Posted September 19th 2018

Celebrating the life of legal pioneer Gwyneth Bebb

On Saturday 15 September we were delighted to support the St Hugh’s Alumni Association as they hosted ‘A Woman is Not a Person’, a symposium to celebrate the life of St Hugh’s alumna and law pioneer Gwyneth Bebb (Law, 1908), one of the first women lawyers, and the impact of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which enabled women to enter the profession for the first time.

The symposium took place in Maplethorpe Hall as part of the Oxford University Alumni Weekend, with over 80 guests in attendance, and featured a fascinating exhibition curated by Gwyneth’s family, and the College’s Archivist, Amanda Ingram, and Librarian, Nora Khayi.

We were joined by an eminent panel of speakers for the event, which was chaired by Veronica Lowe (Modern History, 1969), President of the St Hugh’s Alumni Association.

Speakers: The Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC, Principal of St Hugh’s; Dame Janet Gaymer DBE QC (Hon.); Carolyn Kirby OBE; Professor Senia Paseta, Tutorial Fellow in History and Tutor for Women at St Hugh’s College, and co-director of Women in the Humanities; The Rt Hon Nicky Morgan MP; Sheila Cameron CBE QC; and Jane Robinson, the author of Bluestockings.

Following an introduction from the Principal of St Hugh’s College, The Rt Hon Dame Elish Angiolini DBE QC FRSE, Professor Senia Paseta gave a presentation on the life of Gwyneth Bebb, with pictures of Gwyneth taken from the family archives. Jane Robinson then reflected on the impact of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 on women in the traditional professions, with a presentation entitled ‘Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders’. The event closed with a lively and wide-ranging panel Q&A session, during which panellists reflected on the challenges they had faced in their own professional lives and considered the future of women in the workplace.

At the close of the event, Gwyneth’s family members were presented with a painting, by artist Amelia Lowe, of the memorial stained glass window originally commissioned by Gwyneth’s school, St Mary’s College, Paddington, for the school chapel in 1921, the year of Gwyneth’s death.

We are grateful to all of our speakers for joining us on Saturday, and to the St Hugh’s Alumni Association for their hard work in organising such a fascinating event at the College, particularly Veronica Lowe (Modern History, 1969), Dr Gianetta Corley (Modern Languages, 1958), and Ben Parker (Law, 1995).