First in Her Field (Work)

The pioneering archaeologist and Oxbridge’s first woman professor, Dorothy Garrod was elected to the Chair of Archaeology on 6 May 1939.

Dorothy Garrod and her assistants, London, 1931 © Topfoto.

The pioneering archaeologist Dorothy Garrod was elected to the Disney Chair of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge on 6 May 1939. She was the first woman to be a professor either there or at Oxford; women were still not admitted to full degrees at Cambridge, despite having been educated there since 1869. Her election brought matters to a head: women won full equality in 1948.

Garrod was also the first prehistorian – she specialised in the paleolithic era – to hold the chair at a time when archaeology was struggling to establish itself as an academic discipline; many still thought it little more than a hobby. Yet within a decade, Garrod, who disliked academic politics, had also won full degree status for archaeology at the university.

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