Women’s History Month: a snapshot of Lucy Cavendish College presidents

by Cherish Watton on 1 March 2016

Women's History Month logoWomen’s History Month is now a central anniversary across the world, celebrating the contributions which women have made both to history and to society. As the only college for women aged 21 and over in the whole of Europe, it seems fitting that we look back at some of the women who have played a central part in our College’s history – the presidents.

Our presidents have played a vital role in college life; acting as central ambassadors to drive forward strategic change to develop our College. This short blog summarises some of the key achievements of Lucy Cavendish's eight presidents.


Dr Anna BidderDr Anna Bidder (1965 - 1970)

Bidder was Lucy Cavendish’s first president and was fundamental in setting the foundations for the whole ethos of our College.

Her ability to bring different people together was vital to allowing our College to gain wider University recognition. After her term as president, Bidder returned to her research in Zoology.


Dr Kate BertramDr Kate Bertram (1970 - 1979)

Bertram worked closely with Bidder during her time as president, after her research into marine life in central Africa.

Bertram’s presidency saw the acquisition of key buildings, as well as the first admittance of undergraduate students into our College.


Phyllis Bowden (1979 - 1984)

Bowden first heard about Lucy Cavendish College following a talk given by her predecessor, Betram. Inspired by Betram’s words at the Manchester Association of Cambridge University Women, she became heavily involved in college life. During Bowden’s time as president, the University significantly recognised our College as an Approved Foundation in 1984.

Dame Anne WarburtonDame Anne Warburton (1985 - 1994)

Before arriving at Lucy Cavendish, Warburton’s most notable achievement was becoming the first woman ambassador to Denmark in 1976. As president, her main aim was to spread the word about the College being ‘a cause champion’. Her links with Denmark followed her into College when Queen Margrethe of Denmark became an Honorary Fellow in 1989.

Baroness Perry of Southwark (1994 - 2001) 

Perry had an illustrious career in higher education, returning to work after bringing up four children. After teaching Philosophy at the University of Manitoba (Canada) and subsequently at Massachusetts University, she went on to become the Head of South Bank Polytechnic. Perry used her experience at Berkeley University in California to set up the Centre for Women Leaders at Lucy Cavendish in 1996.

Dame Veronica SutherlandDame Veronica Sutherland (2001 - 2008)

Sutherland, similar to other presidents, had extensive and notable experience in the diplomatic service. She became the first married woman to occupy an ambassadorial position, as ambassador to the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and Niger, being posted to Abidjan alongside her husband. Under Sutherland’s presidency, our College expanded, with the purchase of houses in Chesterton Road (the Lyttleton Colony) alongside the completion of Oldham Hall – comprising the new Porter’s Lodge, conservatory and three teaching rooms.


Prof Janet ToddProfessor Janet Todd (2009 - 2015)

Before her time at Lucy Cavendish, Todd pursued a long academic career, researching a variety of early women writers including working-class poets and hymn writers. Under Todd, our College continued to expand, with her literary background inspiring a number of themed initiatives, such as the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize and the Scribbling Women Collection – the top floor of our library devoted to works penned by women.


Jackie AshleyJackie Ashley (2015 - 2022)

Ashley is the current president, following a successful career in political journalism and commentary for a variety of high profile newspapers and broadcasters. Since arriving at our College, Ashley has convened a conference on ‘Where are the women?’ exploring the bigger picture of women’s participation at work and home, and how we can best overcome the barriers preventing women from excelling further.


Interested in reading more about Lucy Cavendish the women? Head over to our history section.

To find out more about the history behind our presidents, and College more generally, take a look at Nigel Watson’s ‘The Opportunity To Be Myself: A History of Lucy Cavendish College’ (2002).

Follow Women's History Month @womenshistmonth