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Leicester Special Collections

First Female Professor to be appointed at the University - Olive Banks ( appointed 1973- 1982)

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Article in the Leicester Mercury, 12th December 1972.

Olive Banks came to the University’s Department of Sociology together with her husband, Professor Joe A Banks in 1970. She received a PhD from the University of London and had previously been Research Lecturer in the Department of Social Science at the University of Liverpool. Olive was appointed a Reader in Sociology in 1971 and was awarded a Personal Chair in 1973. Olive attributed her advancement to the progressive culture of the University and the support of her colleague Professor Ilya Neustadt. In informing Olive of her promotion, Harold Martin, the Registrar offered special congratulations proclaiming you will be the first lady to have been made a professor at this University.


Olive Banks' Inaugural Lecture.

By 1972 Olive’s influential textbook on the subject of Sociology and Education had sold more than 30,000 and Olive continued to make significant contribution to the fields of Industrial Relations, Population Studies and Gender Relations. She had an early, perhaps prophetic, awareness of environmental issues writing:

“We are… now beginning to recognise that a combination of population expansion and economic growth produces a level of environmental pollution which may in the long run prove not only aesthetically unacceptable but an actual and even acute, danger to all forms of life”.

 Olive remained the only female Professor during her 11 years of service, retiring with her husband, in 1982, when the government imposed staffing cuts of 10% on universities.