Kate’s Blog – International Women’s Day

I’ve spent the last hour writing Facebook posts about the early pioneers of female education, these will be released daily this week as a celebration of International Women’s Day. This has been both a wonderfully inspiring way to spend time, but also absolutely terrifying.

Did you know that in 1865, just after the first female British doctor obtained a licence to practice, the granting body, the Society of Apothecaries immediately amended its regulations to prevent any other women following in her footsteps? Or that Victorian medical practitioners genuinely believed that female education would cause women to over exert themselves and go insane or else develop masculine traits and not wish to marry/reproduce thus jeopardising the entire human race? Or that women weren’t actually allowed to graduate from Cambridge (and therefore did not have proper degrees) until 1948? Yes, 1948.

I know it seems rather ridiculous when put like this and personally I’m incredibly thankful to these amazing women who have allowed me, 150 years later, access to higher education without a second thought, but let’s just pause for a moment and remember that we’ve still got a long way to come. In 2014, over 100 million young women in low and lower-middle income countries could not read all or part of a sentence. A young girl in South Sudan is three times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than complete primary education, almost two-thirds of the poorest girls in Pakistan have never been to school and women still have a literacy rates well below men in many countries – something to bear in mind on Wednesday.

If you want to ruminate on the subject further, Bluestockings, a play about a group of women at Girton in the 1890s is on at the Theatre Royal until Saturday.

6th March 2017