January 16th, 2019 Girton150News

1908 Cambridge Alumnae Suffrage Banner on display at Girton College

1908 Cambridge Alumnae Suffrage Banner Replica - Girton College

Girton College is delighted that an exact replica of the suffrage banner carried by Girton and Newnham alumnae in the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies’ procession on 13 June 1908 and in subsequent marches, is now on display in the Girton College Library.

This specially handcrafted replica was recreated by Girton Alumna, Annabel O’Docherty (1981 Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic), is a specialist in historical dress and a professional theatrical costume maker. The new banner was presented to the College by Annabel O’Docherty at the Ceremony for the Commemoration of Benefactors and Foundation Dinner on Saturday 13 October 2018. Girton thanks all those alumni who supported this project.

Girton has always been at the forefront of political and social movements for the advancement of women in society. Barbara Bodichon (1827–1891) and Emily Davies (1830–1921), leading founders of the College, were key figures in the mid-19th century campaign for women’s suffrage before stepping aside to concentrate on women’s access to higher education – the foundation of Girton. After 1900 the British suffrage campaign gained new momentum. Large suffrage societies, both constitutionalist and more militant, made suffragism a genuine mass movement. Suffrage societies were founded in Girton and Newnham, and together students from both Colleges designed and worked on the Cambridge Alumnae Banner. In 1918 women over 30 gained the national vote (provided that they were on the local government electoral register or married to men who were). Aged 88, Emily Davies was one of those able to vote for the first time. In 1928 women finally won the vote on the same basis as men, though they were not allowed to receive their degrees from the University of Cambridge, until 1948.

1908 Cambridge Alumnae Suffrage Banner Replica - Girton College

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Published: 16 January 2019

Read moreJanuary 14th, 2019 Library & Archives

Library opening hours, Lent Term, 2019

Full Term opening hours for Lent Term 2019 are:-

Current undergraduate and graduate members of the College may borrow up to 10 titles at a time, and during Full Term the loan period is 7 days.  Fines are levied for overdue items at a rate of 50 pence per day per standard loan item.

Books and other items borrowed for the vacation are due back by 11pm (23:00) on Wednesday 16 January.

Opening hours for the Archive and Special Collections are separate; if you are planning to visit in person, please see the Arranging a visit webpage.  Thank you

Read moreJanuary 10th, 2019 News

Girton College’s National Jane Martin Poetry Prize Opens for 2019!

We are delighted to invite entries for the 2019 Jane Martin Poetry Prize. Now in its ninth year, the national prize for young poets (aged 18-30) is a key part of the College’s support for poetry and will be of interest to all those who are serious about literary excellence.

The competition will be judged by experts drawn from across the literary world and academia. This year we are thrilled that the panel will be led by Hilary Davies and Adam Crothers. The winner will receive a cash prize of £700 and will have an opportunity to give a reading at a celebratory event at Girton College, at which the prize will be awarded. There will also be a second prize of £300 cash.

The competition opened on 21 December 2018 and closes on 1 February 2019.

Please find the 2019 information pack and entry rules here.

Click here to enter the 2019 Jane Martin Poetry Prize.

Read moreJanuary 9th, 2019 News

Samuel de Courcy-Ireland (1998-2018)

Samuel De Courcy Ireland 1998 2018


It is with deep sadness that the College has learnt that Samuel de Courcy-Ireland, a third year mathematician, passed away a few days before Christmas.

Samuel was a very talented student. He was an inspiration for his friends from Cambridge and around the world, sharing his passion for rock climbing, mountaineering, windsurfing and music. This past summer, Samuel spent two months in Dang, Nepal, teaching in a school for underprivileged children supported by a Nepal-UK charity – it was a place that he loved and looked forward to returning to.

Samuel will be greatly missed by all who knew him. His death is an immeasurable loss to our community, whose thoughts are with his family and close friends.

09 January 2019

Read moreDecember 21st, 2018 Girton150News

Girton150 Profiles: Porters

Swirles Court - Christmas Tree

Porters’ Lodge – Swirles Court

I was once asked, “What is a ‘Porter’ and what do they actually do?”, a great question.  After a lot of thought all I could say was “many different things to lots of people”. Postmen to Detectives, when post is not quite addressed correctly; Receptionists, First Aiders, and site Security staff. We supply a cup of tea and chat when necessary, are the ‘bad guys’ who ask you to keep the noise down or close the bar just as you start to enjoy yourselves. We’re also the ‘good guys’ that help you get back into your room, holders of lost property, Traffic Wardens, Waste Management, someone for your family members to call to ask you to get in touch with them, as you appear to have forgotten them. I could go on and on.

I asked a few Porters what their favourite part of the job was. All said meeting people and being ‘Front of House’ for College. We are very lucky to be able to see and talk to everyone. Our ‘customers’ range from prospective applicants to current students and Alumni (who love to share old stories and secrets, or just want to see where they used to live!). Proud parents, family of the Graduands, Fellows, neighbours, tourists and of course, all of the wonderful delivery drivers! We see students in the middle of the night during exams, when they need just a friendly face and a cup of tea. Then we see them when the results are in and it’s time for a celebration. We have seen student’s come back to the place they met their partners and sometimes where they got married. We see the best and the not so best.

Porters Lodge - Girton College (refurbishment)

Porters’ Lodge – Girton College (refurbishment)

We have 22 people that make up the ‘Portering’ staff and others we can call in, on a casual basis. The Porters have 2 bases of work: The Lodge (reception) at Girton College, currently being refurbished and if all goes to plan we will be moving back in just after Christmas; and The Lodge at Swirles Court, Eddington. Both Lodges are manned 24-hours, 7 days a week, to deal with all sorts of issues, problems and situations. We work closely with other Departments and are essential to the smooth running of the College as whole. We are the first port of call for all things 24-hours a day. We can call upon a Duty Tutor or the Senior Tutor if there is a need for student support, or call in the Maintenance Department for buildings issues. We patrol both sites, keeping everything secure and safe; we’re all trained First Aiders, working closely with Tutors and Nurses dealing with medical problem or injuries, if appropriate.

In addition to certain mandatory training, Porters attend a full training day each year. We cover a variety of issues that we believe are important for serving our ‘customers’.  Every year we split up the Lodge into 2 groups and have a day’s training per group. This helps us all develop and provide better service and knowledge to everyone we meet.

One of the busiest but most enjoyable periods in our role, is working the bi-annual College Spring Ball. In the build up we work closely with the Ball Committee, Cambridge Fire and Rescue, logistics teams, bands, external security companies, and general service providers of food, drinks, discos and rides. We also assist by receiving party paraphernalia, food trucks (but don’t get to eat anything – honest!), and of course providing the majority of the security for the event. The Committee look to us as having the experience of working on previous Balls and we are able to offer all the help we can, from the Ball announcement Formal, to the clean up the morning after. If there’s a meeting or gathering concerning the Ball, Lodge staff will be there! Everyone involved works so hard in the build-up, but it really is worth it on the night, knowing that it will be a great, safe night.

Porters work closely with all of the other Departments in College, to ensure that the core activities of Girton and the other arms of the business, work in a cohesive and well-established way. Without the clear sense of being an integral part of the ‘Girton family’, the Porters role would be far harder and we wouldn’t be able to help achieve our collective goals. We constantly strive to improve our performance, give a better service and achieve the success that’s synonymous with being part of ‘Team Girton’.

Tom Smith
Senior Porter

Read moreDecember 14th, 2018 Girton150News

Girton150 Fellows’ Profiles: Research Interests of Dr Shona Stark

Shona Wilson Stark (2018)

Individuality and Consistency in Public Law

One of my current research projects concerns how to balance individuality and consistency in public law. An example may help to illustrate the potential problem:

I am in charge of a hypothetical government fund which invites applications from academic researchers for funding. You apply to me for financial assistance to buy a new laptop. You are entitled to expect that I, a Public Official, will look at your application carefully and consider whether you are worthy of a financial award.

You would be annoyed to find out that someone else got money when you did not if your circumstances and applications are substantially similar. I, the decision-maker, will therefore likely find it useful to have a policy to guide my decision-making, so that I can ensure its consistency by measuring each application against certain criteria.

But what if that policy says, for example, that I will prioritise funding for conference attendance? Now we come back full circle – my pro-conference, and thus implicitly anti-laptop, policy might mean that your application has not received careful consideration at all, because I am predisposed not to grant you any money.

In public law, this apparent conundrum has become all the more pressing in recent years. With the growth of the administrative state, more and more policies are needed to deal with the sheer number of decisions that have to be made dealing with, for example, immigration, financial benefits and benefits in kind (e.g. accommodation). Delegation of decision-making in turn necessitates policies in order to ensure consistent decision-making across multiple caseworkers. We as a society are also less tolerant of inequality and more suspicious of government than in the recent past, making transparent decision-making all the more important.

Traditionally, individuality was highly prized. In administrative law, this was encouraged by the ‘non-fettering principle’. The non-fettering principle, which still applies, states that a decision-maker may have a policy, but they must not fetter their discretion by closing their mind to someone with something new to say. I can give preference to applications to fund conference attendance, but I must be willing to consider an application for the purchase of a laptop.

In recent years, however, a new principle emerged (although its continued existence is uncertain following a conflicting UK Supreme Court judgment) of consistent application of policy. If a decision-maker has a policy, they are expected to apply it unless there is good reason to depart from it.

Although these two principles (non-fettering and consistent application of policy) might appear to be in conflict, they in fact say the same thing from different perspectives – apply a policy unless there is a good reason to depart from it. That good reason might be that someone has something new to say, in which case a decision-maker should consider writing a new exception into their policy to ensure consistency going forward. Or it might be that someone has relied on a previous promise or practice such that application of the usual policy would be grossly unfair (known in administrative law as the doctrine of legitimate expectations).

A topical example of the need for flexibility in policies concerns the Windrush scandal. A policy that the UK should be a ‘hostile environment’ for illegal immigrants was manifested by an instruction that anyone who could not produce the relevant documents was to be deported, on the assumption that they were in the country illegally. The so-called Windrush generation and their descendants were British citizens who came from the Caribbean at the UK’s invitation to help rebuild the country in the aftermath of the Second World War. They were British citizens, not illegal immigrants. But they often had no documents to show, sometimes because the Home Office had destroyed them. Nevertheless the ‘hostile environment’ policy was applied rigidly to them. In fact, former Home Secretary Amber Rudd said in Parliament in April 2018 that she was ‘concerned that the Home Office has become too concerned with policy … and sometimes loses sight of the individual’.

Non-fettering therefore seems to have fallen out of favour as consistency has become more prized. One purpose of my research is to argue that it is not paradoxical to have both consistency in the application of policies while still respecting the individual as per the non-fettering principle. Having policies is beneficial. For the decision-maker, it makes their decision-making more efficient. For the citizen, it provides for transparency (assuming the policy is published) and can help people decide whether or not to apply to a certain scheme, and to put in the best application they can, knowing what the decision-maker is looking for. This is an important aspect of the rule of law in its conduct-guiding incarnation i.e. setting out that the law should be clear and accessible enough for citizens to guide their lives by. Policies also help to ensure equality – another rule of law value. But policies are not rules – they have to have flexibility.

The main advantage of policies is that they can balance individuality and consistency. As former Court of Appeal judge Sir Stephen Sedley has said, policies have ‘virtues of flexibility which rules lack, and virtues of consistency which discretion lacks’ (Ashes and Sparks: Essays on Law and Justice (Cambridge University Press, 2011) 262). We can have the best of both worlds.

Shona Wilson Stark

Official Fellow and Director of Studies in Law, Girton College
Fixed-Term Lecturer in Public Law, Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

A chapter on this topic, entitled “Non-fettering, Legitimate Expectations and Consistency of Policy: Separate Compartments or Single Principle?” is due to be published in an edited collection, which Dr Stark is co-editing with Dr Jason Varuhas, Associate Professor, University of Melbourne. “The Frontiers of Public Law” will be published by Hart Publishing in 2019 (a draft of the chapter can be obtained by emailing here). The collection gathers together papers from the third biennial Public Law Conference, of which Dr Stark is co-convenor (together with Dr Varuhas), which took place at the University of Melbourne in July 2018. The fourth biennial Public Law Conference is due to take place in late June 2020 at the University of Ottawa, co-organised with the University of Cambridge. Those interested can sign up to the mailing list and follow updates on Twitter.

Read moreDecember 3rd, 2018 Library & Archives

Opening hours, Christmas 2018

During the Christmas Vacation, Girton College Library will be open 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday only (closed weekends).
However, some days may have shorter opening hours and/or be closed over lunch, depending on staff availability. A list will be posted here and kept up-to-date:-

The Library and the external study rooms (D33, D34, D35 and Chapel Wing Reading Room) will  close on Wednesday 19 December, re-opening on Thursday 3 January 2019.

It may also be necessary to close for other periods at short notice. If planning a journey specifically to use the Library, it would be worth contacting us in advance: telephone 01223 338970 or email

Full Term opening hours and weekend opening recommence immediately before the start of the Lent Full Term (Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 January 2019).

Archive and special collections:

Opening hours for the Archive and Special Collections are separate; if you are planning to visit in person, please see the Arranging a visit webpage.  Thank you.

Read moreNovember 29th, 2018 Glimpses of GirtonNews

Glimpses of Girton: Girton College and the Campaign for Women’s Suffrage

This year marks the centenary of The Representation of the People Act of 1918, which gave the national vote to women over 30 who met a property qualification, or who were married to male rate payers. The 1918 Act was the culmination of many decades of campaigning by both men and women. The histories of the British campaign for women’s suffrage and of Girton College – the first residential institution offering university-level education for women – are closely connected.

Photograph of Emily Davies, circa 1870 (archive reference: GCPH 5/4/9)

Photograph of Emily Davies, circa 1870 (archive reference: GCPH 5/4/9)

The British campaign for women’s right to vote was very active in the 1860s. A key event took place in 1866 when two of Girton’s founders, Emily Davies (1830—1921, later Mistress of Girton, 1872—1875) and Barbara Bodichon (1827—1891), among other notable women, helped to draw up a petition to be presented in Parliament asking that women who met the property qualifications required of men should be included in the national electorate. They gathered 1,499 signatures. On 7 June 1866, Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett (1836—1917) took the petition to the House of Commons to give to J. S. Mill (1806—1873), MP for Westminster and a supporter of women’s suffrage. Printed copies of the petition were also made and given to certain newspapers and individuals, including members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Two of the four known printed copies of the petition are held in Girton College – one in the Blackburn Collection in the Library (classmark: Blackburn 396.6 W84), and one in Emily Davies’ papers in the Archive (archive reference: GCPP Davies 17/51).

A report on the first meeting on the Girton College Suffrage Club in The Girton Review, Michaelmas Term 1907 (archive reference: GCCP2-1-1pt)

A report on the first meeting on the Girton College Suffrage Club in The Girton Review, Michaelmas Term 1907 (archive reference: GCCP2-1-1pt)

Activities in support of women’s suffrage quietened in the 1870s and 1880s. But with the approach of the new century came renewed momentum. New leaders and organisations emerged; memberships of older suffrage societies grew; some groups – the suffragettes – adopted more militant tactics and many provincial towns witnessed the birth of suffrage associations. By the time of the General Election of 1906, the campaign was one of the prevailing topics and was avidly reported in the national press. A number of Girtonians felt that the time was ripe for the foundation of a Girton College suffrage society: the Girton College Women’s Suffrage Club was in existence from Michaelmas Term 1907 until the end of the Lent Term of 1916. The inaugural meeting of the Club, was held in the College Dining Hall on 30 November 1907, suggesting a large turn-out. The Club was run by an annually renewed five-member committee led by a President and Secretary. A member of the resident College Staff (the fore-runners of today’s Fellows) was always on the Committee. The first staff member was Helene Reinherz (1875—1947), a former student, and Resident Junior Bursar, who was succeeded in 1914 by the young Director of Studies in History, Eileen Power (1889—1940). Students and former students became members of the Club, and after only one term that membership had reached 70. Its highest claimed number of members was 117 in March 1909 (when there were 152 students in residence).

Photograph of Helene Reinherz in 1905 (archive reference: GCPH10/24/4)

Photograph of Helene Reinherz in 1905 (archive reference: GCPH10/24/4)

The Girton College Suffrage Club organised a wide variety of events in and beyond College.  These included frequent speaker-meetings addressed by visitors from Cambridge and elsewhere, political discussions, concerts, plays, and ‘Polyglot recitals’, at which students hidden behind a screen delivered speeches in a foreign language while the paying audience tried to guess their identity. During regular ‘Special Effort Weeks’, volunteers offered tasks such as ‘skirt brushing’ and ‘hockey stick oiling’ in return for donations of a few pence. Other things on sale included the services of a ‘Shampoo Salon’ and ‘fortune-telling’ conducted in the Tower. Some years saw suffrage ‘Bazaars’, complete with stalls selling ‘fancy concoctions’, or advertising the services of a ‘veiled palmist’. The Club also subscribed to suffrage journals, placed on a special shelf in the Girton Reading Room alongside the ‘standard works on the suffrage movement’. Competitions to compose the best suffrage song, weekly ‘suffrage reading’ meetings, and a ‘detective competition’ in search of hidden items all attest to a very active, popular society that drew on the enthusiasm of many Girtonians. (Quotes taken from successive editions of The Girton Review, 1910—1915).

Reports on the activities of the Girton College Suffrage Society and the Girton College Anti-Suffrage League in The Girton Review, Lent Term, 1909 (archive reference: GCCP 2/1/1pt).

Reports on the activities of the Girton College Suffrage Society and the Girton College Anti-Suffrage League in The Girton Review, Lent Term, 1909 (archive reference: GCCP 2/1/1pt)

However, not everyone in Girton supported women’s suffrage. The College authorities thought it best to keep ‘politics’ of this kind at a distance. Some students explicitly opposed the cause of votes for women. In November 1908, Miss Carey, Branch Organising Secretary of the Women’s National Anti-Suffrage League, spoke in College, and it was decided to form a Girton branch of that national organisation. The Girton College Anti-Suffrage League was in existence until Lent Term 1913, although it was less active in its later years. The first President was Rosemary Lubbock (Girton 1906), a third year reading Natural Sciences; the first Secretary, Eleanor Duckett (Girton 1908), a first-year Classicist. Unlike the Suffrage Club, no member of the College Staff was ever listed as a Committee member. By the end of 1909, the Girton League had 31 members. A subscription was taken out to ‘The Anti-Suffrage Review’ and copies were placed in the Reading Room. But the society’s main activity was to organise speaker meetings. One, held in February 1909, was addressed by the well-known novelist and anti-suffragist Mrs Humphrey Ward (Mary Augusta Ward) (1851—1920). Members of the Suffrage Club often attended these rival meetings, sometimes ‘blazing with red and white’ suffrage ‘badges’, and would raise their hands and voices with ‘numerous cries of “Question”’. (The Girton Review, Lent Term 1909).

Photograph of Mabel Hardie as a first-year student at Girton College in 1887 (archive reference: GCPH10/1/28)

Photograph of Mabel Hardie as a first-year student at Girton College in 1887 (archive reference: GCPH10/1/28)

In 1914, the Girton Suffrage Club followed the decision of the majority of suffrage associations nationwide, and announced that for the duration of the war it would put aside campaigning for the vote, and instead focus on ‘war relief work’ (The Girton Review, May Term 1914). From then until 1916, when the society ceased to exist, its activities were centred on talks about women’s work in wartime, and on raising money for relief work, in particular for the Girton and Newnham Unit of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. These mobile hospitals, staffed by women volunteers, had been founded by a group of pioneering Scottish medical women and pre-war suffragists. The Girton and Newnham Unit, funding by money collected by the two College communities, was first sent to Troyes, in northern France, later to Macedonia. It helped hundreds of wounded soldiers, despite extremely challenging conditions. Several Girton women volunteered to serve in the Unit and in other hospitals close to the front. They included two pioneering doctors and suffrage campaigners, Mabel Hardie (Girton 1887) and Octavia Lewin (Girton 1888).

Photograph of Octavia lewin as a first-year student at Girton College in 1888(archive reference: GCPH10/1/29)

Photograph of Octavia Lewin as a first-year student at Girton College in 1888 (archive reference: GCPH10/1/29)

The war work undertaken so bravely and so determinedly by thousands of British women, including many Girtonians, added substantially to the case for women’s suffrage. This highly visible labour and sacrifice helped ensure that, in the 1918 Act, the right to vote was finally extended to large numbers of women.

Read moreNovember 21st, 2018 Library & Archives

Library end of term arrangements, Michaelmas Term 2018

All loaned items are due back by 11pm on Monday 26 November:

If this is likely to cause problems because of outstanding work, please contact the Library to make a special arrangement – tel: (3)38970 or email:


Vacation borrowing starts at 1pm on Wednesday 28 November:

The Library will be closed that morning for final checking and tidying. Should there be any URGENT reason why you must use the Library that morning, please ring the doorbell.

You may borrow up to 10 items for the vacation. No vacation borrowing is permitted until all term loans are returned and bills settled.

Vacation loans are due back by 11pm on Wednesday 16 January 2019.


Vacation opening hours:

The Library will open 10am-11pm on Saturday 1 and Sunday 2 December.

Thereafter, opening hours will be 9am to 5pm, weekdays only (closed weekends). However some days may have shorter opening hours and/or be closed over lunch, depending on staff availability. It may also be necessary to close at other times, possibly at short notice. If planning a journey specifically to use the Library, we recommend that you phone ahead to check availability – 01223 338970.

The Library and external study rooms will close for Christmas at 5pm on Wednesday 19 December 2018 and re-open at 9am on Thursday 3 January 2019.

Full Term opening hours begin again the weekend before the Lent Full Term (12-13 January 2019).


Opening hours for the Archive and Special Collections are separate; if you are planning to visit in person, please see the Arranging a visit webpage.  Thank you

Read more