OXFORDSHIRE BLUE PLAQUES SCHEME

Annie ROGERS (1856–1937)

Classicist, campaigner for women’s full membership of Oxford University

35 St Giles’, Oxford

Annie Rogers

Annie Mary Anne Henley Rogers by Lafayette
Half-plate film negative, 23 October 1926
Given by Pinewood Studios via Victoria and Albert
Museum, 1989. Photographs Collection NPG x41479

Annie Mary Anne Henley Rogers was born at 4 Wellington Place, Oxford in 1856, the only daughter among the six children of James Thorold Rogers and his second wife Anne, née Reynolds. He was variously curate, classics tutor, All Souls Professor of Political Economy, MP, and radical thinker. She was educated by tutors (including her father) at home at 8–9 Beaumont Street (now the site of Oxford Playhouse). In 1873 as A.M.A.H. Rogers (concealing her gender) she came top in Oxford’s senior local exam list for which Balliol and Worcester offered exhibitions. As a girl she could not take up the offer but had made her point. When the university conceded separate, degree-level examinations for “women over 18” in 1875, she went on to gain first-class honours in Literae Humaniores (Classics). She became Oxford’s first woman don, making her living as a classics tutor for the Association for Promoting the Higher Education of Women (AEW), and later as a tutor at St  Hugh’s and the Society of Oxford Home-Students (later St Anne’s College).

She became an indefatigable campaigner in the fight to open full membership of Oxford University to women. From 1879 she was an assiduous committee member, later serving also as secretary to the AEW and the Society of Oxford Home-Students and was on the council of St Hugh’s until 1936. Her strength was as a tactician, acquiring a formidable grasp of university statutes and procedures, endlessly corresponding and canvassing individuals, sometimes lying in wait for her targets in the Broad. She famously said “Never argue with your opponents: it only helps to clear their minds.” Although unsuccessful in the promising campaign of 1895–6, her unflagging endeavours bore fruit in 1920, although by then the extension of the suffrage, the Sex Disqualification Act (Removal) of 1919, and the social impact of the Great War had substantially altered the climate of opinion. She was one of the first women – Ivy Williams was another – who matriculated on 7 October and graduated with full Oxford BA and MA degrees on 14 October 1920. Her memoir, Degrees by Degrees, published posthumously in 1938, is the definitive account of the stages of the long campaign.

35 St Giles'

She lived with her widowed mother at 35 St Giles’ (right) from 1891 to 1899 and later at 39 Museum Road. She met her end when she was knocked down by a lorry in St Giles’ on her way to an evening lecture in 1937. Her dedication to the cause of women at Oxford had become legendary and she was commemorated by a garden with inscribed stone seat on the north side of St Mary’s, the University Church. The memorial garden reflected her passionate interest in horticulture: she was Custos Hortulorum at St Hugh’s and was not above taking surreptitious cuttings, concealed in her umbrella, from other college gardens such as St John’s.

Sources:

  • Degrees by Degrees, Annie Rogers (1938)
  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article by Janet Howarth
  • Her Oxford, Judy G. Batson (Vanderbilt U.P., 2008)
  • Oxford Gardens, Mavis Batey (1982)
  • Hurley and Skidmore Family History: Annie Mary Anne Henley Rogers

The plaque was installed at 35 St Giles’ on 23 September 2020. There was no ceremony owing to pandemic restrictions on gatherings.

Bench to Annie Rogers

Annie Rogers was buried in Wolvercote Cemetery. The stone seat (above) erected to her memory in the churchyard to the north of the University Church of St Mary the Virgin is inscribed in Latin as follows:

UT FLOREAT MEMORIA ANNIE MARIAE ANNAE HENLEY ROGERS A.M.
LITTERARUM ANTIQUARUM PRAECEPTRICIS MULIERUM IURIS IN UNIVERSITATE
VINDICIS FLORUM HORTORUMQUE CULTRICIS QUAE IN HAC AEDE DEUM FREQUENTER
ADORABAT HOC SEDILE EXSTRUXERUNT HORTULOS CIRCUM FLORIBUS REPLEVERUNT
COLENDOS IN FUTURUM CURAVERUNT COLLEGAE ALUMNAE AMICI MCMXXXVIII

[So that the memory may flourish of Annie Mary Anne Henley Rogers, M.A., teacher of ancient literature, champion of the right of women in the University, cultivator of flowers and gardens, who frequently worshipped God in this church, her colleagues, pupils, and friends created this seat, filled the little gardens around with flowers, and took care that they would be tended in the future. 1938]

Picture awaited

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

ANNIE ROGERS
1856–1937
Classicist
Ceaseless campaigner for
women's full membership of / Oxford University

Victory was finally won / in 1920

Lived here
1891–1899

University of Oxford

© Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board

 

Email: oxfordshireblueplaques@gmail.com