Foundress Lunch 2014

Every year, all of the women of Pembroke gather for a lunch in the Old Library. This year Susan Stobbs, an Emeritus Fellow of Pembroke and former Admissions Tutor and Director of Admissions for the Cambridge Colleges, gave a short speech to remember both the Foundress and the arrival of women students in 1984:

IMG_4681‘When the College went mixed, it was decided that all the women associated with Pembroke should gather together annually to commemorate the Lady Foundress. We don’t know when her birthday was, but traditionally she has been associated with St Cecilia’s Day, which is tomorrow – so that’s why we’re here today.

‘If you look in the official history of the College only two women are ever mentioned: the Foundress and Sarah Lonsdale, a great benefactress. But I always think about the hundreds of women who worked in this College over the years, and they are the unsung heroes. Today we should also celebrate the housekeepers, the cooks, the secretaries, the nurses and all the women who looked after the fellows and students for over 600 years before women were officially admitted to the College, but never get a mention.

‘I came up to Cambridge as a student in 1963. Of course, I could not come to Pembroke but I was very happy I at Newnham and thought of myself as a perfectly normal Cambridge student – I read Natural Sciences, specialising in Theoretical Physics at Part 2, and then continued with Part 3 Maths, and was the first woman to be awarded  the Tyson Medal. I thought I was a normal student, but I realise now that clearly many of the people around me didn’t think so, just because I was a woman. It was a different mentality.

‘The only time I came into Pembroke in the 1960s was when notices appeared in Newnham saying that waitresses were needed for the Pembroke Smokers – obviously a very suitable job for women students.  I came along to this very room, and waited tables while all the unknown, but subsequently very famous, people performed: Tim Brooke-Taylor, Bill Oddie and all the rest.

‘Much has moved on. I came to Pembroke in 1995 as a Fellow and was made to feel very welcome, and since then I have always found that it is a very happy place for women. Thinking about the future, you need to try to get a woman as Master, Senior Tutor or Bursar. That is your next challenge!

‘So let’s drink a toast to remember our Foundress and all the unsung women who went before us here at Pembroke.’