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Leicester Special Collections

Female Firsts


Ripple, University of Leicester student newspaper, 11th February 1975.

Recognition is due to the women of the University who were among the first to study, work and hold positions of influence at the University. Their achievements are significant as they demonstrate how women can overcome barriers such as gender, and establish themselves as role models for the future generation of University staff and students.


The following individuals are a small sample of the ‘Female Firsts’ within the University’s history:


  • Rhoda Bennett, one of the first students at the University College who became the University’s first Librarian, in post for almost 30 years.
  • The University College’s first ever Student Union President Nellie Bonsor (1925), and Jane Goldsmith (1975), the first female President after the College gained University status in 1957.
  • Wendy Hickling (nee Balwin) was the first student to be awarded a University of Leicester degree in 1957 (degrees were previously granted by University of London).
  • Olive Banks was the first female Professor to be appointed at the University in 1973.