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On the 7 October 1920, the matriculation of 130 women students took place at the University of Oxford’s Divinity School. 

A report of the day in the Oxford Times recalled, 

‘Before ten o’clock the entrance to the Divinity School was alive with trim figures in cap and gown in various stages of excitement, all carrying the University statute book under their arms and all proud of their newly-won distinction’.1 

As each group of women arrived from their colleges, they were accompanied by the Heads of Houses. Miss Jex Blake (Principal of LMH) presented five members of her college; Miss Penrose (Principal of Somerville) headed a group of 27 women; Miss Jourdain (Principal of St Hugh’s) accompanied 15 members of her college; Miss Moberly (Principal of St Hilda’s) presented 11 students, and Miss Butler accompanied some 72 Home-Students. 

Each group of students was presented by the head of their college to the Vice-Chancellor, who bowed and handed to each woman a copy of the statute and a matriculation certificate, bearing his signature, from which he read the following words; 

‘Quo de comparvit coram me (signature and college of student) et admonitis est, de obsevandis Statutis hujus Universitatis et in matriculam Universitatis relata est’.

After the matriculation ceremony on the quadrangle, Henrietta Jex Blake spoke to her students declaring: 

‘This is the proudest moment of my life, and you are historic characters - the first women ever matriculated in this leading university of the world’.2

During 1920 and 1921, a total of 1159 women matriculated. Eleanor Lodge summarised the feeling of many of these women: 

‘Only those who have lived by the university but not of it, who have done University work but without being university members, can fully appreciate the vast difference it makes to be now at last part of the great institution, which has been so long the home of students and scholars’.3

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Women Receive Degrees

‘It’s was a woman’s day, and a day for women to remember’.4

(Eleanor Jourdain)

On the morning of the 14 October 1920 women were formally admitted to degrees for the first time in the history of the University of Oxford. 

The ceremony took place in the Sheldonian, which was said to have been 

‘crowded with women undergraduates, their friends and a large number of prominent members of the University’.5

The degree of M.A was first conferred by decree of Convocation on the five Principals of the women’s colleges and the societies of women students in Oxford; Miss Emily Penrose, OBE, Miss Henrietta Jex Blake, Miss Eleanor Frances Jourdain and Miss Winifred Horsburgh Moberly and Mrs Bertha Johnson. After this, the conferring of ordinary degrees began. Candidates of the men’s colleges, having taken their degrees, were followed by the admission of fifty women graduates, twenty-nine to the B.A and M.A together, one to the B.C.L, two B,Litt, one to B.Sc and nineteen to the BA. Among those who received their degrees on the 14 October 1920, were several members of the tutorial and administration staff of the women’s colleges and women prominent in the educational and reform movements of the nineteenth and twentieth century. 

[1] The Oxford Times, ‘Daughters of the University’, October 8, 1920.

[2] Batson, Her Oxford, 189.

[3] Bailey, Lady Margaret Hall, 90. 

[4] Eleanor Jourdain, Time and Tide, October 23, 1920.

[5] Eleanor Jourdain, Time and Tide, October 23, 1920.