This post is cross-posted from the London Mathematical Society website. It is part of a series of posts on the theme of Women’s History in the lead up to History Day 2018.

Philippa Fawcett, via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

The Philippa Fawcett Collection is a wide-ranging library of books written by and about women who studied or worked in mathematical subjects in the nineteenth and first part of the twentieth century, or earlier.

In past times, women’s access to general education was controlled by their fathers, or some male relative, so opportunities to study mathematics were strictly limited, or nonexistent. In 1868, London University became the first in this country to open its degrees to women, and women were able gradually to obtain the formal training which is crucial to success in mathematics. The material in the Collection makes it possible to follow this development.

The Collection was donated to the London Mathematical Society by one of its members, A.E.L. Davis. It is hoped that the books will be a useful resource to scholars of the history of women in mathematics as well as an inspiration to female mathematicians of the future.

Dr Davis named the Collection in honour of the first woman to come top in the finals examination, in 1890, of the Mathematical Tripos at the University of Cambridge. In those days, women could not be ranked alongside men, so instead, Fawcett was described as ‘above the Senior Wrangler’. Had she been a man, Fawcett would have been encouraged to embark on a mathematical career; as it was, after a brief period of research, she devoted her life to administration in the London County Council, and in particular, to the development of teacher training colleges. The Collection is also intended as a tribute to her mother, Millicent Fawcett, the noted suffragist campaigner.

The Collection (some 200 works) is housed at De Morgan House (57-58 Russell Square, London) and is available on weekdays from 9.00 – 5.00 to scholars and others who wish to access the books, including both members and non-members of the London Mathematical Society. Some are academic texts, others are discourses on science, some are school text books, and there is a selection of biographies and reference works. A complete copy of the catalogue is listed below:

More Philippa Fawcett Resources