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Girton150 Alumnae Profiles: The Visitor, The Rt Hon the Baroness Hale of Richmond, DBE, PC

November 5, 2018 Girton150News

Confident, approachable, extremely clever, a pioneer, passionate about equality…and a wicked sense of humour. These are only some of the many qualities that people associate with Baroness Brenda Hale of Richmond, Girton’s Visitor. One of the College’s most distinguished alumnae, and a role model for women in law, she is currently the first female President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. This, however, is only one of the many firsts in her life.

Brenda Hale was the first from her school to go to Cambridge, where she read Law, arriving at Girton in 1963. After having graduated with top honours, she started her career by teaching Law at Manchester University, also qualifying as a barrister and practising for a while at the Manchester Bar. Eventually, her academic specialisms were in family and social welfare law; she was indeed the founding editor of the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law; she also co-authored a pioneering case book on ‘The Family, Law and Society’.

In 1984 she was the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission, a body charged to keep the Law of England and Wales under review and to recommend reform where needed . Important legislation resulting from her work includes the Children Act 1989, the Family Law Act 1996, and the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

In 1994 Lady Hale became a High Court judge, the first to have made her career as an academic and public servant, rather than as a practising barrister.

In 1999 she was the second woman to be promoted to the Court of Appeal, before becoming the first female Law Lord. In October 2009 she became the first woman Justice of The Supreme Court. She is a Dame of the Order of the British Empire, a Fellow of the British Academy, and holds honorary doctorates from 27 Universities as well as Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

Baroness Hale is fully involved in the life of Girton as its fourth Visitor, succeeding Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. An inspiring role model for Girton students, she is a champion for equality: for women, of course, but for all under-represented communities, whether because of their class, gender, sexual orientation or ethnic background. Her work and her life intertwine the law, the issues of the day, and the quest for a more equal society.

Lady Hale will be at the heart of Girton’s 150th Anniversary celebrations in 2019, delivering the Visitor’s Anniversary Lecture on Thursday 2 May 2019 (on the topic of ‘One hundred years of women in law’), presiding at the Anniversary Festival on 28-30 June 2019, and overseeing a year of truly extraordinary activity within and beyond the College.

For more information about Girton150, please visit: www.girton150.com

Published: 5 November 2018


A Glance at Maintenance

November 1, 2018 Girton150News

Maintenance Team 2018

Maintenance Team 2018

We in Maintenance are at our best when neither seen nor heard. We like to keep the College running at peak efficiency with the minimum of disruption to the rest of its members.

Thankfully we usually achieve this aim. In the last 12 months we have received 2555 repair requests. Our biggest hurdles when trying to repair things are hunting down parts or waiting for them to arrive or more commonly, looking for a window of opportunity when we will not disturb anybody.

Sometimes we are called when there is no problem, just a misunderstanding of how our systems work. Please, never be afraid to call us – we would much rather attend a repair when we aren’t needed than not be called when we could have helped. Not everyone is an expert in building Maintenance that is quite literally why we are here. If you are ever unsure, ask us.

There are eleven of us in our team: Manager, Deputy/Electrician, Team Admin, Plumber, two Carpenters, Painter, Compliance Technician, two Maintenance Assistants and Apprentice Painter.

Confined space training - Maintenance Team

Confined space training – Maintenance Team

We usually stick to our specialisms, with our Manager fielding awkward questions and chasing contractors. He has implemented many changes of policy and new developments within the Maintenance Department.

The Deputy Manager and Electrician has to juggle his dual role between looking out for the day to running of the team and ensuring the ageing electrics don’t fail us.

The Maintenance Team Admin takes care of all the paperwork and emails that the rest of the team are truthfully unable to carry out. She also books in work with our many contractors and speaks to College Members to warn them that we might be descending upon them.

Our team Plumber carries the lion’s share of our repair requests due to regular issues with the plumbing, needing many small repairs to supply the site with showers, heating and loos.

Our two Carpenters Work tirelessly to preserve our woodwork; We have a Master Joiner – expert in repairing items of furniture in many types of wood or equally able to construct anything from fitted kitchens to windowsills. Our other Team Carpenter excels at glazing; a vital skill when we are responsible for around 1500 windows, as well as working on doors, locks and general building works.

Our Painter has many years of experience, which shows in the excellent decorative condition of our buildings. He is methodical and dedicated in what for many could be an unending and daunting task. He has recently gained the assistance of our first female maintenance operative, who comes to us with her painting qualifications, looking to learn and improve seizing the excellent opportunity that working here provides.

Our most recently created post is the role of Compliance Technician, keeping track of the essential tasks such as emergency light checks, water testing and updating signage, as well as updating the numerous registers keeping tabs on our contractors and His work is vital to a safe and efficient College.

Finally, our Maintenance Assistants are vital parts of the team. They are flexible and need to help all other trades as well as carrying out their own particular obligations: taking care of the swimming pool, minor repairs and small plumbing or electrical works.

We are also lucky enough to work closely with the College Surveyor who has an overview of the whole site and regularly calls on our physical help or our technical expertise.

Maintenance team involved in the electrical cable replacement

Maintenance team involved in the electrical cable replacement

We are at our best however when we are working as a team. We find it most important to help one another if we need to and have the most fun when we do so. We have been known to occupy a whole corridor when changing light fittings or work as a group of nine when moving three tons of cable when the College supply was being replaced. We always try to get involved in larger projects as a way of team building and helping to improve the College for future generations. Our team has done several big jobs to help prepare the way for The Social Hub and Porters Lodge overhaul. It is a nice feeling to be useful as well as streamlining projects for The College.

Once of our biggest advantages in Maintenance is that we get to meet just about everybody in the College. From the Mistress with a bird strike through her window to a student stranded outside of her room with her Formal Hall dress locked on the other side, or a student trying to study without any working lights to The Ball Committee needing pairs of hands to shift provisions. We are very lucky to get involved with so many facets and enjoy the chance to play a small part in just about every aspect of our wonderful community.

LED lights original (top) vs new (below)

LED lights original (top) vs new (below)

Published: 01 November 2018


Glimpses of Girton: Working Women’s Summer School (WWSS)

October 22, 2018 Glimpses of GirtonNews

The Girton College Working Women’s Summer School (WWSS) was run for a fortnight in August in 1945 and 1947. Newnham College had run similar schools biennially since 1922 and had so many applications in 1944 that it was suggested that Girton might run a school in alternate years.

The WWSS aimed to provide, for women whose formal education had ended at the age of fourteen, an opportunity to fit themselves to enjoy more advanced work and to open the way to new interests and a wider outlook on life.

The Girton stalwarts who organised the WWSS included: the historian, M. G. Jones (1880-1950); Mary Cartwright (1900-1998), a mathematician and later Mistress of Girton; the biologist, Ann Bishop (1899-1990); medieval historian, Helen Cam (1885-1968); Rosemary Syfret (1914-1998), who served as a Tutor, Registrar and Fellow of the College; Helen McMorran (1898-1985), Librarian and later Vice-Mistress of the College; Bertha Jeffreys (1903-1999), Director of Studies in Mathematics and later Vice-Mistress; and the classicist, Alison Duke (1915-2005), who later acted as a long-serving Tutor of the College.

Printed prospectus for the 1947 Working Women’s Summer School, to be held on Saturday 2 August 1947 until Saturday 16 August 1947. A blank application form is attached to be returned by 15 May 1947 (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 1/5/2pt).

Printed prospectus for the 1947 Working Women’s Summer School, to be held on Saturday 2 August 1947 until Saturday 16 August 1947. A blank application form is attached to be returned by 15 May 1947 (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 1/5/2pt).

WWSS students were offered a range of subjects, all taught by members of Girton, including Citizenship and Government, the International Situation, Physiology, Music, English Literature, and Economics in Everyday Life. In addition, all had to take written and spoken English taught by, amongst others, Miss A. P. Pearce (1920-2006) [Philippa Pearce, later a writer of children’s books, including Tom’s Midnight Garden].

Each Summer School catered for around thirty women ranging in age from their late teens to their sixties. Enthusiasm for study was the main criterion for acceptance. Many were so keen to take up a fortnight of study at Girton that they gave up most or all of their precious annual leave to do so.

The occupations of WWSS participants included nursing, clerical work, factory work, housewives, secretaries, a hairdresser, a high speed wireless operator and a baker’s roundswoman. Although the two schools were advertised in exactly the same way (via employers, the Workers’ Educational Association, women’s organisations, factories, colleges for working women and hospitals), the largest group in 1947 were housewives. A report on the 1947 WWSS attributes this to the ‘return to more normal conditions’, presumably meaning the ending of many work opportunities for women after the end of the Second World War (reference: GCIP WWSS 1/2).

An article from the College magazine, The Girton Review, Michaelmas Term 1945, entitled ‘My Impressions of the Summer School, By Student’, page 14 (archive reference: GCCP 2/1/3).

An article from the College magazine, The Girton Review, Michaelmas Term 1945, entitled ‘My Impressions of the Summer School, By Student’, page 14 (archive reference: GCCP 2/1/3).

Members of the WWSS shared the life of those Girton students who were resident for the Long Vacation Term in all except their work. A notice posted on College boards for the 1947 school informs them of arrangements for post and telephone, times of bells and chapel services, and mealtimes, including ‘Elevenses’ in Old Hall (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 1/10).

As well as formal teaching, there was time for private reading and study and organised general activities and outings. These included concerts, theatre productions, a trip to Ely, lantern lectures, and tours of Cambridge colleges. Several of these activities were subsidised by members of Girton.

The 1945 WWSS was widely reported in the press, including an illustrated article in Picture Post, 29 September, entitled ‘What Mother Looks Like When She’s Learning’ (reference: GCIP WWSS 4/1). Margaret Freeman, one of the 1947 students, wrote up her experience in the form of a diary in ‘The Democrat’, quarterly publication of the Norfolk Workers’ Educational Association, describing herself as homesick for Girton on her return home (reference: GCIP WWSS 4/2).

Mary Cartwright’s summary of accounts for the 1945 Working Women’s Summer School (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 2/2/1pt)

Mary Cartwright’s summary of accounts for the 1945 Working Women’s Summer School (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 2/2/1pt)

As a serious experiment in adult education, it was felt that every participant gained something in knowledge from the WWSS and that the majority had foundations and inspiration on which to build future reading and learning. Many of the students sent letters of thanks after attending the school: most indicate as a minimum that they felt more self-confident and had more enjoyment from leisure hours, and some indicate their intention to progress into different and more challenging work (reference: GCIP WWSS 3/6/1-2). The 1947 students donated a magnolia tree by way of appreciation (reference: GCIP WWSS 1/2).

The committee recommended another school in 1949 ‘if persons could be found to take responsibility’ but the 1947 school was the last (archive reference: GCIP WWSS 1/1/3). The accounts remained open until 1956, but the remaining balance of £52 10s was then donated to Hillcroft College in Surrey, a residential college for working women with aims similar to those of the Girton WWSS.

The catalogue of the archives of the WWSS has recently been reworked and is available on the Janus website: https://janus.lib.cam.ac.uk/db/node.xsp?id=EAD%2FGBR%2F0271%2FGCIP%20WWSS

Published: 22 October 2018



The Year 2018 publication out now!

October 15, 2018 News

The College’s Annual Review, called The Year, has just been published for the academic year 2017-18.

We hope that you enjoy this special edition which celebrates the College estate; focusing on the glories of Girton, its buildings, treasures and grounds.

You can view the new edition via ISSUU below, or via our ‘Publications’ web page here.

We always like to hear from our Girtonians, so if you have any updates or news to share, please contact the Development Office via the ‘Update your details online’ form here, or email: alumni@girton.cam.ac.uk.

Please note that hard copies of this publication are available (limited supply), do pick up a free copy in College.

Published: 15 October 2018


Alumna Christina Koning (1972) launches her new book ‘End of Term’

October 12, 2018 Girton150News

Cover Image End Of Term By A C Koning

Alumna Christina Koning (1972) launched her new book End of Term—the fifth in the Blind Detective series of murder mysteries – in the Fellows’ Rooms at Girton College. Christina, who has previously given talks at Girton on both her detective fiction and her earlier novels—including Variable Stars (2011), about the pioneering astronomer, Caroline Herschel, whose gold medal awarded by the Royal Astronomical Society in 1828 is in the College Archive —will also talk about End of Term at a College research evening on 30 October 2018.

“The idea of writing about a blind detective came to me when I was researching a novel about my grandfather, a soldier in the First World War, who was blinded at Passchendaele” says Christina. ‘The fact that my detective, Frederick Rowlands, is blind does not prevent him from using his intelligence—nor his other senses—to solve crimes.”

Previous novels in the series, all of which are to be found in Girton College Library , include Line of Sight (Arbuthnot Books, 2014), in which Fred—then working as a telephonist at a firm of London solicitors—overhears a conversation while connecting a call at his switchboard, which may or may not refer to murder. Game of Chance (2015), set two years later in 1929, finds him on the trail of a serial killer with a connection to St Dunstan’s, the institute for the war-blinded. Time of Flight (2016) is set in the thrilling and dangerous world of 1930s aviation, while Out of Shot (2017) has Fred travelling to Berlin on the eve of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, and becoming involved in the glamorous Berlin film industry.

After 1930s Berlin, the setting for End of Term—a Cambridge women’s college—may seem less exciting, but of course there is just as much scope for murder and mayhem in the quiet haunts of academe as there is anywhere else—or so Fred is to discover. Attending an end of term Garden Party at St Gertrude’s College in the summer of 1935, he finds himself caught up in the police investigation following the suspicious death of a research student—discovering, in the course of this, a darker side to the university town.

“Since much of the action of End of Term takes place in a women’s college, at a time when women were not awarded the same degrees as men, I wanted to focus on what it must have been like for women students and staff to have their efforts continually undervalued,” says Christina. “So there’s a definite feminist strand running throughout the plot.”

There was another reason why she chose a Cambridge setting:

“As an undergraduate at Girton, I found my imagination stirred by the Victorian Gothic architecture,” she recalls. “With its endless corridors and hidden corners, it seemed the perfect place for dark deeds.”

End of Term is published by Arbuthnot Books (ISBN 978-0-9927467-7-3) on 6 October 2018, cover price £9.95.

Published: 12 October 2018



Glimpses of Girton: In the Spring

July 19, 2018 Glimpses of GirtonNews

In the spring

 

In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the robin’s breast;

In the Spring the wanton lapwing gets himself another crest;

 

In the Spring a livelier iris changes on the burnish’d dove;

In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.

 

Excerpt from Locksley Hall by Alfred, Lord Tennyson


Tennyson’s protagonist was unlucky in love, spurned by his childhood sweetheart, but Girton College Library is luckier in its holdings.

Among Jane Catherine Gamble’s bequest to the College (see https://old.girton.cam.ac.uk/news/1153-glimpses-of-girton-jane-catherine-gamble) was her father’s first edition of Thomas Bewick’s History of British birds, the first volume published in 1797 and the second in 1804.

Reference: Gamble 662A B46 (082153)

Reference: Gamble 662A B46 (082153)

Reference: Gamble 662A B46 (082154)

Reference: Gamble 662A B46 (082154)

Looking specifically for the three birds listed by Tennyson, we see:

The robin (now classified as Erithacus rubecula) is described by the RSPB as the UK's favourite bird and Bewick himself says "This general favorite is too well known to need a very minute deſcription" – volume 1, page 204.

The robin (now classified as Erithacus rubecula) is described by the RSPB as the UK’s favourite bird and Bewick himself says “This general favorite is too well known to need a very minute deſcription” – volume 1, page 204.

The lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) also known as the Peewit after the sound of its display call, is now on the RSPB's endangered list. Its distinctive crest described by Bewick as "a tuft of long narrow feathers iſſues from the back part of its head, ſome of which are four inches in length , and turn upwards at the end – volume 1, page 324.

The lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) also known as the Peewit after the sound of its display call, is now on the RSPB’s endangered list. Its distinctive crest described by Bewick as “a tuft of long narrow feathers iſſues from the back part of its head, ſome of which are four inches in length , and turn upwards at the end – volume 1, page 324.

It's not clear to which member of the Dove family Tennyson was referring, although I like to picture the iridescent green neck of the stock dove (Columba oenas), described by Bewick as "gloſſy green and gold" – volume 1, page 267.

It’s not clear to which member of the Dove family Tennyson was referring, although I like to picture the iridescent green neck of the stock dove (Columba oenas), described by Bewick as “gloſſy green and gold” – volume 1, page 267.

In contrast to the glorious colour illustrations in Audubon’s Birds of America 30 years later, which were printed from engravings on copper and coloured by hand, Bewick’s illustrations could seem small and plain. In fact, they are seen as the pinnacle of the art of wood engraving, as much admired today as they were then, and the books were deliberately designed to be affordable for all but the poor.

Reading A memoir of Thomas Bewick, by himself, it is clear that Bewick had had the habit from childhood of filling any available space (on slates or schoolbooks) with small illustrations. Among the books he credits for his interest and knowledge of natural history are the works of Thomas Pennant, Count de Buffon and Gilbert White, all of whom are represented in the Library’s holdings.  Also part of the Gamble bequest was Bewick’s first book, A general history of quadrupeds.

Reference: Gamble 662B B46 (082156)

Reference: Gamble 662B B46 (082156)

Bewick’s work was known to Tennyson, who wrote half a dozen lines of verse in the copy of History of British birds in Lord Ravenscroft’s Library.  Tennyson himself presented his complete works, in seven volumes, to Girton College Library in 1883. This was reported in the March 1883 edition of The Girton Review:

There have been one or two additions to our library, the most important being a large edition of Tennyson, presented by the poet himself. Unfortunately, the author’s autograph, instead of being written in the volumes themselves is only inscribed on the labels, which considerably damages the effect.

Reference: Gamble 826.0 T25 (097321-7)

Reference: Gamble 826.0 T25 (097321-7)

It is no surprise that Tennyson’s poetry was well-known and discussed by the early members of the College. Among the first donations to the Library when the College opened in 1869 were six volumes of his work, presented by the Mistress, Charlotte Manning. The Library also holds Emily Davies’ own copies of Enoch Arden, Idylls of the King, Maud and other poems, and The princess: a medley. It is equally no surprise that The princess, in particular, struck a chord.  First published in 1847, and the inspiration for Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida, this narrative poem in blank verse tells of Princess Ida, who establishes a great college for women from which all men are barred on pain of death. The Archive contains letters to Barbara Bodichon from Bessie Rayner Parkes discussing the poem[1] as well as photographs of the students’ performance of The princess in 1891[2].

The Tennyson volumes are now also part of the Gamble collection, housed securely in the purpose-built environmentally-controlled Store in the Library & Archive’s Duke Building.

References and further reading

  • Bewick, Thomas, A general history of quadrupeds. Printed by and for S. Hodgson, R. Beilby, & T. Bewick, 1790.
  • Bewick, Thomas, History of British birds. Printed by Sol. Hodgson, for Beilby & Bewick, 1797.
  • Bewick, Thomas, A memoir of Thomas Bewick, by himself. Printed by Robert Ward… for Jane Bewick, 1862.
  • Find a bird. RSPB website https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/ [accessed April 2018]
  • Tattersfield, Nigel, Thomas Bewick: the complete illustrative work. 3 volumes. British Library/Bibliographical Society/Oak Knoll Press, 2011.
  • Tennyson, Alfred. The works of Alfred Tennyson, Poet Laureate. 7 volumes, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1880.
  • Uglow, Jenny, Nature’s engraver: a life of Thomas Bewick. Faber, 2006.

[1] Girton College Archive reference: GCPP Parkes 5/19, 5/20, 5/50

[2] Girton College Archive reference: GCPH 10/1/31-34