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Trinity Monday Discourse

Monday 10 May 2004
Trinity Monday Discourse

Discourse on Alice Oldham, delivered by Susan Parkes. 11.30 am in the Graduates' Memorial Building TCD.

'Alice Oldham and the Admission of Women to Trinity College,

Susan M. Parkes (MA., M.Litt., F.T.C.D., 1958).

Monday 10 May 2004

Discourse on Alice Oldham, delivered by Susan Parkes. 11.30 am in the Graduates' Memorial Building TCD

Miss Alice Oldham was the leader of the campaign for the admission of women to the College which was finally accomplished in 1904. She was one of the first women graduates of the Royal University of Ireland in 1884, and served on the staff of Alexandra College, Dublin. She came from a distinguished Dublin family, and her brother, Charles Oldham, was Professor of National Economics at University College, Dublin, 1917-1926. As Secretary of the Central Association of Irish schoolmistresses, Alice Oldham was in the forefront of the campaign for the admission of women to Trinity College. A tireless organiser and cogent letter-writer, she conducted a continuous correspondence with the Board of the College, arguing the women's case. In 1892, at the time of the Tercentenary celebrations, a memorial signed by 10,000 Irishwomen was presented to the College, requesting the admission of women. However, the Board refused to receive a deputation of women, but eventually agreed to receive a group of gentlemen to present the case on behalf of the women.
In 1895, the Board decided that it could not admit women on to a residential male campus and stated that the College charter and statutes did not permit it to do so. This decision was a great disappointment to Alice Oldham who had fought so hard for the case.
It was to be another nine years before the Board finally conceded, and a King's Letter was sought to allow the College to amend its statutes and admit women. Alice Oldham lived to see the victory, but she was suffering from ill-health and died in 1907. She was not included in the first group of women who were awarded honorary degrees by the University in 1904 and 1905, though a student prize was established in her memory by her admirers. A formidable fighter for women's rights to higher education and an outspoken advocate, Alice Oldham had not endeared herself to the Board of College, and her contribution to the struggle for the admission of women went largely unacknowledged. It is appropriate in 2004, the centenary year, to honour her name and her achievements at the Trinity Monday Discourse.

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'A Danger to the Men? : A History of Women in Trinity College, Dublin 1904-2004' ed. Susan Parkes
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