he University of London admitted women to "full privileges" (i.e. the granting of degrees) in 1878, considerably ahead of similar recognition from the Universities of Durham (1895), Oxford (1921), or Cambridge (1947). I surveyed documentation for the education of women at the University of London in the following colleges (listed by the current name of the institution): Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, Queen Mary and Westfield College, and King's College London. None remains dedicated to single-sex education today.
Bedford College (founded 1849) merged in 1982 with Royal Holloway College (1887) to become Royal Holloway and Bedford New College (RHBNC). For the merger, Bedford relocated from its Regent's Park campus to the Royal Holloway site in Egham, approximately 20 miles from London. A major building program, financed by the sale of the Regent's Park properties, provides greatly enlarged facilities for the two schools.
Westfield College (1882) remained at its campus in Hampstead for three years following its merger in 1989 with Queen Mary College (1887) to become Queen Mary and Westfield College. The move from Hampstead to the Mile End campus in East London was scheduled for late summer 1992. I used materials in the Westfield Archives during the period of the last examination session to be held in Hampstead, a time of much nostalgia and reflection among those preparing for the move.
King's College London at its location in the Strand maintains, among the collections which comprise its archives, records of King's College for Women and King's College of Household and Social Science. I had no access to either, but compiled a limited survey from interview and publications.
t the time of my visit to RHBNC in June 1992, two staff members bore the responsibility for the combined archives of Bedford and Royal Holloway Colleges. The full-time position of Records Officer was created in October 1991 and is occupied by Steven Milan. The College Archivist position, currently funded less than full-time, was created in January 1992. Ms. Cutler, a historian, received her training as a librarian and archivist in the United States. Both Archivist and Records Officer report to the Academic Registrar, with the responsibility for determining the archival value of records resting with the Archivist. Further administrative details remain to be worked out, but at the time of my visit, the organization of an Archives Committee (4 to 6 persons) was being discussed - its mission seen as developing interest in and support of the archives function at RHBNC. It was unclear whether members would be drawn from faculty, graduates, or both.
Royal Holloway College, University of London . Location: Egham, Surrey (19 miles from London). Architect: William Henry Crossland. 1886. [Click on image to enlarge it.]
The records of Bedford College are among the earliest records of women's education in the country, and those of Royal Holloway appear to have been faithfully preserved. Together, the archives of both institutions provide a wealth of resources, exciting and promising for researchers, who are actively welcomed to the expanded archives facilities that were being prepared at the time of my visit to Egham. The researcher who responds to the invitation is the fortunate beneficiary of the decision to produce companion catalogues to the archives at both institutions. Derryann Paul prepared the catalogue to the Royal Holloway Archives in 1973. Claire Gobbi Daunton adopted the six record groups established by Paul in her 1983 preparation of the Bedford College Archives catalogue (published in 1987). The task of working between the records of both is thus enormously simplified. A seventh group, titled "Private Papers", represents archival resources of this description at the merged institutions.
Bedford College designed by Basil Champneys (residential blocks and dining hall)
One may purchase from Ms. Cutler the admirably comprehensive Catalogue of the Archives of Bedford College (University of London) 1849-1985 (143 pp.), which contains, in addition to the description of the collections and the fine index, a brief history of Bedford College, a chronology, and a list of Principals. The 57-page guide to Royal Holloway records, though not for purchase, is made readily available to those carrying out archival research at RHBNC. Ms. Cutler will also accept requests to photocopy relevant sections, at fees to be determined. For the following very brief summary, the inclusive dates 1849-1985 may be assumed to apply in general throughout.
Bedford College: Administrative Records: Three groups fall within this category: records of the Governing Body and its committees; of the Academic Board (and committees) and Academic Departments; and records relating to Administrative Departments and Residences. These records are described in rich detail in 97 pages of the 143-page catalogue.
Bedford College: Student Records: In a pattern which became more familiar to me as I progressed from one college to another, archival holdings which relate to the student experience were usually less extensive than those which document institutional history through official records of administrative entities such as governing boards. Along with staff personnel records, student records are "...historically the responsibility of the Principal's Office..." and in the case of RHBNC "...still under the custody of her staff".
Student activities and concerns would hopefully emerge in the three record groups devoted to associations, committees and societies, made up in part of sets of student publications from 1886, and records of the Bedford College Union Society from 1894. While the concept of "alumnae" differs from what Americans understand by the term, and relevant records seemed fairly sparse at most of the colleges I visited, a set of bound minutes of the Bedford College Old Students' Association, 1911-1962, documents that constituency in this century. Reference materials (in the form of founder's files, newspaper clippings, etc.) and memorabilia complete these groups, together with a group devoted exclusively to photographs.
Royal Holloway College: Administrative Records: As are the Bedford College records, Royal Holloway's (which provided the prototype) are arranged in six record groups, with three assigned to administrative records. These are available from the founding of the College in 1886 (as records of the Board of Governors, 1886-1949, and of the Council from 1949 on). Records of Committees are available from 1886; of residence offices from 1887-1965; and of faculties from 1897 - to offer a few examples.
Royal Holloway College: Student Records: These also conveniently parallel similar Bedford records, listing records of associations, clubs and societies, with alumnae probably represented by the Royal Holloway College Association. Reference files for RH appear to be more articulated than for Bedford, with an especially significant section devoted to the founder, Thomas Holloway, and his family. Because Holloway used Vassar College as his model, these materials, along with those of the early Boards of Governors, may hold special interest for researchers interested in parallels between women's education in England and the United States.
Queen Mary and Westfield College
lthough Queen Mary College would seem to play the more prominent role in the merger with Westfield, it had neither established an archives nor appointed an archivist at the time of my visit, nor were there any plans to do either. The Westfield College Archives, which I used exclusively for my survey, have been for some time under the (largely volunteer) supervision of Dr. Janet Sondheimer, who is also the author of the centenary history of Westfield, published in 1983. She is a historian who has taught at Westfield. In her current role, she works relatively autonomously, and can grant access to researchers for those early records which she used (at that time largely unarranged) to write the Westfield history, Castle Adamant in Hampstead: a history of Westfield College: 1882-1982, London: Westfield College, University of London, 1983. She has continued to arrange and describe the records of Westfield in the years since its publication. Student records are kept by the Registrar of the College, whom I visited in Mrs. Sondheimer's company. The request for permission to use them must be initiated by Mrs. Sondheimer. She is unable, however, to grant researchers access to what she refers to as "administrative records" which she used for her history of Westfield, by special permission of the Westfield Administrative Offices. Papers of the founder, Constance Maynard, have been microfilmed, and the film is available in the College library.
Within the structure that existed at the time of my visit, and with the impending disruption of the move to Mile End in East London, which was scheduled to be completed by the end of Summer 1992, it is probably accurate to say that access to Westfield records requires and will continue to require a number of avenues of approach. There were no plans to change the current arrangement under which Mrs. Sondheimer retains responsiblity for those materials which relate to the first hundred years of Westfield, including access to administrative records of origins and early governance. She is also kept informed of the nature of more current administrative records holdings by means of extensive inventories which, unfortunately, do not provide information about chronological scope.
The nature of the information about students is remarkably consistent and complete, in ledgers kept by the Registrar's Office from 1882 as long as Westfield remained a college for women, and into the period of coeducation. An October 1964 entry contained the same particulars as one from1882: name, address, date of entry (and leaving), father's profession, nationality and religious denomination, etc. The heading "other particulars" holds promise of alumnae information, since I observed updates into the 1990s. Additional alumnae information has been compiled in two published directories (Feb. 1950, and a June 1962 supplement which covers 1947-1960). Their scope is limited, since they supposedly do not include "occasional" students nor those in residence less than three years, although I found at least one American student in residence at Westfield only for Junior Year Abroad.
Alumnae information is being gathered more aggressively than in the past by a newly established office of Alumnae Relations, already functioning at the Mile End campus in June 1992. Data base files are being developed by that office, although questions remain to be resolved about the transfer of information to another form after the decease of a graduate, when, conceivably, automated records might be purged. Updated information about the status of alumnae records may be obtained from
External Relations Directorate
Queen Mary & Westfield College
Mile End Road
London E1 4NS
King's College for Women
he Archives of King's College London is administered by a full-time professional archivist assisted by four full-time staff members and three staff internes who hold one-year positions. As Archivist, Miss Methven holds a relatively autonomous position within a complex administrative organization, reporting to the Librarian in relation to some functions. One gains admission by prior appointment to the locked Archives area, and after ringing a buzzer and presenting identification. Reading room space is available for researchers. The collections, described as "two million files" rather than in linear or cubic feet, are housed in a combination of vaults and rooms in the Strand location, and some off-site quarters. The latter is reserved primarily for confidential materials; prior arrangement is required to consult materials kept there. No shelving area is visible to the public.
Although King's College, in some form ("Ladies'/Women's Department(s)" of King's College, 1881-1907) and under some name (King's College for Women, 1908-1914), carried out its mission to educate women from the Kensington lectures of 1871 to the establishment of Queen Elizabeth College as a "mixed" institution in 1953, none of the flavor of that experience is provided by what was available to me at the Archives of King's College London in the summer of 1992. King's College had an unambiguous identity as King's College for Women at least between 1894, when Lilian Faithfull was appointed vice-principal, through 1914, six years after her departure for Cheltenham, but I had no access to primary sources that would have been descriptive, explanatory, or otherwise supportive of its role in the early education of women in England. A brochure issued recently by the King's College London Archives states that the records of King's College London, Queen Elizabeth College/King's College and Household and Social Science, and the Chelsea Colleges are being "systematically catalogued.....for easy access and retrieval", so there is the hope and expectation that this situation may change.
Among the forms of materials described in the brochure, minutes of governing bodies and committees and official correspondence files are supplemented by student records. It will be interesting, when access is possible, to assess (especially from the latter) the nature of the female "voice" prior to 1908, and to what extent it is audible at all, and for how long, after 1914. At this time, however, researchers would need to reconstruct women's education at King's College as I did, through published and printed materials in the form of catalogues and published histories. The autobiography of Lilian Faithfull, relatively widely available through interlibrary loans services in the United States, supplies valuable context. For additional help in placing King's College for Women in the history of women's higher education at the University of London, and in England, I have constructed the following chronology:
Woman at King's College: A Chronology
1871-1881: King's College Lectures for Ladies (Richmond, Twickenham, Kensington)
1881-1908: Separate department for the higher education of women within King's
College ("Ladies"..., then "Women's" Dept.)
1908-1914: King's College for Women, an independent College within the University,
1915 (I): With the exception of the Household and Science Department, all departments
of King's College for Women amalgamate on the Strand with King's
College, effecting coeducation, though title of King's College for Women
continues to be used until 1928
1915(II): 1915-1985: Household and Social Science Department at Campden Hill Rd.
1928: Complete independence as King's College of Household and Social Science;
King's College for Women discontinued as a title.
1953: Name changed from King's College of Household and Social Science
to Queen Elizabeth College; men admitted
1982-1985: Proposal to reunify with King's College London, followed by
amalgamation (with Chelsea Colleges and King's College)
Last modified 18 March 2013