Somerville and Suffrage
Somerville is celebrating this centenary year of ‘Votes for Women’ with an exciting calendar of events. Launching on 6 February 2018 (the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the Peoples Act) the ‘Somerville and Suffrage’ programme will offer everything from lectures and discussions to newly commissioned musical theatre.
You could say that Somerville’s association with the ‘Votes for Women’ movement started before the College itself was even founded. Somerville is named for Mary Fairfax Somerville, the self-taught scientist and mathematician who was one of the first two women to become members of the Royal Astronomical Society. Hers was also the first signature on John Stuart Mill’s 1868 petition to Parliament proposing votes for women.
From its foundation in 1879, Somerville played its part in the struggle. The College’s members (students, Fellows and former students) marched, debated, raised funds and sometimes took militant action to get the message out. By 1910, membership of the Somerville Women’s Suffrage Society stood at 75 out of a total body of 94 and Somerville was known by contemporaries as ‘a college of devoted suffragists’.