Rooms of our own Lucy Cavendish College
About the exhibition
online catalogue
Exhibition events
'A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved'. A Room Of One's Own

The original manuscript of Virginia Woolf's 'A Room Of One's Own' will be the centrepiece of an exhibition at Lucy Cavendish College.

Charting the development of education for women over the last three centuries, the Rooms of Our Own exhibition will also feature cartoons, correspondence and documents from the College Archives. It will look at the women in the 17th Century who fantasised about the possibility of women's education through to the men and women who scorned and parodied it. Concluding the exhibition will be the vision of the women who sought to create a space in Cambridge for women to study at the time in their lives which suits them.

Before any women's colleges existed in England, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle (1623-1673), imagined them in The Female Academy (1662) and The Convent of Pleasure (1668). Despite her elevated social status, ‘Mad Madge' was mocked by men and women for her fascination with science and her desire to publish in her own name .

The exhibition starts with Margaret Cavendish's fantasies of a female college and goes on to deliver many examples of the mockery, hostility and indifference encountered by those daring seriously to propose higher education for women who, many believed, should be concentrating entirely on their proper roles of wife and mother.

Punch cartoons lampooning women's move into what was seen as the male preserve of education will be on display as will cartoons, correspondence and documents from the archives of Bedford College and Lucy Cavendish College. Lucy Cavendish, founded in 1965, was the last mainstream women's college to be founded.

Lucy Cavendish College worked closely with Chawton House Library and the Fitzwilliam Museum and was generously supported by the University of Cambridge 2009 Fund.

Press and other enquiries to Meryl Davies
01223 764020

This exhibition was held in October 2009 as part of the University's 800th celebrations.


The exhibition opened at noon on Saturday 17th October 2009.

Discover the history of Lucy Cavendish College and the experience of its early students from our Historical Interpreter all afternoon. At 4.30pm, broadcaster and writer Libby Purves will formally open the exhibition and there will be a performance by the Lucy Cavendish Singers.

Tuesday 20th October 2009 at 6.30pm, introduced by Loyd Grossman with students from Northampton Academy and St Mary's School, Cambridge. Wood-Legh Room.

Wednesday 21st October 2009 until 8pm This late opening coincides with late night exhibition openings at Kettle's Yard (Helena Almeida: Inside Me) and Cambridge & County Folk Museum (A Space of My Own). Both are within a five minute walk of Lucy Cavendish College.

Monday 26th October 2009 at 12 noon, Reception Rooms, Warburton Hall, Lucy Cavendish Two private rooms were unspeakable bliss": rooms for female students at Royal Holloway and the Oxford and Cambridge colleges in the late nineteenth century with Dr Jane Hamlett, Lecturer in Modern British History at Royal Holloway University of London.