The first ever female graduate of the University of St Andrews formally made her mark for the second time today (Monday 15 October) when a student residence was renamed in her honour.
New Hall, which opened nineteen years ago, officially adopted the name of Agnes Blackadder, who first made history when she graduated from St Andrews over 100 years ago. Students voted to honour the distinguished medic by renaming the University’s largest hall of residence Agnes Blackadder Hall.
The event saw past and present residents of the North Haugh residence and invited guests gather to celebrate the first student Hall at St Andrews to be named after a woman. New Hall – as it was then temporarily titled in 1993 – was finally given a more permanent name after a student vote in April.
Agnes Forbes Blackadder (1875-1964), who graduated 117 years ago (MA, 1895), eventually triumphed over her competitors, who included abstract artist and honorary graduate Wilhemina Barns-Graham; biology professor and town planner Sir Patrick Geddes, former St Andrews Principal and inventor Sir David Brewster and golfing great Seve Ballesteros, with 42% of the vote.
University representatives were entertained by the University Choir during the official renaming ceremony, which was carried out by the Principal, Professor Louise Richardson. A commemorative plaque was unveiled by artist and honorary graduate Dame Elizabeth Blackadder (no relation).
Agnes Forbes Blackadder (1875-1964) graduated with an MA on 29 March 1895. She went on to achieve great eminence through a distinguished medical career as a consultant dermatologist in London. She was one of the first women to be appointed in such a capacity in a hospital which was not exclusively for women.
She published papers on the forcible feeding of suffrage prisoners on hunger strike and also played a central role as radiographer in the Scottish Women’s Hospital at Royaumont, France, during the 1914-1918 War.
Residents of the Hall, led by then Senior Student Matthew Harrison, first came up with the idea of renaming their home as a way of marking the University’s 600th anniversary celebrations last year. They invited nominations for a new, permanent name from staff, students and members of the local community.
Nominations came from students and staff at the University, alumni and from others associated with the University around the world. Following a difficult shortlisting process, current students who live or have lived in New Hall were given the final vote, which overwhelmingly went in favour of Blackadder.
Matthew Harrison commented, “Last year we wanted to change the name of New Hall in order to give the building more of an identity. The name change marks a new transition period for the Hall that also ties in with the 600th anniversary celebrations. I believe that students in the Hall, especially the great number who studied Medicine, wanted to acknowledge Agnes Blackadder’s achievements and the role that she and other women have played in the history of the University of St Andrews.”