UK: Oxford takes down pictures of “dead white men”
WORLD / U.K. – Gone are the days when students in the great hall at Oxford were watched over by “portraits of dead white men,” says Maev Kennedy of the Guardian. New black and white photographs of female graduates and fellows now grace the walls in the hall. The occasion prompting the change is the 40th anniversary of women’s admittance to Hertford College, one of the previously all-male colleges at Oxford.
All-male colleges at Oxford
Five colleges at Oxford were all-male until 1974: Brasenose, Jesus, Wadham, Hertford and St. Catherine’s. Until that year, women who went to Oxford attended female colleges within the university, which were given collegiate status in 1959. In 1974, the five male colleges opened up 100 spots to female applicants, according to OxfordMail.
Students and staff members nominated the women whose pictures now hang in the great hall. They include philosopher Lady Warnock, bankers Charlotte Hogg and Serine Najaran, world champion rower Stephanie Cullen, and scientists Kay Davies and Alison Woolard. The women chosen are not necessarily the most famous or the richest. They are simply ladies who have done something worth noting in their lives.
Hertford College will enroll about 50 percent male and 50 percent female students this year, but academic staff members are still predominately male.
Famous portraits removed
Portraits of famous white men, such as William Tyndale – who first translated the Bible into English – were replaced by those of women associated with the college, and they will remain for one year.
Hertford College has a spotty history. Established in the 1200’s, its past includes students like poet John Donne, satirist Jonathan Swift and Maltese prime minister Dom Mintoff. The college has also been nearly bankrupt and almost closed.
Other celebratory activities on campus at the various colleges include all-female dinners, such as the one that was planned at Wadham for 2014. The Oxford Student website noted in June that the dinner was in the planning phases at that point and that there hadn’t been an uproar about why men were not invited.
After the women’s pictures in the great hall are removed next year, no one is quite sure what will happen to the walls there. It is certain that the pictures of dead white men will not be on the walls again, however. Some of the pictures were of clerics from the 1700s. They were unlabeled, and no women will remain on the walls.
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