Provides a forum for research into the gendered nature of educational provision, practice and thought.

View content

About us

The Centre for the History of Women's Education takes a broad cultural definition of education, one which transcends schooling to encompass learning and teaching (formal and informal) at any phase of the life-cycle, in any setting or historical period, including the recent past. As an area of research and teaching, the history of women's education generates cross-disciplinary projects and challenges both boundaries of knowledge and ways of seeing.


The Centre has developed a broad portfolio of research. Current areas of work focus on women and the governance of girls' education, girls and career choice, girls and examinations, women, religion and education, Quaker women and education, gendered history of music education, life history and women's educational writings, imperalism, democracy, national identities, and education. Through its research, the CHWE aims to provide a sound evidence base for policy and practice in respect of education for women and girls.


  • To explore the gendered nature of educational provision, practice and thought;
  • To apply gendered and/or feminist approaches to the history of (women's) education;
  • To provide a sound evidence base for policy and practice in respect of education for women and girls;
  • To offer education, training and opportunities for research study in the history of women's education;
  • To foster an active research climate, promote seminars, reading groups and conferences, and disseminate research findings to a range of audiences, including the professional.


May 2019 saw the launch of two new books:

  • Nancy Rosoff and Stephanie Spencer: British and American School Stories, 1910 - 1960: fiction, femininity, and friendship (Springer)
  • Helen Loader: Mrs Humphry Ward and Greenian Philosophy: Religion, Society and Politics (Palgrave Macmillan)

On 6 February 2018, then CHWE member Dr Meritxell Simon-Martin presented some elements of her article on Barbara Bodichon’s feminist pamphlet Women and Work (1857) as part of the regular CHWE seminar series. You can watch the presentation by clicking here.

For forthcoming events, scroll down to What's Happening - Events.

Current and recent research in CHWE

Materialities, environment and women’s higher education

Prof. Stephanie Spencer and members of CHWE

In 1929 Virginia Woolf stated that in order to write a woman needed a ‘Room of her Own and five hundred pounds a year.’ In the same year the British Federation of University Women opened Crosby Hall for international and national university women who needed rooms of their own to undertake short courses of study or work in London. Shortly after the Hall was opened, the management committee decided to create a library where the women could relax after their day with a book. A number of well-known figures contributed books ranging from middlebrow fiction to rare books not even in the British Library. The Hall has long since been sold but the book collection (Sybil Campbell) is now one of the Special Collections of the University of Winchester, overseen by trustees from the British Federation of Women Graduates (BFWG) and the Centre for the History of Women’s Education.

This project focusses on exploring and understanding the role of Crosby Hall and the BFWG in the lives of graduate women who were not necessarily working in universities. This will framed by theories of place and space in order to understand the meaning of materiality and environment for graduate women. In 1957 Judith Hubback’s Wives who Went to College explored the problems encountered by university women who found it difficult to reconcile domesticity with graduateness; the role played by organisations such as the BFWG in providing an environment within which graduates could meet like-minded women will be the focus of the proposed research.

The research includes archival and oral history interviews and material from the project has been presented at the Women’s History Network conference September 2016 and at the Remembering Eleanor Rathbone day, held at the University Women’s Club in May 2016.

Transnational Femininities

Prof. Stephanie Spencer and Dr Nancy Rosoff

Our collaborative research focusses on teenage girls' fiction published in the United States and United Kingdom, between 1910 and 1965. These rich sources provide us with an opportunity to examine the cultural constructions of female identity in popular literature. We seek to investigate the ideologies of transnational femininity found in teenage fictions and the representations of middle-class girlhood across this time period. Our focus is on stories set in schools or colleges and career novels. We will explore the complex question of how essential and constructed aspects of girlhood intertwine in these genres that carried immense appeal to their readers and functioned as an important means of informal education. Find out more.

The international mind in the education of women and girls 1890 - 1939

Professor Joyce Goodman; Dr Andrea Jacobs (former Research Fellow); Dr Fiona Kisby (former Research Fellow) and Dr Helen Loader (former Researcher in History of Education)

This project examined the historical significance of 'the international mind' in education for the education of women and girls in England. The term 'the international mind' in education was used frequently in the period between 1918 and 1939 and was particularly associated with ideas about international cooperation and the internationalisation of education. Thought to help the development of world peace, it was also associated with views of citizenship and national identity during the inter-war period.

ESRC seminar series 'Women in the 1950s'

This two-year seminar series was hosted by the University of Winchester (Prof. Stephanie Spencer), University of Manchester (Dr Penny Tinkler) and the University of Sussex (Dr Claire Langhamer). 

The aim of the series was to shed light on a neglected generation of girls and women. It includes four one-day seminars that use popular stereotypes from the fifties - the teenage girl, the suburban housewife, the glamorous young woman and the woman in love as starting points for exploring the diversity and complexity of the lives and experiences of girls and women in this period. The series also included two one-day workshops which explored neglected sources for researching women and gender in the 1950s, namely material culture, sound and photography.

It was a collaborative project that included contributions from the V&A Museum in London and culminated in the publication of Women in Fifties Britain: A New Look by Penny Tinkler, Stephanie Spencer & Claire Langhamer (Eds) (London: Routledge, 2018).

See also: Edwards, S. (2018) Youth Movements, Citizenship and the English Countryside: Creating Good Citizens, 1930 - 1960 (Palgrave Macmillan). Dr Sian Edwards is Lecturer in Modern British History in the Department of History; her PhD was supervised by Professor Claire Langhamer.