Throughout the 2020/21 academic year Merton College is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first admission of women as students, both undergraduate and graduate, and as Junior Research Fellows, in 1980. This online exhibition celebrates the lives of some of the women associated with the college in earlier centuries.
Between the 13th and 18th centuries the college benefitted from the generosity of a number of women benefactors, from a member of the medieval aristocratic elite, to an Elizabethan business woman and the widow of a 17th-century fellow.
In the 16th and 17th centuries the college hosted visits by a number of female members of the royal household, who brought the college in contact with wider national events.
Until the late 19th century only Wardens among the academic members of the college were allowed to marry and have families. Just occasionally we gain glimpses into the lives of the women who inhabited the Warden’s Lodgings.
Meanwhile, the chapel served not only the college community but also the parishioners of the parish of St John the Baptist. The registers of baptisms, marriages and burials, together with the chapel monuments, reveal something of the women who were born, lived and died in the shadow of the college.
The exhibition is in five sections: