Women of the House - Portraits of Christ Church

The 40th anniversary of the arrival of women as undergraduates at Christ Church in 1980-81 provided the impetus to undertake the present project, a crucial step in the ongoing process of creating a visual environment that better reflects Christ Church’s vibrant and diverse community.

Students, staff, and alumni were invited to nominate individuals with a Christ Church connection for a group of portraits testifying to women’s contributions to both the House and the wider world over the past four decades.

The portraits have been gathered into an exhibition in the newly-refurbished Chapter House before they are put on long-term display in key locations throughout the College: Hall and Ante-Hall, Library, Lodge, JCR and GCR, Lecture Room, Common Room, Lee Building, and McKenna Room.

The exhibition, Women of the House: Portraits of Christ Church, is free to view from September 30th through October 30th, 2022, between 10:00 and 16:00, Monday to Saturday, and between 14:00 and 16:00 on Sundays. To access the Chapter House, please enter Christ Church via Tom Gate on St Aldates Street and ask the Porters for directions. Note that the exhibition will be closed on Friday, October 21st.

We hope these images will intrigue and inspire all those who live, work, and visit the House in the years to come.

Professor Geraldine A. Johnson, Chair
Working Group to Diversify the Visual Environment at Christ Church

30 September 2022


Photographer: John Davis

Note: dates in captions refer to the year of arrival at Christ Church or the start of an appointment.


Dame Emma Walmsley DBE. Photograph by John DavisDame Emma Walmsley DBE

Classics and Modern Languages (1987)
Honorary Student (2021)

Emma was appointed CEO of GSK in 2017, recently listed Haleon as a new FTSE 20 company, and is a Board Director of Microsoft. Having been ranked top in Fortune Magazine’s ‘Most Powerful International Women’ in 2018, 2020, and 2021, she recalls the impact Christ Church has had on her life and career.

“The experience here opened my mind to the possibilities of the world and taught me to be in a minority, but not defined by it.”

“Being at Christ Church gave me an enormous appetite for learning, curiosity. It also taught me courage, because if you define that as being scared and a bit out of your depth but trying anyway, I definitely have had to make a few leaps of faith in my career, and not be intimidated.”

“Most of all, the most valuable thing that Christ Church gave me has definitely been human connections, friends. The older I get, whether in or out of work, the more I believe that everything is always about the people. These are friends I’ve kept for life, who keep you grounded and spur you on for the bigger challenges. It’s something I’ll always be very grateful for.”

 


Professor Dame Clare P. Grey DBE FRS (left) and Dame Joanna Smith DBE (right). Photograph by John DavisProfessor Dame Clare P. Grey DBE FRS

Chemistry (1983)
Honorary Student (2021)

Professor Dame Clare Grey is pictured (left) alongside Dame Joanna Smith (right)

Clare was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2011 and was the first woman to be Head of Inorganic Chemistry at Cambridge University. She is currently the Geoffrey Moorhouse Gibson and a Royal Society Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge University. She is also a Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, an Honorary Fellow of Balliol, and an Honorary Student of Christ Church.

“Christ Church produced some quite strong, non-conformist women in those early cohorts, each in their own different way.”

“In a research environment – unlike a traditional teaching setting - it’s actually okay not to know the answers to everything. Often I try to figure out what I don’t know andb come up with new ways of looking at the problem from a different angle. If you remain open and curious then you can start to unpick things. For me, understanding some of this, and that it was OK to ask questions, was a really important transition as a young researcher…it’s when I blossomed.”

“Often more flashy science receives higher recognition in the press, but the fact that the careful, substantive science that I do was recognised [by being elected a Fellow of the Royal Society] made me happiest….that the fundamental science that I have done over my career was recognised and appreciated.”

Dame Joanna Smith DBE

Law (1986)

Joanna was appointed a High Court Judge in 2020 and assigned to the Chancery Division. Initially enticed by an acting career, Joanna describes the role Christ Church played in developing her legal knowledge and confidence.

“It’s a bit of a leap of faith to do a subject you’ve never done before at university. I was very worried I wouldn’t be good enough, and I felt quite intimidated by some of the tutors. It took a while to realise that Law was something I could actually do and that a legal career was something I could aspire to.”

“At Christ Church, I was entitled to be heard, even if I was wrong. To question existing knowledge and existing approaches was a very healthy thing.”

“My fondest memories, aside from the work, are of getting up very, very early and going down through the meadows with the mist just hanging in the air, getting into a boat, and gliding off down the river... and, of course, the sweaty bops. We all absolutely loved it on a Friday night!”

 


Professor Anthony Vahni Capildeo FRSL

Professor Anthony Vahni Capildeo FRSL. Photograph by John DavisEnglish (1991)
Honorary Student (2021)

An award-winning Trinidadian-Scottish poet, Anthony is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and an Honorary Student of Christ Church. They have held poetry fellowships at the University of Cambridge, the University of Leeds, the University of East Anglia, the Seamus Heaney Centre, and the University of the West Indies (St Augustine Campus). Recent publications include Measures of Expatriation (2016), which won the Forward Prize, and Like a Tree, Walking (2021).

“Why I chose Christ Church was a purely frivolous reason: there was a meadow with cows….The way the College opens out onto the meadow and along the river gives me such a sense of all the lives in the city as well as in the university….Oxford is a sort of huge interweaving collective of memory and story.”

“There was a sense of unstoppable joy in starting conversations with the writings of people who had gone before us.”

“Something I’ve returned to a lot is the tree in Meadows quad, which I could see out of my window in my first year. It was from that tree that I started noticing the smells of Autumn, the smell of tannins in the leaves. The sound of the tree as the leaves prepared to fall became more and more rustling. Sometimes it would sound and smell as if I was near the sea. There was a seaside kind of feeling, like family holidays in Tobago, being breathed out by this tree just outside my window. That overlaying of place is something I still think about.”

 


Libby Burgess

Libby Burgess. Photograph by John DavisMusic (2002)
Organ Scholar (2002)

Libby was the first woman elected to an Organ Scholarship at Christ Church. Now a pianist, song specialist, and vocal coach, she has played in major halls and festivals across Britain and on Radio 3. She is the founding Artistic Director of New Paths Music, and formerly Head of Keyboard at Eton. Libby is currently touring Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier across England in Project 48, raising money for musical charities.

“We must nurture the idea that music makes life—and the world—better. People have never had more music more readily available to them than today, yet educationally people now have far less access to music than in past generations, unless they come from a certain set of privileged backgrounds. It has to be for everyone.”

“Black composers and women composers are so much more visible than they were when I was a student, and performers are so much more diverse. It means when younger generations listen to music that’s being played, and see the people who are playing it, they feel they can see themselves in that.”

 


Charmaine Suresh Damley-Jones

Charmaine Suresh Damley-Jones. Photograph by John DavisEngineering Science (1983)
JCR President (1984)

Charmaine was the first woman to be elected President of Christ Church’s JCR, an accomplishment noted at the time in The Telegraph. Since leaving Christ Church, Charmaine has had a successful international marketing career, a happy family life, and is now a 6th form mentor and Maths tutor.

“Greatness that you achieve in your work, financial success, your personal life, whatever—fundamentally, it’s about how you engage with other people.”

“My experience at Christ Church helped me develop my intellectual rigour but the Presidency particularly helped me understand the importance of relationships and seeing the best in people.”

“To students I would say: you got into Christ Church because you were good enough, so believe in yourself, ask questions, express your opinion, and respect others.”

 


Dr Catherine Elliott

Dr Catherine Elliott. Photograph by John DavisModern History (1981)
GCR President (1983)

Cathy was the first woman to serve as GCR President. She is a lecturer in Film and Television Production at the Cambridge School of the Creative Industries after having worked as a BBC documentary film-maker for 20 years.

“I very much enjoyed my time at Christ Church and made lifelong friends with whom I am still very much in touch. It gave me a real level of confidence, of being able to stand my ground, and feel that anything is possible.”

“From my upstairs room in the GCR, I could slip out of the window onto the roof by the flagpole. I used to sunbathe up there, knowing that no one would come up – I was never caught.”

“I suppose I didn’t realise quite how lucky I was to have all that time to study something I wanted to study in such beautiful surroundings, with dinners in hall and amazing speakers... It was a real privilege to come here and have that time.”

 


Kate Smith CMG

Kate Smith (left) and Dr Henrietta Hughes (right). Photograph by John DavisPPE (1983)

Kate Smith is pictured (left) alongside Dr Henrietta Hughes (right)

Kate was British Ambassador to Greece from 2017 to 2021. Having joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1987, she has been FCO Director Americas and had overseas postings in Tehran and New York. In 2008, she was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.

“I remember the intellectual stimulus of the extraordinary tutorial system, the luxury of having those minds to yourself – occasionally in twos but often one-to-one – for an hour. You never left tutors’ rooms without feeling stimulated and challenged. I think that was the most inspiring thing.”

“If you get a feeling that people are not taking you seriously because you’re a woman in a male-dominated environment, just show them why they need to take you seriously.”

Dr Henrietta Hughes OBE FRCGP

Medicine (1987)

In July 2022, Henrietta was appointed the first ever Patient Safety Commissioner for England, having previously served as the NHS’s National Guardian. In 2019, she was made a Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners and she was awarded an OBE in 2020.

“Christ Church felt to me like coming home. It wasn’t embarrassing to be good academically and I absolutely loved tutorials. The ability to say things that were wrong, but not be belittled, and sometimes actually coming up with insights my tutors hadn’t had before, was really, really exciting. It was like a spark, but instead of provoking competition, it nurtured creativity. It was like a gym for your brain.”

“As a GP, I really love the one-to-one with a patient. But there’s also something satisfying about making a difference to the lives of millions through having conversations that invite change, seeing things from a different perspective, and opening mindsets.”

 


Dr Mariama Semega-Janneh

Dr Mariama Semega-Janneh. Photograph by John DavisMedicine (1992)

Mariama, who is originally from The Gambia and attended Christ Church as a Commonwealth Scholar, is a National Institutes of Health Fellowship-trained Endocrinologist based in Washington, DC. Her research has been published in peer-reviewed journals on Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism. In addition to clinical practice, she recently completed a Master’s in Public Health, focusing on racial and ethnic health equity and on strengthening global public health systems.

“I attended Christ Church for five years and throughout that time, there were not many people in Oxford who looked like me... I was definitely in a very small minority but I always felt extremely comfortable – it just felt like home. Some of my happiest and fondest memories throughout academia were at Christ Church.”

“It always felt as though one’s background really didn’t matter... it was the academics and behaviour that mattered but not demographics. That in itself was very inspiring to me, simply feeling that I was not being judged by the colour of my skin or where I was born – the whole ethos of the College was very encouraging.”

“I am particularly interested in how public health policy and practices influence health disparities and how they can be used to move us towards more equitable healthcare.”

 


Sophie Power

Sophie Power. Photograph by John DavisPPE (2000)

During her career in finance and as an entrepreneur, Sophie started running ultramarathons. A photo of Sophie breastfeeding her 3-month-old child during the 106-mile Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc went viral and she became a leading campaigner for women’s and girls’ opportunities in sport. She is now a  trustee of Women in Sport, as well as the founder of She Races. Sophie was recently selected to represent Great Britain at 24-hour ultrarunning.

“I played no sport before I was at Christ Church. At school I was second-to-last in the mile. So it seems almost unbelievable that at forty I’m running for Great Britain. Christ Church was where I was introduced to sport. I joined a rowing crew, I got roped into the rugby and football teams – it’s where I found a love of sport.”

“It’s an incredible honour to represent my country. It’s something I never thought I’d be doing. I’ve realised that my coming back as strong as possible after having children inspires other women... I’m far faster than I was ten years ago and I’m still growing as an athlete... I’ve found what really drives me – for  some people it’s winning for themselves, but for me it’s showing women that we still can achieve amazing things after having children.”

 


Marina Hyde

Marina Hyde (left) and Katya Melluish (right). Photograph by John DavisEnglish (1993)

Marina Hyde is pictured (left) alongside Katya Melluish (right)

Marina has written weekly columns for The Guardian since 2000, in addition to working as a comedy screenwriter. She has won numerous awards for her political commentary and writings on sport, including in 2020 being the first woman named Sports Journalist of the Year. She recently published her  second book, What Just Happened? ! Dispatches from Turbulent Times.

“The ability to read critically and understand all sorts of texts is something I particularly value [from studying English]. It gave me the skills to make sense of various types of text and made me a more agile thinker.”

“It’s great to try something new like writing comedy shows for television and be scared. It’s like I’m 23 again – it’s energising and rejuvenating because I get to learn new things.”

“Don’t worry if you’ve got no clue what you want to do. There were some people who just decided that they wanted to work in a bank or as an actor and knew exactly what they wanted to do. But I just wasn’t one of those people – and I’ve really enjoyed my life.”

Katya Melluish

Modern History (1994)

Katya is the Ombudsman for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, based in Rome. She is a barrister and previously worked as a prosecutor for the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, as Legal Advisor to the Director-General of the UN Office at Nairobi, and as Chief of the UN Office of Staff Legal Assistance.

“I always knew I wanted to live and work in the international context. That’s why I applied to Christ Church, a large, cosmopolitan college where diverse cultural viewpoints and debate were paramount.”

“I gained a respect for well-reasoned arguments and an understanding of how the culture of an institution can foster good values. In my working life I have tried to replicate this.”

“Working for the UN is exactly what I wanted to do: expand my horizons and work not for the personal gain of individuals, but for a greater good.”

 


Emeritus Professor Catherine Andreyev

Emeritus Professors Catherine Andreyev (left), Judith Pallot (middle), and Emanuela Tandello (right). Photograph by John DavisOfficial Student and Tutor in History (1987)
Tutor for Graduates (2007)

Emeritus Professor Catherine Andreyev is pictured (left) alongside Emeritus Professor Judith Pallot (middle) and Emeritus Professor Emanuela Tandello (right)

Katya’s research focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian History. In addition to her roles at Christ Church, she served as University Assessor in 2006-7.

“When I came to Christ Church I didn’t neatly fit into anything. It took a little while to get used to it... I think over time Oxford has changed because it has admitted different kinds of people, and Christ Church changed with it.”

“Ask questions. The whole point of university is that you should ask questions. And if you don’t understand the answers, you go on asking questions until you do.”

Emeritus Professor Judith Pallot

Official Student and Tutor in Geography (1979)
Tutor for Graduates (1992)
Junior Censor (2001) and Senior Censor (2003)

Judy was the first woman at Christ Church to be an Official Student and Censor. She also served as the University’s Senior Proctor in 1994-95. Previously her research was on the history of the Russian peasantry, but since 2005 she has been researching Soviet and postcommunist prison systems. She is currently principal investigator of two large European-funded projects on post-communist prisons systems at the Aleksanteri Institute for Russian, Eurasian and East European studies at the University of Helsinki.

“My first impression was that it was unusual to have a woman in an academic position in the College. There were many, many women working as scouts and in the offices, but it was new for Christ Church to have an academic woman. I think I felt that a lot the first few years I was here.”

“Some of the most interesting conversations I’ve ever had have been at High Table, when speaking to people from completely different disciplines and finding something in common. I just don’t think that happens in other universities. In Oxford colleges genuine interdisciplinarity takes place.”

Emeritus Professor Emanuela Tandello

Official Student and Tutor in Italian (2001)
Curator of Pictures (2006)

Ela’s research interests include Contemporary Italian poetry (in particular the poetry of Amelia Rosselli), Modernist drama (Pirandello), twentieth-century poetry in dialect, and Leopardi.

“I had no idea about certain procedures when I arrived. Judy Pallot and my colleagues in Modern Languages, including Belinda Jack, were immensely helpful and I felt supported.”

“Our job as tutors is not to impart knowledge, but to help students learn how to be inquisitive, and how to develop their own views, as well as how to listen and learn from others. It also happens to be tremendous fun for us, as we apply the same measures to ourselves!”

 


Bridget Guiste

Bridget Guiste (left) and Ann Barrett (right). Photograph by John DavisSteward's Office

Bridget Guiste is pictured (left) alongside Ann Barrett (right)

Bridget started at Christ Church in 2012. She is responsible for the administration of all HR and training-related activities in the Steward’s Department. Her main duties include assisting with recruitment and all aspects of the employee life cycle throughout their time at Christ Church, as well as organising staff
training for the department.

“I was quite pleased to learn that the position was available at Christ Church because I was looking for an established employer and you can’t get any more established than Christ Church!”

“There are certainly a few more women in senior positions now than there were previously….There’s more of a sense of equality.”

“We are so lucky to work in such a beautiful place. Every time I walk through Tom Quad, I don’t take it for granted, I just think: this is breath-taking.”

Ann Barrett

Manager of the SCR

Ann joined Christ Church in 1999 as an Assistant Butler. She was subsequently promoted first to Deputy Butler and then to Manager of the SCR. She is the first woman to hold this position at Christ Church.

“When I arrived, it was a male-dominated Common Room, both staff and members. That’s the most obvious change: the women coming through. There’s a lot of younger members coming through as well. The dynamics of the Common Room didn’t change much when I started, but now there’s a variety of age and gender. It’s also nice to see people coming through from many different backgrounds.”

“When I walk in, I need to remind myself to look up, because we do work in such a beautiful environment.”

“I’m very lucky with the colleagues I have, especially the SCR team. Many of us have worked together for such a long time, and we all support each other and work closely with other departments, it’s a great team to be part of.”

 


Women on Christ Church's Governing Body

Women on Christ Church's Governing Body, September 2022. Photograph by John Davis

September 2022

back row (left to right):
Professor Jennifer Yee Official Student and Tutor in French (2005), Tutor for Admissions (2017)
Professor Kayla King Official Student and Tutor in Biology (2013)
Canon Professor Carol Harrison FBA Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Canon of Christ Church Cathedral (2015)
Professor Laurence Brassart Official Student and Tutor in Engineering Science (2019)
Professor Geraldine Johnson Official Student and Tutor in History of Art (2003), Tutor for Admissions (2008 and 2011), Junior Censor (2017), Senior Cenor (2019)
Ms Liesl Elder Member of Governing Body (2011), Chief Development Officer, University of Oxford (2011)
Dr Sarah Mortimer Official Student and Tutor in History (2009), Censor Theologiae (2018)
Dr Anna Clark Official Student and Tutor in Roman History (2003), Librarian (2014), Tutor for Graduates (2020)
Professor Ciara Kennefick Official Student and Tutor in Law (2019)
Ms Philippa Roberts Ordinary Student and Development Director (2022)
Dr Katherine Lebow Official Student and Tutor in History (2016)

front row (left to right):
Dr Belinda Jack Official Student and Tutor in French (1990), Tutor for Admissions (2000), Junior Censor (2005), Senior Censor (2007)
Dr Mishtooni Bose Christopher Tower Student and Tutor in Medieval Poetry in English (2004), Tutor for Graduates (2013 and 2016), Librarian (2017)
Professor Stephanie Cragg Official Student and Tutor in Medicine (2006)
Dr Sophie Duncan Career Development Fellow in English (2018)
Ms Pauline Linières-Hartley Steward of Christ Church (2011)
Canon Professor Sarah Foot Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Canon Residentiary (2007), Censor Theologiae (2021)
Professor Sarah Rowland-Jones Research Student in Immunology (1997)


 
Acknowledgements

We are grateful to have had Governing Body’s enthusiastic support for this project from the beginning and to Chapter for hosting the exhibition in the Chapter House. In addition to our outstanding photographer, John Davis, we received expert assistance from the team at Isis Creative Framing and staff throughout the College including in the SCR, Steward’s Office, Lodge, Treasury, Academic Office, Clerk of Works’ Office, and Cathedral. Gabriel Sewell and her staff in the Library were particularly helpful in setting up a number of sittings and the advice of Jon Down, the House Surveyor, was also much appreciated. Zandile Mngadi, the Censor Theologiae’s Personal Assistant, provided exceptional support throughout the process.

The changing membership of the Working Group to Diversify the Visual Environment at Christ Church helped shape and steer this project from start to finish, including staff (most recently Geraldine Johnson, Alex Vasudevan, Jacqueline Thalmann, Judith Curthoys, and Sarah Simblet) and JCR and GCR reps (including Giulia Da Cruz, Delaney Dominey-Foy, Judith Valerie Engel, Saad Khan, Angela Kim, Tia Patel, Bianka Petrova, Emilė Radytė, Annika Schlemm, Arumina Sircar, Layla Stahr, Chandler Sterling, and Jason Waite). Jason’s input at a key stage of the project deserves particular mention.

The Development Office’s support has also been crucial, including in preparing the content for this webpage and for the catalogue accompanying the exhibition, which draws on the extensive interviews and background research conducted by Olivia Tan, with assistance from Caitlin O’Sullivan. Full transcripts of the interviews will be deposited in the Archive, a significant addition to the historical record and a further legacy of this important – and visually exciting – project.