Life stories

We have been trying to find out about the women who studied History, or who worked in History, at St Andrews over the last 120 years. These are the stories of their lives before, during and after St Andrews – as far as we know them so far! The stories on this page are a mixture: some are based on interviews with living women (and we’ll be releasing more of these over the coming months); others are based on library and archival research into deceased women, and in many of those cases, we really do not know much at all. This is especially the case for graduates from the early twentieth century. If you can help us fill in some of the blanks, please get in touch via [email protected]

Head shot of woman with white/blonde bobbed hair and glasses

Vanessa Harding

Vanessa Harding knew nothing about St Andrews until she arrived on the sleeper at the start of term in autumn 1970.  ‘It looked like a nice place to be, and I knew…

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Ann Kettle

Ann Kettle was a lecturer in the Department of Mediaeval History at St Andrews for more than forty years. In addition to her teaching and research, she held various administrative posts in…

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Barbara Crawford

Barbara Crawford lectured in the Department of Medieval History from 1971 until 2001. She had previously been both an undergraduate and postgraduate student at St Andrews, and was the first long-term woman…

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Jane Dawson

Jane Dawson arrived at the University of St Andrews in 1977, and she remembers that her arrival caused something of a stir.  Not only was she the first Glenfiddich Fellow in Scottish…

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Lorna Walker in pink jacket

Lorna Walker (1929-2023)

Lorna Walker in 1983. Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Libraries and Museums, ID: Group-1981-53 Lorna Walker studied History at St Andrews in the late 1940s, and returned in the 1960s…

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Printed list with details of Janet Low's appointment as substitute lecturer

Janet Low (d.1962)

As far as we know, the first woman to teach History formally within the University was Janet Low. She was one of several people, men and women, appointed during the First World…

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Drawing of Anne Wright

Anne Wright (1924-1981)

Portrait of Miss Anne Wright, Warden of Hamilton Hall, 1966 to 1980. Image Courtesy of the University of St Andrews Library, ID HC1082 Anne Margaret Chaloner Wright had a life-long connection to…

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B&W photo of Doris Ketelbey, about 1940

Caroline Doris Ketelbey (1896-1990)

Doris Ketelbey, c.1940 (one of several family portraits included in ‘In search of Ketelbeys’, held in University of St Andrews Library. If you believe you are the rights-holder,…

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Head and shoulders photo of dark-haired woman, Edith Johnston

Edith Johnston PhD (1930-2008)

Edith Mary Johnston, MA 1951 PhD 1956 (later, Mrs Liik) Edith Johnston-Liik (from Shirley Kelly, “‘Researchers Couldn’t Be Sure of a Job over a Year’—Edith Johnston-Liik on a Half-Century Project,” Books Ireland,…

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Young woman in short-sleeved white blouse

Elizabeth Menzies PhD (1928-2008)

Elizabeth Alexandra Menzies, MA 1949, PhD 1954 (later, Mrs Johnson) Elizabeth Menzies (1928-2008) was the third woman to have been awarded a Ph.D. in History from St Andrews (although she seems to…

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Edith Thomson PhD (1901-1988)

Edith Elizabeth Bruce Thomson, MA 1923; PhD 1928 (later Mrs Bracelin)   Edith Thomson was the second woman to be awarded a Ph.D. in History at St Andrews. Her academic career appears…

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Edith MacQueen PhD (1900-1977)

Edith Edgar MacQueen (1900-1977) MA 1922, PhD 1927 (later Mrs Haden-Guest, later Lady Haden-Guest) Edith MacQueen appears to have been the first woman historian to be awarded a Ph.D. in History by…

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