a1 Corpus Christi College, Oxford
‘Anybody who has bred horses will tell you’, the anti-feminist M.P. Major Falle informed M.P.s in 1923, when opposing women's full admission to Cambridge University, ‘that it is folly in the extreme to put colts and fillies together’. More subtle was the argument of Lord Hugh Cecil; concerned with what we now call the ‘chemistry’ of human relationships, he claimed that only a single-sex environment produces the ‘nervous intensity’ that launches major intellectual achievement and significant shifts in national opinion. Anti-feminist faith in segregation applied also to politics. Before 1918, parliament was what social anthropologists would now call a ‘men's house’ as with the kindred London clubs and colleges in Oxford and Cambridge, women's admission to it was slow and reluctant. If women wanted to participate in public life, it was argued, they should form clubs or parliaments of their own. Unlike some anti-feminists, Cecil's desire for segregation did not lead him to oppose votes for women because he saw the elector as simply an individual in a polling-booth, but he shared the anti-feminists' idea that the M.P. ‘resembles the limb of a body’, and so should be recruited solely from men. Nobody listened; within months of getting the vote, women (even unenfranchised women between 21 and 30) became eligible for parliament, and mixed universities eventually became the norm.