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There are now in the United Kingdom hundreds of women reading for degree examinations and a few engaged in study of a more advanced character. At Cambridge alone there are at Newnham and Girton Colleges at this moment 284 students. Progress as rapid as this would not of course have taken place unless it had been accompanied by the growing approval of public opinion. It seems now to be generally admitted that University education for women is needed. Almost all, I think, who took part on either side in the controversy of 1897 about admitting women to degrees at Cambridge were concerned to make it understood that they did not dispute the desirability of women- -at least some women-receiving the higher education which Universities give. The discussion turned in the main on questions quite different from those which would have been raised thirty years ago. Then we should have been expected to consider whether women were intellectually capable of profiting by a University education. Examinations and the subsequent work of examinees have now convinced the world that they are. Then we should have been expected to prove that physically they were equal to the strain, or supposed strain, and that their health need not suffer, at the time or afterwards. Now, statistics collected on both sides of the Atlantic, not to speak of common experience and observation, have for most of us placed beyond question the conclusion that the danger is not materially greater in the case of women than of men. Then we should have had to meet the objection that University education would unfit women for the functions and duties of wives and mothers. Now that the daughters of the first generation of University women are entering our colleges, this question too can be put aside.
Those of us who have from the first believed that opportunities of receiving University education ought to be open to women, have, of course, the gratification of finding their own prognostications fulfilled. But it is upon far more than this that we have to congratulate ourselves. For these questions
were fundamental. Had experience answered them differently, University education would really have been impossible for women, as those who opposed it said; or at any rate, impossible for all but a few exceptionally constituted ones. We should have had to acquiesce in the melancholy conclusion that nature had given women aspirations after intellectual development, while furnishing them with bodies and minds unfitting them to receive it. As it is, the clearing away of these doubts has practically decided the main question in the affirmative and put it beyond doubt that women are to have opportunities of receiving University education. I do not, of course, mean that every one is convinced that this is desirable; but I do not think its desirability is any longer seriously doubted by any one who has looked into the facts, and whose opinion on the question is worth considering.
And it is not only in this country that the question is thus decided. It is similarly decided in our Colonies and in India, in the United States of America, and in most European countries.
The flowing tide in favour of women's education is shown in another important way-namely, in the amount of pecuniary support in gifts, bequests and endowments, which it has. received. The following quotation from the Report of the Charity Commissioners in 1895 will illustrate this. "As to one particular branch of Educational Endowments," they say, "namely, that for the advancement of the secondary and superior Education of girls and women, it may be anticipated that future generations will look back to the period immediately following upon the Schools Inquiry Commission and the consequent passing of the Endowed Schools Act, as marking an epoch in the creation and application of Endowments for that branch of Education similar to that which is marked, for the education of boys and men, by the Reformation." (Fortysecond Report of the Charity Commissioners in England and Wales, p. 17.)
From what I have already said it is clear that women now have, so far as Universities are concerned, almost the same advantages educationally as men. It is true that at Oxford and Cambridge their non-recognition as members of the University may give a certain precariousness to their enjoyment of these advantages, but I do not think they will lose them; and so long as they are allowed to retain them the absence of degrees is not an educational disadvantage-at least directly-though it may be one in seeking professional work.
The question still remains, however, whether in addition to this abundant provision of educational opportunities there is a need for new courses of University study specially devised to suit the requirements of women. It has been thought by some that this would be desirable, but I cannot say that my own experience leads to this view; the options offered in these days by Universities are so numerous that it is difficult to imagine in what the novelty of the new course would consist, if it did not go beyond the limits of properly academic work.
Intellectual tastes and abilities may no doubt be differently distributed among men and women, and this, in addition to professional aims, may lead to a somewhat different distribution among the various options offered; but this distribution may be trusted to arrange itself. That the dividing lines between different subjects will not be one of sex, and that there is as great diversity of intellectual tastes among women as among men, the highly specialised courses for a degree in honours at Cambridge give us an excellent opportunity of judging. Looking at the Tripos lists of my own College since the examinations were formally opened to women in 1881, I find that, omitting second parts of Triposes, 124 women have taken honours in Mathematics, 91 in Classics, 43 in Moral Sciences, 122 in Natural Sciences, 109 in History, 86 in Mediæval and Modern Languages-the smaller number in this latter Tripos arising from its having only been established in 1886. The University in no way points students to any one of these diverse honour
courses rather than to another; nor does the College exercise any pressure. Demand in schools does no doubt affect the choice of future teachers somewhat, as is shown by the smaller number who take Moral Sciences; but among subjects that are taught in schools there is no reason to suppose that a woman selects one course rather than another, except because she prefers it and feels herself likely to succeed in it.
In the preceding paragraph I have given the numbers for Newnham College only because I am naturally more able to speak with knowledge as to the absence of pressure there in favour of any special line of study; but it will be interesting to record here the whole number of women students of Newnham and Girton Colleges, who have taken Honours in the various Triposes (Honour Degree Examinations) at Cambridge, since they were opened to women in 1881. They are distributed as follows:
(These numbers take account of first parts of Triposes only, except in the case of the New Historical Tripos in 1900, for which, on account of the special conditions of the Tripos, the numbers taking the second part are included, and not those who previously took the first part in 1899.)
Apart from subjects of study it might be thought that the standard required for a degree in honours was too high for women, or that the work to be done in the limited time allowed at Cambridge might be too much for them. The following analysis of classes obtained by men and women for the five
years, 1896—1900 inclusive, affords a satisfactory answer to
It will be seen that the ratio of women to men is less in the first class and very much less among the failures than it is in the whole number classed, the deficiency being made up in the second and third classes.
It should be noted that the true proportion of women among the failures is considerably less than appears in the last column, as all the women who failed completely are included and none of the men.
Of course among the women who come up a considerable proportion do not take Tripos examinations. The reasons for this are various. Some come up knowing that they cannot stay for the necessary length of time; some are called away by family and other circumstances before their course is finished; some take courses of study other than Honour courses. some cases there is failure of health, or it is discovered that the student has not the ability necessary to complete advantageously the course she has embarked on. The number of women who entered at Newnham and Girton Colleges in the five years