Bertha Johnson (1846-1927) became involved in promoting women’s higher education in Oxford in the 1870s. She was secretary to Lady Margaret Hall from 1880 to 1914, and to the Association for the Education of Women from 1883 to 1894. The Home Students however were her chief responsibility, and the AEW made her their Principal in 1894, a post she held on an entirely honorary basis until 1921. Ironically she was an opponent of the full admission of women to the University, believing that women’s education should not be assimilated to patterns developed for men. She and Annie Rogers, who succeeded her as Secretary of the AEW in 1894, were thus on opposite sides when a bid for women to be admitted to the Oxford BA failed in 1895-6. When in 1910 the University formally recognised the women’s societies by setting up its own Delegacy for Women Students, though, Bertha Johnson as Principal of the Society of Home Students became the first woman to hold a senior University appointment. Gradually reconciled to the campaign for full membership, she was also the first of the five women principals to receive the MA by decree in 1920. She was married to an academic (A.H. Johnson, historian and Chaplain of All Souls) but not an academic herself; nevertheless, enabling and organising women’s education at Oxford was her life’s work.
Christine Burrows (1872-1959) went from Cheltenham Ladies’ College to read History at Lady Margaret Hall, but had to interrupt her studies to assist her mother Esther Elizabeth Burrows when in 1893 the latter was appointed Principal of the newly founded St Hilda’s Hall. Christine continued as a home student and completed her History degree in 1894, immediately becoming a History Tutor at St Hilda’s ; in 1895 at the age of 23 she became Vice-Principal, then in 1910 she succeeded her mother as Principal. In 1919 she resigned in order to live with her mother whose health was deteriorating. When in 1921 (the year she also received her MA by decree) she was asked to succeed Mrs Johnson as Principal of the Home Students, she accepted because this appointment was compatible with her living at home. She is thus a very rare if not unique example of someone who has been head of two Oxford houses. She devoted her energy and teaching and administrative skills to the Home Students for eight years, consolidating the Society’s position and laying the foundations for collegiate status by building up the strength of the tutorial team, before her mother’s ill-health forced her to resign in 1929. For the remaining thirty years of her life she did much quiet work for the advancement of women.
Grace Hadow (1875-1940) read English at Somerville College and gained firstclass honours in 1903. She taught at Bryn Mawr and Lady Margaret Hall, and edited/wrote the Oxford Treasury of English Literature, Chaucer and his Times, and volumes of essays on Addison and Goldsmith. Alongside her scholarly work she developed a life-long commitment to adult education for the study and promotion of social welfare, particularly in rural areas. From these interests came her secretaryship of Barnett House (Oxford’s new centre for social and economic studies and social work training) and her founding of the Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, the first body of its kind in Britain. Her time (1929-1940) as Principal of the Society of Home-Students saw the Society build for itself (with Mrs Hartland’s benefaction) for the first time, and move firmly in the direction of the collegiate status achieved in 1952. She died in post of viral pneumonia at the age of 65.
Eleanor Plumer (1885-1967) read English at Oxford as an external student from King’s College for Women in London. She remained at King’s College as a Lecturer and Tutor to women students, and subsequently became Warden of the Mary Ward Settlement (1923-1927) and of St Andrew’s Hall in the University of Reading (1927- 1931). Selected in 1940 by a small panel of advisers as Principal of the Society of Oxford Home Students, she retired in 1953 as Principal of St Anne’s College. The change first of name and then of status within the University was a complex and contentious business, steered with great skill and determination by Miss Plumer. She was the daughter of Field-Marshal Plumer and was in her element organising war work ; for a time the Library’s Fulford Room became a highly productive munitions factory, and Miss Plumer herself spent long vacations working as a factory hand at the Morris works in Cowley. She gave the newly constituted College permission to use the Plumer family shield as its coat of arms.
For information on St Anne's under Miss Plumer, see the pdf of the booklet, The Honourable Eleanor Plumer.
Mary Ogilvie (1900-1990) read History at Somerville, and shortly afterwards married Frederick Ogilvie, then a fellow of Trinity. She was much involved with his academic career, at Edinburgh and at Queen’s Belfast (where he was Vice- Chancellor), at the BBC where he was director general in war-time, and finally at Jesus College where he was Principal. After his death she was Dean of Women Students at Leeds University before coming to St Anne’s as Principal. Her thirteen years here were a time of bold and rapid expansion, of building and of adding existing properties (including the whole of Bevington Road South side) to the site. Expansion in numbers and in academic ambition accompanied the building; during Lady Ogilvie’s time 10 Fellows became 18, 30 graduate students 47, and 252 undergraduates 295; and towards the end of her Principalship St Anne’s came top of the Norrington table of finals results. She created Oxford’s first ever nursery for the children of staff, first ever mixed graduate institute (with Balliol, at Holywell Manor), first ever schoolteacher fellowship. She achieved a triumph of negotiation with the University Grants Committee (on one of whose committees she subsequently served) over the building of the Dining Hall. She is remembered as kindly and accessible to students, a shrewd entrance interviewer with a liking for “taking chances” on students.
Nancy Trenaman (1919-2002) read English at Somerville, taking a First in 1941. She entered the Civil Service and rose to be Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Materials, Counsellor at the British Embassy in Washington, and Under-Secretary at the Board of Trade. She came to St Anne’s as Principal in 1966 and continued with great energy and skill the many projects begun by Lady Ogilvie. To her fell the task of chairing the long and difficult discussions, begun in 1968, which in 1979 finished with St Anne’s accepting male undergraduates, graduate students, and Fellows. Her administrative skills and forthright personality, while they could not ensure a unanimous decision, did achieve a series of full and open discussions where the College’s options were understood by all. Outside College she served on the Civil Service Selection Committee and on the Royal Commission on the Constitution, as well as on the University’s Hebdomadal Council and many of its committees. She had a lifelong interest in music and was Moral Tutor to St Anne’s undergraduate Musicians. Her commitment, common sense, and independence of mind helped steer the College through difficult times of financial stringency and student unrest. After her retirement in 1984 she served as Chair of the Leprosy Relief Association.
Claire Palley (1931-) received her BA and LLB from Cape Town University, and in 1965 a PhD from London University. She was called to the English Bar as a member of Middle Temple. Her distinguished academic career began in Cape Town and Rhodesia and continued at Queen’s University Belfast. She moved to the University of Kent at Canterbury where she was Professor of Law and Master of Darwin College from 1973 to 1984. She was a Council member of the Minority Rights Group, and her long and continuing association with the United Nations included crucial work on the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. Her publications include an authoritative Constitutional history and law of Southern Rhodesia (1966). Becoming Principal of St Anne’s in 1984, she poured her energy and acumen into moving the College from a period of necessary stringency and caution to an atmosphere of expansion and confidence. Student numbers grew to the maximum permitted, the Fellowship grew particularly in the social sciences, and she led the College into ambitious and successful building projects even when at the outset there was little sign of where the funds would be found. Never less than whole-hearted in anything she did, she took great care over the individual concerns of students. Claire retired in 1991 to continue her advisory work in constitutional and human rights law, and was awarded the OBE in
Ruth Deech (1943-) took a First in Law at St Anne’s College. After some years studying and teaching in America and Canada, she returned to St Anne’s as Fellow and Tutor in Law in 1970. She was called to the English Bar (Inner Temple) in 1967. She served as Senior Proctor, as a member of Hebdomadal Council (where after a long campaign she succeeded in setting up a University nursery), and as Vice-Principal of St Anne’s, and on Claire Palley’s retirement in 1991 was elected Principal. She has published on family law and property law. She was Chairman of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority from 1994 to 2002, and was awarded the DBE in 2002. She took over as Principal with the ambition of raising the academic aspirations and culture of St Anne’s, and was rewarded towards the end of her incumbency with Finals performances (and thus Norrington Table positions) far better than any achieved since the College went mixed, and a Fellowship strengthened in many areas and particularly at the professorial level. Ambitious building programmes continued, and progressive developments in areas such as student welfare, computer networking, and fund-raising. Her consistent devotion to St Anne’s, to its students and all its members and staff, sprang from gratitude for the place she was offered in 1962. She retired as Principal in 2004 to become the first ever Independent Adjudicator for UK higher education.
Tim Gardam (1956-) read English at Caius College Cambridge and received a double First. He is thus not only the first male Principal of St Anne’s but also the first Cambridge graduate. His career in broadcasting began as a BBC trainee in 1977. He went on to produce Newsnight, Timewatch, and Panorama, and to executive roles at Channel 5 and Channel 4 TV, where he was Director of Programmes and Director of Television. In 2004 he was a member of the group appointed to review the BBC’s Royal Charter. Having left Channel 4 in 2003, he was attracted to the “commitment to intellectual emancipation enshrined in the beliefs of the remarkable women who founded” St Anne’s, and was selected as Principal from a distinguished short list. In his first year he has sought to build on the achievements of his predecessors, and in particular to put St Anne’s at the forefront of developing new University thinking in delivering what Oxford does best: the individual tutorial system, the close connection of undergraduates to academics at the top of their field, and a structure of Colleges, each small enough yet diverse enough for students to meet across a range of different subjects, in a cross disciplinary culture.