Papers of the Dining Group

Scope and Content

This collection comprises minute books, correspondence, memoranda and papers charting the work and progress of the 'Dining Group' in the 1950s and early 1960s as it sought to persuade the University to grant formal recognition to the Lucy Cavendish Collegiate Society and the establishment of a fourth women's college.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Society of Women Members of the Regent House who are not Fellows of Colleges (more informally known as the Dining Group) was established in 1950 by three members of Newnham College: Anna McClean Bidder, a zoologist, later Curator of Malacology in the Museum of Zoology; Margaret Mary Braithwaite (nee Masterman), a philosopher and later Director of the Cambridge Language Research Unit; and Kathleen Louise Wood-Legh, a medieval historian. All three were teaching and doing research in the University but did not hold fellowships or have any continuing close contact with Newnham, which resulted in a feeling of isolation. The Dining Group was founded to give them and other women in similar circumstances the benefits considered to derive from holding a fellowship of a college, namely the stimulation of high table conversation, a supportive environment, and the feedback and involvement normally found in academic life. By the Lent term of 1951, several other women had joined the group, and although the group had originally met to provide some kind of corporate life for women who were not closely connected with a College, they felt strongly that a Third Foundation was needed to increase the number of undergraduate places for women in Cambridge and began to work towards this end. In 1950 Cambridge had a lower proportion of women undergraduates than any other university in the country. The proportion of female to male undergraduates was just under 10%, compared to nearly 20% in Oxford and 23% nationally. Interest in promoting a Third Foundation was not confined to members of the Dining Group. Running parallel with their activities was another group headed by Dame Myra Curtis, retiring Principal of Newnham College. The two groups were not without contact and collaboration began in May 1951 with the joint preparation of a memorandum to the Vice-Chancellor and Registrary suggesting how a new foundation could be constituted. This initiative gave rise to the establishment in 1952 of a 'Third Foundation Association', from which emerged New Hall in 1954. The original aim of the Dining Group to establish a new college for women was thus taken over by the Third Foundation Association. However, the Dining Group continued in existence, and turned its attention to the increasing numbers of graduates, both research students and particularly senior members involved in teaching, who were not fellows of colleges, and thus somewhat isolated from collegiate life. It redefined its purpose and aims as: "to have concern for the problems of academic women in Cambridge, and by providing practical assistance and the stimulus of regular social contact, to encourage academic achievement in teaching, learning and research". Increasing concern for these 'non-fellows' prompted the University to consider various initiatives from the mid-1950s onwards, culminating in a report published in 1963 recommending the establishment of new collegiate societies for graduates. In November 1964 the Dining Group applied to the University for recognition as the Lucy Cavendish Collegiate Society, setting out in its Trust Deed to be: "responsible for the care and discipline of a) research students working for higher degrees or diplomas; and b) women, not necessarily so engaged, who wish to re-equip themselves for professional careers by advanced study, or by obtaining higher qualifications". The University granted formal recognition to the Lucy Cavendish Collegiate Society in July 1965. Further information about the history and development of Lucy Cavendish College is available in the following publications: C. Kate Bertram (1989) 'Lucy Cavendish College: A history of the early years'. Nigel Watson (2002) 'The Opportunity to be Myself: A history of Lucy Cavendish College'. Phyllis Hetzel (2004) 'Lucy Cavendish College The Crucial Years 1979-1984: Reflections of Phyllis Hetzel, a Former President'.

Access Information

The collection is open for consultation by researchers using Lucy Cavendish College Archive. A prior appointment and proof of identity are required.

Acquisition Information

The papers were temporarily housed in the University Library before being transferred to the College Archive in 1995 following the appointment of the College's first archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Listed to file level, a paper copy is available in the Archive Reading Room.

Archivist's Note

Collection description by Karen Davies, College Archivist. Amended by Genesis Project Manager. Collection Description transferred to the Archives Hub in 2008 as part of Genesis 2008 Project

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain permission from the copyright holder.


C. Kate Bertram (1989) Lucy Cavendish College: A history of the early years

Geographical Names