have to wait until the first female colleges were formed, and following the foundation of Girton College (1869) and Newnham (1872) women were allowed into lectures, albeit at the discretion of the lecturer. By 1881, women were allowed to sit university examinations, and in 1921 were awarded "titles" as a result, although they would have to wait until 1947 before they were awarded degrees, and 1958 before they achieved equal rights to their male counterparts.

In 1954, a third women's college, New Hallmarker, was founded. Darwin Collegemarker was the first mixed college and was founded in 1964. 1972 saw three men's colleges (Churchillmarker, Claremarker and King'smarker) admit women for the first time. Cambridge now has no all-male colleges and Girton is also mixed. Newnham, New Hall (now renamed Murray Edwards College) and Lucy Cavendish remain all-female.

The college attracts a wide range of female students, including those who might not be willing or able to study at mixed colleges for cultural reasons.

In 1928, Newnham and Girton Colleges were among the venues for a series of lectures by Virginia Woolf that resulted in the famous book-length essay A Room of One's Own.

For information about women in senior University positions see also


With the conversion of the last men-only colleges into mixed colleges in the 1970s and 80s, there were inevitably questions about whether any of the remaining women-only colleges would also change to mixed colleges. The issue again became prominent as women only colleges throughout the rest of the country began admitting men and following the 2007 announcement that Oxford University'smarker last remaining women-only college, St Hilda'smarker, would admit men, Cambridge is the only university in the United Kingdommarker with colleges that admit only female students.


See also :Category:Alumni of Newnham College, Cambridge

Name Birth Death Career
Diane Abbott 1953 Politician
Dame Joan Bakewell 1933 Journalist, Broadcaster
Mary Beard 1955 Classicist
Kate Bertram 1912 1999 Biologist
Mary Boyce 1920 2006 British Iranist and doyenne of Zoroastrian studies at SOASmarker
Eleanor Bron 1938 Actress
A. S. Byatt 1936 Writer
Joan Curran 1916 1999 Physicist
Nora David 1913 2009 Politician
Margaret Drabble 1939 Writer
Sarah Dunant 1950 Writer, Broadcaster
Patricia Duncker 1951 Novelist
Julie Etchingham 1969 Newsreader
Rosalind Franklin 1920 1958 Physical chemist, Crystallographer
Jane Goodall 1934 Primatologist, Anthropologist
Germaine Greer 1939 Australian academic, Feminist writer
Jane Grigson 1928 1990 Cookery writer
Patricia Hewitt 1948 Politician
Patricia Hodgson 1947 Dame of the British Empire, educator and director of the BBC
Isaline Blew Horner 1896 1981 PTS president, OBE recipient
Penelope Leach 1937 Psychologist, Writer
Jessica Mann 1937 Writer
Miriam Margolyes 1941 Actress
Iris Murdoch 1919 1999 Writer
Jadwiga Piłsudska 1920 Architect, Pilot
Sylvia Plath 1932 1963 American poet
Amber Reeves 1887 1981 Writer
Alison Richard 1948 Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge
Audrey Richards 1899 1984 Social anthropologist
Emma Thompson 1959 Actress
Constance Tipper 1894 1995 Metallurgist, Crystallographer
Claire Tomalin 1933 Writer
Michelene Wandor 1940 Dramatist
Katharine Whitehorn 1926 Writer
Olivia Williams 1968 Actress
Gina Bateman 1912 Writer/Teacher

For details of graduates in mathematics up to 1940 see

Institutions based on Newnham

Newnham College was the clear conceptual and architectural inspiration for University Women's College at the University of Melbournemarker, Australia (now University College).

See also

External links


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