1979 Matriculation

This matriculation photograph taken in 1979 shows the first female undergraduate students to be admitted to the College. 

Reproduced by permission of Lafayette Photography

The University of Cambridge had repealed its statute prohibiting mixed colleges in 1965.  The graduate Colleges, Darwin, Clare Hall and Wolfson, were the first to act. In 1972 Churchill, Clare and King's Colleges admitted their first mixed undergraduate intake.

It was not until 1973 that the first stirrings of change began to be felt in St Catharine’s. In 1975 the College Statutes were changed and the clauses requiring the College should be all-male at both Senior and Junior levels were removed.  

In 1978 the first Female Fellow was appointed, and in 1979 the first female students arrived at the College. Women soon became part of almost every aspect of College life, leading to the appointment of Professor Jean Thomas as Master of the College from 2007 to 2016. 

Lisa Samson (1979, Economics, alumna)

I was admitted to St Catharine's to begin in the fall of 1979 with the first class of women. As I was an American with a college degree, I did the course in two years instead of three. When I graduated in 1981 I was the first and ONLY woman. When I walked in the processional, people shouted, "There is the girl, there is the girl."


The four men that read Economics with me were welcoming and supportive of me, and made me feel so welcome.

Next page: Dr Miranda Griffin (2007, Fellow & Senior Tutor)