Women at Cambridge: The ladder of academic success
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Women at Cambridge: The ladder of academic success


We’re at Girton College, which was the
first institution to offer women the same university education
that men could get. same university education
that men could get.
I’m here with Dr. Dorothy Thompson. I’m here with Dr. Dorothy Thompson. I became a research fellow in ’65, a full Fellow in ’68, the year when
Murial Bradbrook became mistress. Bradbrook is particularly
interesting partly because she was the first woman to be a
Professor in the English faculty
in Cambridge, but partly, simply because she
produced this extraordinary board game. It’s the career of a female academic.
She works on Varsity, she does write some essays,
she gets kissed under the archway, she gets a small part playing
in the amatuer dramatic society. She also has a wild social life since she
goes to four May Balls. I’m struck by how late writing a book
comes along given how productive she was in her own career. She became a really world-renowned
Shakespearean scholar. She was one of the first to take
seriously that you should study Shakespeare as something
to be performed, not something simply to be read
on the page. That’s right. Her students were terrified of her, but she
was actually very quiet, Her students were terrified of her, but she
was actually very quiet,
she was very motherly. Once she became
a fellow, she put little Christmas presents she was very motherly. Once she became
a fellow, she put little Christmas presents in our pigeonhole. If anybody had a book
published she would always give a party. She lived in college all her life, when
she retired she described to me I remember, how she had to learn to open a
tin, like so many academics of that period. She’d never cooked for herself or looked
after herself. I suspect a modern
updated version of this family life would be a lot larger in thinking
about the challenges that women academics face. When I got married, I was told I should plan
my children for the long vacation because
there was no maternity leave, Things have changed in society at large. This academic, she does marry her
supervisor doesn’t she at some stage, that’s before the quads I’m glad to say. One thing we haven’t talked about is
whether women of Bradbrook’s generation, how aware they were of overt forms of
discrimination? I mean, we still have a problem in the university, only a fifth of
professors are women, I think a little over a third of
university lecturers are women. Was there a sense, among this generation,
of needing to fight against a lot of prejudice and encountering overt
discrimination? It’s how things were, I
mean we give it the term overt discrimination now, but that was the
world really, that was the world we were
brought up in. Retiring with a peerage is really being
ambitious. I think she was ambitious. I think she was
very ambitious To do what? To achieve what? To achieve within her subject,
to be an international figure that she certainly was and make it in Cambridge
which was not an easy place to make it in.

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