Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)UB/STW
TitleRecords of the Senior Tutor to Women Students
Extent4 boxes
DescriptionCorrespondence and associated papers kept by Jane Johnston Milne which relate to her activities as Senior Tutor to Women Students between 1926 and 1947. There are also some papers of her successor in this role, Nancy Macfarlane, from 1947 to 1951.

Papers comprise two separate sequences of files. One consists of a set of correspondence arranged in alphabetical order by correspondent. The other consists of a set of correspondence and associated papers including typed and printed reports and other material, arranged by subject. Although the vast majority of this material relates to Milne and Macfarlane's role as Senior Tutor to Women Students, there is a small amount of material which relates to Milne's other responsibilities as a Lecturer in French. Although it is possible that some papers were lost or destroyed, this set of papers provides a good record of the functions and activities of the Senior Tutor to Women Students from the establishment of the post until 1951. Nancy Macfarlane continued in the role until she left the University in the early 1960s, but no later records have survived.

The records are rich in detail about the range of responsibilities that the Senior Tutor to Women Students had, and contain information about health and welfare issues affecting women students including ways in which the university intervened in physical health and medical treatment in particular; academic performance and the employment possibilities for women students on graduation; the facilities and accommodation available for women students; and financial hardship and means of financial support for women students. The records also document the impact of the Second World War on women students and record the presence of refugee students at the University of Birmingham in the 1940s

There are letters to and from many individual women students, and in some cases this correspondence reveals details about the academic achievements and subsequent employment of individuals as well as information about their personal and family lives, financial situation, and physical and emotional health. Women students made up a minority of the student population at Birmingham during most of the twentieth century, and the survival of these records allows the researcher to gain a better understanding of the student experience for women at the University between the 1920s and the 1940s. They also provide an insight into Jane Johnston Milne as a University official during a period when the majority of staff in both academic and senior administrative roles were men
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Access StatusOpen
Administrative HistoryThe post of Senior Tutor to Women Students was formally established in April 1925 when Jane Johnston Milne, who was already working as a Lecturer in the French Department and had been acting as a welfare tutor for women students on an informal basis since 1920, was appointed on a half time basis. The first Principal of the University of Birmingham, Oliver Lodge, had attempted to establish a post in 1904 to provide advice and support to women students. Rachel A. King had offered to fund this post but due to opposition from University Council and possibly from staff members including Margery Fry, Warden of the women's student accommodation University House, and Robert Heath, Vice-Principal, no appointment was made. However, King stated that Helen Wodehouse and Rose Sidgwick, both members of academic staff who also lived at University House, had fulfilled aspects of the role on an informal basis.

In 1920 Charles Grant Robertson, recently appointed as Principal, set up a committee to consider the appointment of a tutor for women students, which recommended the establishment of a 'Woman Officer' to advise women students in their academic work 'and on other matters on which they wished to consult her', with tutorial duties to be attached to a half-time appointment on the regular academic staff of the University. Martha Beatrice Webb, then part-time lecturer in personal hygiene to women students at the University of Birmingham, pointed out that the Women's Division of the Education Department was managed by a woman and had women staff but that women medical, arts, and science students had no one to ask for academic or personal support and advice. She mentioned that Jane Johnston Milne had been helping women students in the Faculty of Arts and that there were some women on the junior staff in the Faculty of Medicine who had been offering similar support, but she thought that the University should appoint a dedicated tutor.

Despite these recommendations, it appears that it was another five years before Jane Johnston Milne was confirmed in the post as Senior Tutor to Women Students. Her responsibilities were to 'act in a general advisory capacity to any women student who wishes to consult her or obtain her help'. The Principal, Deans of the Faculties, and the Registrar all continued to carry out their duties in relation to students following Milne's appointment. The role of the Senior Tutor to Women Students included responsibility to advise women students in obtaining posts after graduation, to assist in matters of discipline, and to act as the accredited representative of the University where the interests of women students were concerned or could be effectively promoted.

Although the remit of the role of Senior Tutor to Women Students was to provide support and advice to all women students, both Milne and her successor, Nancy Macfarlane, were academic staff in the Faculty of Arts and, in practice, most of the students who came into contact with them in their role were Arts students or women studying to become teachers in the Women's Division of the Education Department. The associated papers and reports relate to all women students, and there is some correspondence with women medical, science, and commerce students. The focus on Arts students in the records is understandable since the majority of women students at the University during this period were studying in the Faculty of Arts.

Jane Johnston Milne was born on 13 February 1888 in Aberdeen. Her parents were Thomas Mitchell Milne, a shipmaster who served as a merchant seaman in the First World War, and Elizabeth Bissett, whose mother's name was Jane Johnston. She had a younger brother, Ewan Thomas Mitchell Milne, who was born in 1893. She studied Modern Languages at the University of Edinburgh and for a teaching qualification at St George's Training College in Edinburgh, and was appointed Lecturer in French at the University of Birmingham in 1916.
During the 1920s and 1930s she lived at several addresses in Edgbaston, sharing a house with other women academic staff at the University, including Marjorie Hammond, Head of the Women's Division of the Education Department, and Freda Buchanan, Lecturer in English.
Jane Johnston Milne retired in 1947 and Nancy Macfarlane, Lecturer in English, was appointed as Senior Tutor to Women Students. The post was last listed in the University Calendar for the 1963-1964 academic session and Nancy Macfarlane had left the University the following year so it is likely that the post was abolished at that point

Sources: UB/VC/2/1/36 Correspondence of Charles Grant Robertson relating to Senior Tutor for Women Students; UB/P/1 University Calendars; census and electoral registers
Custodial HistoryThese papers were probably transferred to Special Collections in the 1960s
Archival NoteCatalogued by Helen Fisher, November 2022. Prepared in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.


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