The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Our Daughters

by F. L. Green
Volume 1, 1890, pg. 664

IV. At Newnham and Girton

Our daughters' life at both Newnham and Girton runs very much on the same lines. Newnham students have perhaps more opportunities of sharing in the general social life of Cambridge; but Girtonians have the advantage of being all under one roof, and can consequently claim a stronger corporate feeling. Between the women's colleges there has always existed constant healthy intercourse, and, with regard to sports and honour lists, a very healthy rivalry.

The student who enters Cambridge from the rail, unless she passes on the line the great, grey, towering mass of Ely Cathedral, will probably have the new red gables of the Hills Road Hostel -- Cavendish -- pointed out to her as Girton. But Newnham and Girton lie in truth remote from the rail -- the one hidden away by the trees which fringe the Backs, the other about two miles out on the Huntingdon Road, the Via Devana of the Romans.

The dark-red brick buildings of Girton College are fairly well designed in the French château style, and though the neighbouring country is rather bare and dreary, the smooth turf of the College court, and the creepers which have been trained on its frontage, give Girton a pleasant air. The student's desiratum -- quiet -- is thoughtfully secured by the arrangement of the College studies, which run on one side of long, straight corridors. Every Girtonian has either a bedroom and a sitting room -- in most cases communicating by folding doors -- or one large room divided by a curtain. The latter is the most popular arrangement, as it practically secures the student a fire in her bedroom -- no slight advantage in the Fen region, with its humidity and east winds.

The Girton studies are comfortably furnished by the College with bureaus or writing-tables, bookshelves, couches, and other essential furniture; but every student provides her own books, pictures, flowers, and -- if she be musical -- her own piano. Pianos are, moreover placed for the general good in the students' common rooms by the College, and though, by general agreement, there is no music during the usual hours of study, these pianos are seldom left untouched in the early morning, after lunch, and between dinner and tea. There is, of course, a College Musical Socirty.

The morning hours at Girton -- following the example of "reading men" -- are usually given up to study, and as breakfast is from eight to nine, and lunch from twelve to three, either a long or a short morning can be secured. Tripos students get a large portion of their training at the Inter-Collegiate Lectures, now generally open to women, and every morning during term "lecture flies" may be seen wending their slow way along the Huntingdon Road into the town. If a student has not to go into Cambridge for lectures she works till lunch in her own room. Then, after a country walk, tennis, or a little shopping expedition, afternoon lectures in College, coaching, and laboratory work claim their votaries.

Afternoon tea is brought round to the lecture-rooms and the students' own rooms at four o'clock, and the natural science people usually take the daily exercise, which the relaxing Cambridge air renders a necessity , after this informal meal.

At dinner, which is at six o'clock, there is a merry clash of tongues, varied by occasional "awful pauses," from which bursts of small talk seem to derive fresh vigour. "Shop" is from long tradition and an unvarying consensus of opinion rigidly frowned upon.

Between dinner and tea even the hardest working student unbends. College calls are made and the debating and other smaller societies hold their meetings. Novels take for a brief space the place of textbooks, and evening papers and magazines pass from hand to hand. By ten the students' day is done. After a gossip with their friends, the wise retire to recruit themselves for the next day's work by a long night's rest, the foolish burn the "midnight oil." Occasionally, however, midnight toiler and sleeper alike are startled by the rattle of the captain of the fire brigade. Then books and bed are hurriedly forsaken, and pumping, passing buckets, and the lowering of students from college windows, is the order of the night.

From the time when the little band of students known to their successors as the "Girton Pioneers" took up their residence in the dull little town of Hitchin, thirty miles from Cambridge, the Girton "Degree" course of study has been rigidly modeled on that pursued by the male undergraduates of the University, and no Girton student has ever availed herself of the permission of the Senate to substitute any equivalent for any part of the "Little Go" not open equally to men.

On the other hand, not every student who enters Girton need take a Tripos, or indeed any other examination. Those who come up to college with scholarships -- whether awarded on the Entrance Examination, which is held twice a year, in March and June, or on the Cambridge Higher Local or other University Examinations -- are generally required to read for a Tripos, but Girton only requires its students to really derive profit from the life and learning it affords them. While it grants Degree Certificates to its examinees who have fulfilled all the conditions imposed for the time being by the University on candidates for degrees, it also gives College Certificates to those who pass to its satisfaction examinations similar in subjects and standard to those qualifying for the B. A. degree, but modified to meet the lack of a sufficient early classical training. Thus French and English, or German and English may be substituted for Latin or for Greek; English, French, and German may take the place of both Latin and Greek; and in case of conscientious objection, the Theological part of the examinations may be wholly omitted.

In this connection it should be said that every Girton student before coming into residence must pass the Entrance Examination or some examination excusing from it -- such as the Senior Oxford or Cambridge Local, the London or Royal University of Ireland Matriculation Examination, or the Examination for Certificates of the Oxford and Cambridge Local Examinations Board. There are correspondence classes held in connection with the Entrance Examination by old students of Girton.

Newnham College now consists of three Halls built of red brick with white stone facings, and situated on a site of about eight and a-half acres. The largest hall, called Clough Hall, after Miss Clough, the Principal of the College, has a very pretty and lofty dining hall, with a polished oak floor excellent for dancing, and a gallery running round two sides of the room. In this hall the whole college occasionally dines together, and when college concerts and debates cause it to be filled to its limit, it holds about four hundred people. A covered passage communicates with Sidgwick Hall -- opened ten years ago, and named after Professor Sidgwick, the first promoter of the Lectures for Women in Cambridge, which were the occasion of the founding of the oldest Hall of Newnham College. This Hall is separated from the other two by the roadway. From 1875 to 1880 it was known as Newnham Hall; from 1880 to 1887 it was called the South Hall, a contradistinction from the North (now Sidgwick) Hall on the other side of the way; and it is now known as the Old Hall.

Students who come up to Newnham must be over eighteen, except in very special cases which are individually considered by the Council. Many girls now come into residence straight from school at ages varying from eighteen to twenty, but there is always a considerable number of older women in the Halls, some of whom have been of German, Norwegian, Italian, Jewish, and American nationality, for Newnham has always opened her doors to students irrespective of race or creed.

Of the College students, the great majority are resident in the three Halls; but each Hall has had attached to it a few Out Students, who have either resided with their parents or guardians in Cambridge, or have kept their terms in lodgings approved by the Principal. Women not generally resident in Cambridge, to be Out Students, must be over thirty years of age, or unable to afford the cost of residence in one of the Halls, and accustomed to support themselves, or otherwise in exceptional circumstances. The Newnham fees for resident students are slightly less than those of Girton -- a hundred guineas -- varying as they do with the rooms assigned the student, from seventy-five to ninety-six guineas a year. The tuition fees for Out Students are twenty-four pounds a year. They may use the College grounds, join the College societies and clubs, and dine in College once a week during term times. They also have the privilege of reading in the beautiful Library of the Old Hall -- a long room with oaken floor and bookshelves, and deep embrasured windows thoughtfully provided with cushioned seats, and abutting on grass tennis courts.

With regard to the Cambridge Honour Course -- informally open to women under great restrictions as to preparation from 1875 to 1881, and since that time formally open to them, though they have no standing in the University and receive from it no degree -- it is noteworthy that nearly half of the whole number of Newnham students who have gone down have taken Triposes. About one-fourth of these Tripos students -- amongst them a Senior Wrangler -- have taken first classes, and nearly one-half second classes.

Newnham Tripos students pursue the same course of study as men who are reading for honours, with the exception that they may, if they choose, substitute for the "Little Go" -- the first examination of the University -- and Honour Certificate in the Cambridge Higher Local Examination, including a pass in Groups B and C. This course gives them a larger aggregate amount of work to be done than if they take the "Little Go," but they have more choice of subjects, and need not take Greeek or Latin, though generally one or the other is taken by them. The standard is higher than that of the "Little Go," and approximates to that required for an Ordinary or "Poll" Degree.

Work is carried on in very much the same hours and way as at Girton. Some students find the morning and some the evening the best time for study. The afternoon, from two to four, is devoted as far as possible to recreation; the hour after dinner is the time of meeting for College societies; and from ten to eleven is the hour of cocoa parties.

Tripos students have to reside from eight to twelve terms, according to the Tripos they select, and other students who are reading for the Higher Local or other Examination -- or for no definite examination -- are not allowed to reside for more than two years without special permission. The Council, however, readily allows such students a third year at Newnham when they are engaged in work as advanced as that usually done in the third year of preparation for a Tripos. As at Girton, scholarships generally entail the taking of a Tripos. They are awarded on the Cambridge Higher Local Examination, the Senior Local Examination, a Special Classical Examination held at the College in March, and a Special Nature Science Examination held there in June. Scholarships are also awarded on the Inter-Collegiate Examinations or "Nays" taken by first, second, and third year students, and exhibitions and loans are offered to students of limited means.

All Higher Local Lectures are given in the light, airy lecture-rooms of the Sidgwick Hall, and some of them are open to outsiders on the payment of fees. Work for the Triposes is partly carried on in College, partly out of College. At most of the men's colleges, women by favour of the lecturers and the authorities are allowed to attend the Inter-Collegiate Lectures intended for the various Triposes on the payment of fees, and these are supplemented by the classes of Newnham lectures -- of whom there are ten, all old students of the College -- and by individual coaching. Natural Science students work at the Chemical Laboratory for Biology and Physics -- formerly a Congregational Chapel -- which belongs to the College. They may also attend the demonstrations given at the Cavendish Laboratory.

If Newnham students have the reputation of working well, they are known to also play well. Tennis is perhaps the most popular form of recreation, but fives and hockey also have their votaries. A legend is told that an anxious father who had come to view Newnham, refused to send his daughter when he saw the hockey goals, on the ground that he would not like her to play football. Football is not played at Newnham, nor has the College an eleven.

Each Hall at Newnham possesses a Tennis Club of select players in which the members are arranged in order of merit -- ties between individual members of the club being played each term to that end. The champion players of each Hall contend every term for cups presented by Mr. Colman, M.O., and Mr. A. J. Balfour, M.P.; and every year Girton and Newnham pit their respective champions against each other for a challenge cup. The Girton colours are white and pale blue. The Newnham dress is cream trimmed with green, with the iris for a badge. Griton and Newnham are colleagues, not rivals, in the match which is played annually between the women's colleges of Oxford and Cambridge. Last year it was played at Wimbledon.

Of college societies the Political Club, held in the form of a Parliament, runs the Debating Society very close in popularity. The Sharp Practice Club, started to train speakers for debating, has amusing meetings, and there is, of course, a small host of poetry and literary societies. Papers are read and discussed at the meetings of the History, Moral Science, Natural Science, and other special societies, and Girton students occasionally come over to them. The inter-collegiate debate, held at Girton and Newnham alternately, is one of the events of the College year. Dancing is very popular both at Newnham and Girton. At there is always a weekly dance at the Clough Hall, and dancing is resorted to after debates and College concerts.

Since the careers open to women are even now few in number, and, generally speaking, subject to restrictions -- some natural, some artificial -- which men escape, the greater proportion of Girton and Newnham students who have adopted a profession have chose the oe coenceded to them as peculiarly their own -- the teaching of their own sex in schools, privately, such as lecturers. Of old students of Newnham College -- about four hundred and fifty assistant mistresses; five are principals of halls and colleges, and twenty-seven are lecturers. There is still room in high school teaching for women with a natural gift for teaching, trained and cultured; but every year more and more women leave school and college to teach simply because it is the course most open to them. The result of this competition, and the very low rate of fees charged in girls' public schools, is to bring down salaries, till now, a Tripos student on leaving college finds herself offered an assistant mistress's salary of from £85 to £115. Those of "our daughters" who really desire to be teachers cannot do better than consult a little pamphlet,* published this year -- the report of a committee formed to collect statistics as to the salaries paid to assistant mistresses in high schools. The report considers the questions of salaries, ,agreements, compulsory registration, hours of work, fees, expenses, and annuities; and the tables which supplement it have been very carefully drawn u.

In journalism and authorship the liberal culture of a University undoubtedly tells in breadth of view, balance, and the avoidance of a hundred faults of taste. These are two of the most attractive pursuits open to women; feminine workers are required in them, and the remuneration they earn is not less, for the work done, than that given to men.

Cambridge offers to women no special medical training, but its Natural Science Tripos constitutes a very valuable preliminary to such special training, and there have been old students of Newnham and Girton among the students of the London School of Medicine for women. One is a society milliner, and attributes a large portion of her success to her Girton training; another is a clever detective; three are assistants at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich; and several ex-students are engaged in such philanthropical and educational work as is involved in sitting on local School Boards, and acting as local secretaries for the Oxford and Cambridge Examinations, and as secretaries for the centres of the Charity Organisation Society. The sub-librarian of the People's Palace is a Newnham Tripos student.

Newnham has no fellowship to offer women, but it does its best to encourage research by awarding studentships to students who have finished their University course, and have shown ability to carry on advanced independent work.

All the women's colleges have always discouraged over-pressure. Griton or Newnham who are preparing for examinations may not teach during the college terms, and holders of studentships may only do so by special permissions. The result is found to be that a distinct improvement in health "can, as a rule, be traced to the more simple and regular habits acquired at college, and to the widened mental and social interests which have made life more full."** There can be no better preparation for the social duties of a wife and mother than the cheerful companionship, out-of-door recreation, healthy food for the mind which the higher education of women, moderately pursued, supplies.

* Published by Rice, 186, Fleet Street.

** Miss Welsh -- Quoted in Mrs. Pfeiffer's "Women and work in their relation to health."

Typed by happi, Apr 2017