Graduate Women’s centenary

Graduate Women Otago president Shirley Gillett (left) and Lorraine Isaacs catch up at the group’s...
Graduate Women Otago president Shirley Gillett (left) and Lorraine Isaacs catch up at the group’s 100th anniversary celebration. PHOTOS: ANNA CAMPBELL
Eight former presidents were among the speakers at the centenary celebration for Graduate Women Otago.

The event, held recently at the University Staff Club, brought together about 60 people to catch up and reminisce about the long history of the organisation.

Group member Margaret Bahr said each of the former presidents spoke about a different era for the group, which has curated and run the university’s academic dress hire since the 1930s.

Graduate Women Otago members (from left) past president Mayford Dawson, current president Shirley...
Graduate Women Otago members (from left) past president Mayford Dawson, current president Shirley Gillett, and past president Amy Dowdie each have a cake to cut during the 100th anniversary event.
From owning 19 hoods, 11 trenchers, and one gown in 1935, the academic dress collection now includes about 3500 hoods, 1300 gowns, 21 red and 130 maroon PhD gowns, 900 trenchers, caps and bonnets, and hoods for 122 different degrees.

Ms Bahr said the funds raised through the hire of these items for up to 11 graduation ceremonies each year were put to good use by the group, by granting fellowships and awards to support women’s education.

These include the prestigious Graduate Women International Fellowships, Graduate Women New Zealand Fellowship (up to $12,000), and the Harriette Jenkins Awards towards the completion of a degree (up to $3000).

Members of Graduate Women Otago gather during the group’s centenary celebration.
Members of Graduate Women Otago gather during the group’s centenary celebration.
The Otago branch has its own awards, including the Helen Benson Award for women needing support to get back into the work force (up to $1500); Community Awards for local groups (up to $1500); the Travel Awards to help graduates attend conferences; the Marion Fyfe prize in Zoology; and the Daphne Purves Award (up to $4000).

Money is also spent on buying new gowns, trenchers, and fabric, and the association employs students to help at busy times.

"We are a very active association, who use the funds we raise through the academic dress project to support women to reach their goals," Ms Bahr said.

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