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50 Years of Women at John's

We are now celebrating 50 years of women being admitted to study at St John’s!

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

Nominate a Remarkable Woman



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.

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



Event graphic women in leadership

St John's Women in Leadership: A Panel Conversation

Saturday 11 March, 10.30-13.00, St John’s College

Join us for a personal conversation with alumni Bishop Libby Lane and Jacqueline Sutton MBE, and Dr Monika Nangia, Academic Registrar of Durham University, about their careers, experiences and lessons learnt as women in leadership, followed by lunch. Sign up here by 6 March:

St John's Women in Leadership: Panellist Bios

Reunion: 50 Years of Women at John's

Friday 30 June - Sunday 2 July 2023

A residential weekend reunion for all the graduates of 1976 and 1977 with partners. Come back to St John’s to meet up with old friends, reminisce, enjoy tours of College, croquet on what is left of Cranmer lawn, picnics, and a three-course black tie dinner on the Saturday. St John’s College B&B accommodation subject to availability for two or three nights. To register, please email and we will send you the booking form.


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.