On Friday 18 October, at the Annual Wyvern Dinner, a Photographic Exhibition comprising 40 images of “Women of Queen’s” was officially opened.
Forty years ago, in 1973, Queen’s College began admitting women into residency, thus ending 85 years as a male residential college. It was not an easy decision, with opinion divided between those who feared the loss of the character of an all male community and those who felt that it was time for the College to adapt to a more inclusive world. The 53 women admitted in 1973 quickly established their place in the College and the Club, and, forty years on, it is impossible to imagine the College without women residents.
The female presence at Queen’s in fact goes back much further than 1973 — there have been women closely associated with Queen’s since it opened in 1888. For the first two years of the College’s existence, it even had female residents. Queen’s student Miriam Merfield was the first woman in Australia to live, as well as study, in a university college, and until the second decade of the 20th century, Queen’s continued to enrol “resident” female students (although these women were housed in Parkville, and not within the College grounds). Non-resident female students were also enrolled, and these women took an active part in College life from the beginning, going on to form the Wyverna Club and to contribute enormously to the College and to the wider community. Over the years, the College tutorial staff included many female academics who provided intellectual stimulation, inspiration and positive role models for students.
The exhibition of 40 images celebrates the Women of Queen’s, but can only touch the surface of the contribution they have made to Queen’s during its 125 years. The diverse sample includes “firsts”, such as the first female Fellow and first female Club President, a selection of eminent scholars and Queen’s women who became leaders in their field or community, as well as women who have given great service to the College through their philanthropic and volunteering activities. Inevitably, the choice of women to include in the exhibition was constrained by the ability to source suitable photographic images. Appended to the catalogue, therefore, was a list of other women who are also worthy of recognition for their place in the Queen’s community. It is not a definitive list, but a “work in progress”, and suggestions of names that should be added and suitable images where they do not exist are welcomed. It is hoped that the catalogue, with accompanying images, will shortly be made accessible on the College website as an enduring tribute to the Women of Queen’s.
The exhibition was curated by Jennifer Bars, Sophia Pavlovski-Ross and George Willox and was generously sponsored by Queen’s College and the Wyvern Society. It will hang in the Eakins Hall Foyer until mid December, after which the images will be distributed to other locations about the College.