Penny Mordaunt MP renames landmark University building and gives annual Edith Morley Lecture
Release Date 10 March 2017
Penny Mordaunt MP today officially renamed one of the University of Reading’s landmark buildings to ‘Edith Morley’, in memory of the woman appointed as the first ever female professor there.
Edith Morley became Britain's first ever female professor when she was appointed Professor of English language at University College Reading (now University of Reading) in 1908.
In October 2016, the university executive board announced its decision to rename the HumSS (Humanities and Social Sciences) building, following a campaign by the Reading University Students' Union (RUSU).
Penny Mordaunt MP said: “It is an honour to be invited back to the University of Reading to officially rename the Edith Morley building and be involved in the annual Edith Morley Lecture. As Britain's first ever female professor, Edith Morley was clearly a pioneer for feminism and someone to take inspiration from.”
University of Reading Vice-Chancellor Sir David Bell said: “Edith Morley is an important part of Reading’s heritage and we are proud of all that she achieved in her fight for recognition and equality with her male colleagues. It has been a great pleasure to have Penny, an inspirational woman in her own right, here with us as we celebrate Edith’s memory.”
The HumSS building, previously known as the Faculty of Letters, teaches a range of subjects such as English, Philosophy, Politics and Foreign Languages. It also houses the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology.
The formal renaming ceremony, which saw Penny unveil a commemorative plaque, was scheduled to coincide with the University’s International Women’s Day celebrations, one of which includes the annual Edith Morley Lecture.
This year’s lecture was an ‘In conversation’ style event with Penny Mordaunt MP, who spoke about equality and the principles that underpins equality in public life. Penny referred to her varied career in the Royal Navy and as a female politician, and shared advice with students based on her experience as a student at the University of Reading and as former president of the Reading University Students’ Union.
Penny is the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North. She has had a successful career in business and communications working in the private, public and charitable sectors. In 2015, Penny was appointed as the Minister for Armed Forces and is the first female Member of Parliament to hold this position. In 2016, Penny was appointed as Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work.
Edith Morley Lecture
The Edith Morley lecture is held annually to celebrate her achievements, passion and belief that women should have an equal place in academia and society.
Born in 1875 into a middle-class Victorian family, the book recalls women's struggle for equality in higher education:
"I was the first women to obtain the title of Professor at a British university or university college. In the circumstances it may justly be inferred that this was no cause of personal gratification or pride. But that it was of service to the position of university women is a fair assumption. The first step had been taken."
Edith's memoirs were published in a book titled Before and After: Reminisces on a Working Life in March 2016 (ISBN 9781909747197).
Earlier this week, we examined the University’s gender equality achievements and our targets for the future, as well as interviewing some of our female academics on campus. Find out more here.