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Thirty Years of Women at Pembroke

Book 52014 was the thirty-year anniversary of women’s admissions to Pembroke College. A dedicated team has been working throughout the year to mark this important milestone in our history by creating a programme of events, talks and displays commemorating the role of women here at Pembroke.

The 'Skirts and Ties' installation in the Hall

The ‘Skirts and Ties’ installation in the Hall

PemWomen@30 events over the course of the year have included the Women’s Dinner, held during the summer; the ‘Skirts and Ties’ installation set up in the Hall to provide a visual display of the ratio of men to women at Pembroke; an all-women comedy night; and several panel discussions on subjects such as ‘women in the workplace’. You can read more about the various events here.

On Tuesday 2nd December, an informal gathering was held in the Old Library to celebrate the arrival of a new book, Excellence in Diversity: Values and Visions of Pembroke College, Cambridge, since 1984, which the PemWomen@30 team put together over the summer. This book aimed to provide a complete picture of the story of women at Pembroke, covering the past, present and future in three well-illustrated sections. Over three hundred contributors helped to compose the content of the book, which was on display with copies for sale at the event.

Dr Sathiamalar Thirunavukkarasu

Dr Sathiamalar Thirunavukkarasu with her copy of the book

The atmosphere in the Old Library was a contented blend of pride and anticipation. Guests included Dr Sathiamalar Thirunavukkarasu, one of the first female Fellows to have been admitted to Pembroke in 1988. Her portrait was featured on the front cover of the book.

A short introduction to the book was presented by graduate students Jack Tavener (2007), Cinthia Willaman (2010) and Anna Judson (2007), three of the team members behind the PemWomen@30 campaign. Anna talked us through the first section of the book, ‘The Past’, and showed some excerpts including original posters from the campaign against women being admitted to Cambridge, with slogans such as “No Gowns for Girtonites” and “Down with Women’s Degrees”.

Cinthia then briefly outlined the ‘Present’ section, which includes reflections on Pembroke women in sport, the question of equality in its wider context, contributions from current members of the College and reports on the various events and displays which have taken place over the year. Finally Jack spoke about the ‘Future’ and reflected on the many challenges still faced by the College, such as encouraging diversity at all levels.

The Martlet Tree

The Martlet Tree

There has been an emphasis on collaboration and interaction since the project’s outset. The ‘Martlet Tree’, an installation which appeared in the Library during the Easter term of 2015, invited students to write their hopes and ideas for Pembroke’s future on paper martlets (the martlet is the bird featured on the College crest) and attach them to the tree. Continuing this theme, the event on Tuesday night included an ‘Ideas Board’ on one of the displays, where guests were invited to make comments or suggestions for the future of women at Pembroke.

One of the main organizers of PemWomen@30, Dr Monica Wirz (2009), was sadly unable to attend the event, but her contribution to the project was gratefully noted and her work has been hugely appreciated throughout the year.

Copies of the book are now on sale in various places around College and at the Porters’ Lodge. For more information, please contact

L-R: Jack Tavener, Cinthia Willaman and Anna Judson

L-R: Jack Tavener, Cinthia Willaman and Anna Judson


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