First Women Graduate Oxford

Timeline: 100 years of women’s history at Oxford.” University of Oxford

On October 14th, 1920, the first women in University of Oxford history received their degrees. Women had been studying at the University for many years prior to 1920, but were never awarded degrees, and were greatly discriminated against. Women were oftentimes prohibited from attending lectures without a chaperone, and even kicked out by individual lecturers and/or professors. Women could not attend lectures without a chaperone until 1914, and could not lecture at Oxford until 1915. To further elucidate how long some women studied at the University without receiving degrees, consider Annie Rogers. Rogers took her exams for her degrees over forty years before matriculation, and was finally awarded her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 1920. Other women were present in support of the 130 women who received their degrees that day, including former students and principals of Oxford's women colleges who, ironically, were unable to receive degrees from the University of Oxford.

The matriculation ceremony took place at the University a week prior to the degree awarding ceremony. The ceremony took place in the Oxford Divinity School, which was the oldest building in the University having been built between 1427 and 1483. The building still stands today, and is used mostly for lectures and oral exams. The degree ceremony took place in Oxford's Sheldonian Theatre, which is located in the center of Oxford's medieval city. The theatre was built in 1664 and can still be admired today, as it is considered an "architectural jewel". 

During this time, women all over the world were experiencing extreme resistance in terms of voting rights, education, sexuality, sexual expression, and more. While the 19th amendment was passed in August, 1920 in the United States, legalizing American women to vote, it was not until 1928 that the Equal Franchise Act was passed in England, allowing women to vote. 

Another notable graduate is Cicely Delphine Williams, who was one of the first women to study medicine at the University of Oxford. Just three years later, she became the first female doctor from Jamaica, and ten years after that, she discovered kwashiorkor, an illness caused by insufficient protein intake.


“Sheldionian Theatre” University of Oxford Accessed 20 Apr. 2023

“Timeline: 100 years of women’s history at Oxford.” University of Oxford,they%20could%20take%20their%20degrees. Accessed 20 Apr. 2023.

“1928 Equal Franchise Act” UK Parliament Accessed 20 Apr. 2023.

Associated Place(s)

Event date:

14 Oct 1920

Parent Chronology: