Over the 2022 – 2023 academic year King’s has been delighted to mark the 50th anniversary of the admission of women to the College as undergraduate students. Alongside Clare and Churchill, King’s was the first of the Cambridge all-male Colleges to admit women, in 1972.
It was a landmark decision for the College; but King’s has always supported women’s education at Cambridge. In a University vote in 1920 that rejected the proposal to make women students members of the University, King’s had a substantial majority of its Fellows in favour. When in 1948 the University at last produced a majority vote in favour of Girton and Newnham becoming full Colleges and their students full members, it was two Fellows of King’s (Richard Braithwaite and Kenneth Harrison) who led the initiative. And when New Hall, now Murray Edwards, was inaugurated in 1954, King’s was the College that made the largest financial contribution.
In November 1968 the College’s Council considered a paper prepared by the JCR recommending co-education at King’s, which noted that "We have presented our case for Co-Education in terms of ‘social justice’, but we maintain that in any case substantial social and academic benefits will accrue from this change." When the Provost, Edmund Leach, put forward the proposal to admit women to the College’s Governing Body in May 1969, the Fellowship voted overwhelmingly in favour. It took a further three years to complete preparations, but in 1972, 47 female students were admitted out of a total of 452, as well as Fellows including Tess Adkins, who in 1981 would become the first female Senior Tutor of a previously all-male Cambridge College.
Marking the Anniversary
The 50th anniversary of the admission of women has been an opportunity to celebrate the impact of King’s women – alumnae, students, Fellows and staff - and how they trailblaze, innovate and inspire in myriad ways; as well as to look at what still needs to be done to address the challenges that remain in gender equality and women’s education. Over the year we have held a series of events to mark the anniversary which have seen alumnae from Zadie Smith and Hollie McNish to human rights lawyer Charlotte Proudman and US writer and activist Anna Malaika Tubbs coming back to King’s to talk about some of the issues facing women today.