St Anne’s was the work of a coalition of radical Victorian women and men who determined that there should be a way for women to study at Oxford University without having to be immersed in a college at all.
St Anne’s, in 1879, was not so much founded as invented. The Society of Home-Students, as it was then called, was a manifesto rather than a location. This invention was the belief that, if this University were to be a place for the emancipation of any woman who had the potential to study here, it had to think afresh about how to attract them.
The Society allowed young women to live in lodgings across the city, and to attend lectures and tutorials, just as those in the colleges did, providing a more affordable way of obtaining a degree at Victorian Oxford.
This conviction – that any student, whatever their financial situation, who has the appetite, talent and determination to spend three or four years here immersed in the life of the mind, can do so – endures to this day. In 1942, the Society of Home-Students became the St Anne’s Society, and in turn a full College of the University, complete with Royal Charter, in 1952.
St Anne’s was founded on the principle that it integrated the values of the University with the world of its students: it is implacable in the pursuit of academic excellence, but does not see this as setting it apart from contemporary society.
Explore our history below.
When the University first opens its doors to women, The Society forms to enable young women to attend lectures and tutorials while living at home, in lodgings or religious houses across the city.
Unlike the other halls and colleges for women, a common room at Ship Street is the only shared space outside of the Principal's living room!
Women are formally admitted to degrees for the first time in 1920. The first matriculations take place on 7th October and the first graduations a week later.
Explore our Online Exhibition and the First Women at Oxford website to find out more.
A generous gift by a Mrs. Hartland enables the Society to buy its first permanent home on the current Woodstock Road site.
Renowned architect Giles Gilbert Scott is commissioned to design a multipurpose building that can cater to all of the Society's needs and so Hartland House is born, with the first module coming into use in 1938.
In 1942, the Society votes to adopt a name that better represents their new status and premises. The Society of Oxford Home-Students becomes St Anne's Society.
In 1952, the Society receives its royal charter and officially becomes St Anne's College.
The Principal, Eleanor Plumer, gives as a gift to the College the right to use her family's coat of arms and motto 'consulto et audacter' (purposefully and boldly).Watch St Anne's alumna, Muriel Passey, share her memories of Oxford from 1949 - 51
Wolfson, Gatehouse and Rayne are built as accommodation blocks in 1964, 66 and 68 respectively.
The first dedicated accommodation on site, they are part of a radical master plan for the College which is to include an artificial lake. With changes in College priorities, the full project is never completed.
Many of the traditionally male colleges across Oxford begin to admit women in the late 1970s. At the same time, St Anne's opens its doors to male students and the first cohort begins in Michaelmas Term 1979.
Working with the architects Fletcher Priest, the front of College is transformed with new kitchens and the Tim Gardam Building (Library & Academic Centre) in place of Gatehouse.
Hartland House is visible from Woodstock Road for the first time since the 1960s.