Representation matters, which is why we are delighted to have the Women who made (Harris) Manchester College photograph exhibition on display. We are grateful to those that have generously sponsored the exhibition and to Robert Taylor for his stunning modern portraits. The pictures show some the remarkable women who have contributed to the College's development and are part of our ongoing story. The portraits have been generating interest and conversation since they were unveiled at the start of the academic year.
The College has not been shy in representing and celebrating women and their contributions and we are proud to have women represented in many of our main spaces. Lady Sarah Hewley, from the eighteenth century, hangs alongside Lady Pauline Harris and Lady Dan Li in the Arlosh Hall. The impressive sculpture of Maevadi Karnchanachari Navapan and Karnitha Karnchanachari can be seen in the quad outside the Hall, Frances Power Cobbe is in the main hallway, alongside Mrs Tseu in the main entrance. Women such as Lucy Toulmin Smith and Catharine Cappe are in the Library, alongside Anna Barbauld who features in the stunning stained glass window that dominates the space. But alongside these very visible representations, a host of other women have played their part in the College’s history, and the portraits are a celebration of some of those individuals.
The display starts with some figures from our past, women who have been trailblazers in their own way. We start with Frances Power Cobbe, who along with friends, stormed one of James Martineau’s lectures while College was in London to kick-start the debate about allowing women to attend lectures. Other early portraits show women who were determined to follow their own paths and in doing so became pioneers; first to qualify as a minister, first lady to perform a marriage ceremony, first to lecture in Theology in Oxford. Others became significant advocates for women’s rights, health care and education. We are proud to have them represent part of our history.
But as well as celebrating our past, we are delighted to use the display as an opportunity to recognise and honour those women who have been instrumental in shaping Harris Manchester College in recent years. Some of the individuals shown were intimately involved in the process of enabling our College to become a fully incorporated member of the University. Others have worked to shape our College into what it is now, an inclusive, welcoming and academically rigorous organisation. It is fitting that our final portrait is of our current Principal, the first female to be appointed to the role, allowing us to bring the portraits right up-to-date.
The portraits on display are not an exhaustive record of all the women who made us, or continue to contribute to our work. There are many more stories to tell and we will add their stories in the future. Nonetheless this current display takes a moment to consider, and celebrate, the work of some remarkable women that have made (Harris) Manchester College.