Women Students’ Alumni Associations
One of the most fascinating findings from analysing the University Calendars of the 20th century was discovering the prevalence of women’s associations that existed for alumni of the University of St Andrews. In the 1935 calendar alone, there were 3 different alumni associations across the United Kingdom dedicated to bringing women graduates together for social events and to network with one another. It is highly likely that women who had graduated with History degrees were part of these alumni associations.
The London Association of St Andrews University Women was formed in 1926 for former St Andrews women students that lived in and around London. The University Calendar credits the work of Miss Evelyn Mudie Esher for the formation and organisation of the London Association. It appears that the London Association was formed primarily for social reasons, meeting ‘several times annually in London for social purposes.’ The London Association of St Andrews University Women merged with the men’s St Andrews University Club London in 1954 to form the University of St Andrews Alumni Club London, which is still active today. The club is the largest of the St Andrews alumni groups and holds regular events from monthly pub nights, to networking events, and even an annual carol service.
Closer to home, the St Andrews University Women’s Edinburgh Association was an alumni network established for former women students that were resident in and around Edinburgh. Given the number of women history students that came from Scotland (hyperlink to geography post) in the first half of the twentieth century, we can imagine that there may have been several women history graduates that joined the Edinburgh Association. In 1935 the Edinburgh Association had ‘over 50 members’ whose graduation dates ‘extended over 30 years.’ The club is still active today and is open to all female alumni of the University, meeting twice a year in Edinburgh.
As University Hall was one of only two University residences for women students in the 1930s, it is unsurprising that women formed long lasting connections within the residence that continued well beyond their graduation. The University Hall Graduates Association held an annual reunion for women who had been associated with University Hall during their time at St Andrews and reportedly drew an attendance of over 40 women at these events, a sizeable number given the much smaller number of women who attended St Andrews and resided in University accommodation during the first half of the twentieth century. Today, the group exists in a digital form, with graduates of University Hall encouraged to join a Facebook group to reconnect with other University Hall alumni. In 2012 the University Hall Graduates Association awarded a residential scholarship to support a female postgraduate student, requesting that she would ‘take an interest in the life of the Hall’ and if she was from overseas, ‘put the knowledge and experience gained in St Andrews to full use upon her return home and thus contribute to the development of her own country and to the role and status of women there.’
The longstanding existence of alumni groups for women graduates of St Andrews suggests that for women students, their experience of being a St Andrews student didn’t end when they graduated. These groups offered, and continue to offer, spaces where women can come together and share their experiences of studying at St Andrews, network with fellow graduates, and help support the next generation of women students at St Andrews.
St. Andrews University Calendar, 1935-6, University of St. Andrews Special Collections.