Mabel Atkinson: Newcastle University’s Pioneering Lecturer

This year Newcastle University has been celebrating its connection with civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Fifty years ago the university awarded him with an Honorary Degree; the only UK university to do so in his lifetime and at a time when, as Professor Richard Davies Pro-Vice Chancellor for Engagement and Internationalisation notes, he was becoming “an increasingly controversial figure”[1]. However this is not the only instance of Newcastle University’s pioneering spirit. Sixty-three years prior to Dr. King’s acceptance speech, in 1904, the university (then known as Armstrong College) appointed 28-year-old Mabel Atkinson to the position of Lecturer in Philosophy and Assistant Lecturer in Classics. This was at a crucial time for the University; they were in the middle of construction of the Armstrong Building which still hosts the Department of Classics and Ancient History today. It was also at a crucial time for the women’s movement.

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