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50 Years of Women at John's

black and white photo of women with sponge over man's headWe are now celebrating 50 years of women being admitted to study at St John’s!

Over the course of this anniversary year we are sharing stories, interviews and portraits of remarkable women in the history and present of St John's.

In June 2023 we also welcomed back many of the first cohort of women for a reunion weekend and celebration dinner.





The first cohort of women students brought much academic lustre to the college. They were a great group of people (look what they have gone on to do!) and got involved in every part of college and university life. So three cheers for the 1973 cohort and all who followed.

Adrian Dorber
Dean Emeritus of Lichfield, JCR President 1973, DSU President 1974-75

Articles from the John's Chronicle

A selection of articles relating to remarkable female Johnians and their experiences at the college.


50 Years of Women at St John’s: Jane Newsome (née Whitehead)

"Jane Whitehead was part of the first intake of women to be admitted to St John’s College in 1973."
A picture of Jane Newsome being awarded her MBE.

We Met at John's: Richard and Anne

"Richard proposed to Anne in their final year at Durham. Two years later, in 1979, they got married."
A photo of John's alumni Richard and Anne Child.

50 Years of Women at St John's: Zillah Martin

Zillah's year studying for an MA in Theology with Prof Stephen Sykes was one of the most enriching of her life.
two students from 1960s

50 Years of Women at St John's: Sue Evans

Alumna Sue Evans reminisces on her four years at John’s in the 1970s and sheds light on the many pranks and shenanigans that took place at that time.
black and white photo of women with sponge over man's head

50 Years of Women at St John's: Alice Butler

Recent graduate and SJCR President Alice Butler reveals her favourite memories of college life.

Tribute to Ruth Etchells from a former JCR President

Alumna Joëlle Warren reflects on her time as JCR President (1983-84) and pays tribute to the leadership of then Principal Ruth Etchells.
Joƫlle Warren on her graduation day in in 1984
University student
"There was nothing like that first special year at Durham. I think we all felt pretty special and pretty lucky to be in this college. Life at St John's has had a lasting impact on me, and my daughter became a John's girl in 1999."

Charlotte South
Combined Arts (1973-76)


Although it wasn't until October 1973 that female undergraduates were first admitted to the college, the history of women and their involvement with St John's College goes back a lot further. In 1921, an inspection report of the college recommended the recruitment of a female housekeeper, a move that would of course be welcomed with open arms. During the 1940s, a small number of women lived in Cruddas, when St Mary's students were temporarily housed on the Bailey while their new college buildings were finished.

In October 1966, St John's became the first Church of England theological college to train men and women together, as Cranmer Hall admitted female students for the first time. This acted as something of a springboard for the decision to admit women to the college as a whole. 

In 1972, an inspection of Cranmer Hall and St John's Hall from the Advisory Council for the Church's Ministry noted the following:

"It seems strange to us that a theological college, over a sixth of whose members are women, and which trains men and women for ministry in a church which is predominantly feminine, should have only two women on its Governing Body, both of whom, we understand, live in the South of England, and have little opportunity of knowing the day to day life of the college."

Of course, the representation of women in all aspects of the college is now much greater, and we have the decisions made in 1966 and 1973 to thank for paving the way for the college as it exists today.