Somerville College, Oxford

Somerville College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England, and was one of the first women's colleges to be founded there. As of 2006, Somerville had an estimated financial endowment of £44.5 million. The college is located at the southern end of Woodstock Road, with Little Clarendon Street to the south and Walton Street to the west.


In June 1878, the Association for the Higher Education of Women was formed, aiming for the eventual creation of a college for women in Oxford. Some of the more prominent members of the association were Dr. G. G. Bradley, Master of University College, T. H. Green, a prominent liberal philosopher and Fellow of Balliol College, and Edward Stuart Talbot, Warden of Keble College. Talbot insisted on a specifically Anglican institution, which was unacceptable to most of the other members. The two parties eventually split, and Talbot's group founded Lady Margaret Hall.

Thus, in 1879, a second committee was formed to create a college "in which no distinction will be made between students on the ground of their belonging to different religious denominations." This second committee included Dr. John Percival, Dr. G. W. Kitchin, A. H. D. Ackland, T. H. Green, Mary Ward, William Sidgwick, Henry Nettleship, and A. G. Vernon Harcourt. This new effort resulted in the founding of Somerville Hall, named for the then recently deceased Scottish mathematician Mary Somerville. The hall was renamed Somerville College in 1894.

Somerville College was converted into a hospital during World War I — Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon were patients there. Sassoon opens Siegfried's Progress with a reference to the college.

Somerville remained a women's college until 1992, when its statutes were amended to permit male students and fellows; the first male fellows were appointed in 1993, and the first male students admitted in 1994. Today around 50% of students are men.

Principals of Somerville Hall and Somerville College
  • Madelaine Shaw-Lefèvre (Principal of Somerville Hall 1879–1889)
  • Agnes Catherine Maitland (Principal of Somerville Hall 1889–1894, Principal of Somerville College 1894–1906)
  • Dame Emily Penrose (1906–1926) — classical scholar
  • Margery Fry (1927–1930) — social reformer
  • Helen Darbishire (1930–1945) — literary scholar
  • Dame Janet Vaughan (1945–1967) — haematologist and radiobiologist
  • Barbara Craig (1967–1980)
  • Daphne Park, Baroness Park of Monmouth (1980–1989)
  • Catherine Pestell (1989–1991, as Catherine Hughes 1991–1996)
  • Dame Fiona Caldicott (1996–2010)
  • Alice Prochaska (2010–)
Notable alumni

See also Former students of Somerville College, Oxford

  • Alyson Bailes, former British ambassador and Director of Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
  • Carys Bannister, first British female consultant neurosurgeon
  • Vera Brittain, novelist
  • Dame Averil Cameron, professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History and former Warden of Keble College
  • Dame Kay Davies, human geneticist
  • Susie Dent, television presenter
  • Dame Antonia Susan Duffy (A. S. Byatt), novelist
  • Philippa Foot, philosopher and ethicist
  • Margaret Forster, author
  • Indira Gandhi, former prime minister of India
  • Helen Goodman, Labour politician
  • Celia Green, philosopher and author
  • Nia Griffith, Labour politician
  • Dorothy Hodgkin, Nobel Prize winner for her discovery of the structure of Vitamin B12
  • Fasi Zaka TV personality, Critic, Journalist.
  • Winifred Holtby, novelist
  • Sarah Ioannides, music director and conductor
  • Margaret Jay, Baroness Jay of Paddington, Labour Party politician and life peer
  • Kathleen Kenyon (1906–1978), archaeologist
  • Emma Kirkby, classical singer
  • Frances Lincoln (1945–2001), publisher
  • Genevieve Lloyd, philosopher and feminist
  • Kathleen Ollerenshaw, mathematician
  • Onora O'Neill, Kantian philosopher and member of the House of Lords
  • Rose Macaulay, novelist
  • Peter Morris (playwright), (1973-)
  • Iris Murdoch, novelist
  • Esther Rantzen, journalist and children's welfare ambassador
  • Michèle Roberts (1949–), writer
  • Emma Georgina Rothschild (1948–), economic historian
  • Dorothy L. Sayers, author of the Lord Peter Wimsey books and translator of Dante's Divina Commedia.
  • Caroline Series (entry in German version of wikipedia), mathematician
  • Matthew Skelton, writer (1971–).
  • Cornelia Sorabji, first female Indian barrister, social reformer, and writer
  • Margaret Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher, Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom 1979-90 and life peer
  • Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby, Liberal Democrats politician and life peer
  • Olive Willis (1877–1964), founder of Downe House
  • Kara Miller (1977-), writer and director, Breakthrough Brits award winner

Building Activity

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