Women in Cambridge c.1900-1950

Course Material 2024/25

This paper offers a microhistory, focussing on fifty years in the town and the institution in which we are living. We look at the history of the university, including: the campaigns for women’s admission and their piecemeal success; the background of the hundreds of women annually coming to study; the growth and professionalisation of the women’s colleges; and the subjects that women studied at undergraduate level and their subsequent occupations, including recruitment during the two World Wars. We also look at the town: at the women related to university men, who led national campaigns for social reform and for women’s rights; and at the work of women in the town’s many service industries.

Students who take this option will write a 5000-word essay using primary sources in the University Archives and in College Archives. They will be equipped to analyse a range of sources, from manuscripts to printed matter and visual material, and to employ the skills of the social historian including qualitative and quantitative approaches, life history and collective biography. This experience will prepare students for final-year dissertations that address a range of topics in a wider geographical context, including education, professional change, social welfare and reform, feminism, and mental health.