“If a female had once passed the gate”: Trinity Women Graduates Archive Project

Research Collections is delighted to announce the start of the Trinity Women Graduates Archive Project. This project marks the centenary of the Trinity Women Graduates Association (TWG) in 2022. The records of the association are currently being catalogued as part of a Virtual Trinity Library project to make them accessible to researchers and students.  

The archival records of the Trinity Women Graduates (TCD MUN SOC WGA) formerly known as the Dublin University Women Graduates Association (DUWGA), were transferred to the Library in 2018. The cataloguing of the records will be complemented by a physical exhibition in the Old Library of Trinity College Dublin and an Online exhibition on Google Cultural Institute that will form part of the centenary celebrations in April 2022. The Trinity Women Graduates records, will be archived, conserved, digitised and listed for the exhibition which will allow us to fully appreciate the contribution of Trinity to the higher education of women in Ireland. The collection features correspondence, minute books, financial records, photographs and membership documents that chronicle the achievements and hard-fought victories of women in Trinity to be acknowledged as equal citizens, students, academics and graduates. This project would not be possible without the support of the TCD Association and Trust, who provided a generous grant for this project.  

The Dublin University Women Graduates Association was founded on the 25th April 1922 and held its inaugural meeting in Trinity Week that year. Lucy Gwynn, first lady Registrar of Trinity College was also the founding president with Oliver Purser, first female scholar as vice-president. The Association had rooms in Number 6 Front Square and organised lectures, visits, weekly gatherings, alumni dinners and an ‘At Home’ during Trinity Week. The founding of the Association was an important milestone in the admission of women to Trinity College Dublin as there were now sufficient women graduates to sustain such a society.  

The conditions for women at Trinity College were completely different in 1922. The regulations ‘which women students are expected to observe’ of 1908 stated that while ‘women students are now equally admissible with Men students to lectures and examinations, and to the privilege of reading in the library’ they were expected to observe the following rules, which include:

1. All Women candidates for matriculation shall communicate with the Lady Registrar a week before the date of the Entrance Examination and shall furnish her with satisfactory evidence of character. 

2. Women Students shall inform the Lady Registrar at least a week before lectures begin whether they propose to attend Lectures or not. 

3. Women Students attending Lectures must reside either with their Parents or guardians in town, or in Trinity Hall, unless by special leave by the Provost. 

4. Rooms have been set apart in Nos 5 and 6 Trinity College for the use of Women Students. Their Examination Marks will be posted in these rooms. 

5. Except when entering or leaving College, Women Students shall wear their Academicals in the College Squares and Parks, unless accompanied by a chaperon. 

6. Women Students are required to leave the College Precincts at 6pm. 

7. Women Students shall not visit private rooms in College unless accompanied by a chaperon, or with the Provost’s sanction in exceptional circumstances. 

8. Those desiring private tuition will notify the Lady Registrar, who will arrange for it in rooms to be sanctioned by the Provost. 

Regulations for Women Students, 1908.

However, these rules and regulations did not grind them down and their objectives and existence as an alumni association have endured until today where they exist to connect generations of Women Graduates. 

“Time has done its work and it is not beyond the imaginative powers of the junior freshwomen of 1954 to picture a woman Provost of Trinity”

Trinity: Annual Record, 1954.

In 2021, this statement finally comes to pass with the appointment of Professor Linda Doyle as Provost, and it reminds us that the current experiences of women were not easily won. Women in Trinity have come a long way since the first women were admitted in 1904 and continue to inspire future generations of Women Graduates of Trinity College. The next blog will outline the history of the admission of women to Trinity College Dublin.

Ciara Daly

Project Archivist