Awards and Scholarships
BFWG can be justly proud of its sponsorship of women scholars. The first discussions on opportunities for post-graduate research for women started as soon as the Federation had been formed in 1909 and led to an appeal for funds for the award of a “prize fellowship to a woman who had proved her capacity for research by work already produced or on its way to publication”.
The competition was fiercely contested and the first award of £120 (worth £11,498 (2020)) was given to Caroline Spurgeon in March 1912 to complete and publish her work on Five hundred years of Chaucer criticism and allusion. The pilot had been successful and led to a determination to give awards alternately to women researching arts and sciences.
The following year an award was given to Dr May Whitely OBE, a chemist working then at Imperial College London. She fought hard to get women into the Chemical Society. The third woman to receive the prize in 1914 was Dr. Mary Williams lecturing in French at University of Wales, Swansea.
They continued during the war and in 1915 £100, (£10,347 in 2020) was given to Muriel Wheldale, later Mrs. Onslow, to continue her research on plant genetics and biochemistry. In 1916 the award went to Alice Lee at Bedford College, London, an applied mathematician who worked on gun trajectories not the birth rate she had hope to do. Eventually she worked to prove there was no correlation between skull capacity and intelligence.
Thus this award has evolved through time and helped women advance in their academic careers, given to those deemed worthy, those students who show the promise of becoming role models in the future, outstanding academics or leaders in their chosen fields through academic excellence. Much has been achieved in that time, but if the pioneers who established the scholarships in 1912 believed that a hundred years later women would no longer need this help they would alas be disappointed. The steady increase in applications; shows that the work of the Federation in this area is as important as ever.
Much has changed over the last century, notably the range of subjects on which candidates are working, the means by which applications are submitted, but now as then, the criteria for an award are academic excellence and individual research, and busy women academics give of their time to assess applications. The latest awards were given to women researching urban security, fibromyalgia, music therapy in refugee camps, climate change and societal breakdown and online political communication to name just a few of the 11 prizes given in 2020. Many of these subjects did not even exist in 1912. Members of the Federation continue to raise money for scholarships, and many have made generous donations or bequests in their wills. The Federation can proudly say that it disputes the assertion that women do not help other women!
In the past few years amounts in the region of £30,000 are given away annually while in addition, triennially £5000 is given to the international federation - Graduate Women International, to be given and chosen by them to an outstanding woman PhD researcher studying at a British University. This is one of several internationally awarded grants and it is interesting that in the last few years those awards have often gone to women studying at British Universities. It shows that the quality of Tertiary education and research in the country is second to none.
The Trustees and scholarship committee is made up of several diverse individuals willing and able to give up their time to forward the aim of helping female researchers achieve their potential in their chosen fields. We are academics and experts in many different fields needed to successfully forward this aim. We are often humbled and astounded at the ability of potential applicants and our job is very difficult scrutinising the applications. With more money we would love to help all these able women – unfortunately this is not possible. We do our best with what we have.
We specifically fund final year PhD students who will eventually be given the title of Doctor which opens doors to women in most countries of the world. We have argued that this is in keeping with the aims of those first women who set up the scholarships so many years ago.
Small biographies of the current Trustees follow, along with information about some of our award winners.
Remember we are a Charity dedicated to funding education at the highest level by giving grants to women of outstanding calibre. A very worthwhile aim.
The Marjorie Shaw Prize
She was a member of the Academic Awards Committee and a Vice-President of the Federation.
The Eila Campbell Prize
The May Whiteley Prize
The Eleanor Rathbone Prize
Denied an Oxford degree by her gender, she was one of the steamboat ladies who travelled to Ireland between 1904 and 1907 to receive an ad eundem University of Dublin degree (at Trinity College Dublin). In 1905 she assisted in establishing the School of Social Science at the University of Liverpool, where she lectured in public administration.
In 1897, Rathbone became the Honorary Secretary of the Liverpool Women's Suffrage Society Executive Committee in which she focussed on campaigning for women to get the right to vote.
The Johnstone & Florence Stoney Prize
The Ruth Bowden Prize
She was a member of the BFWG Academic Awards Committee and the IFUW Fellowships Committee.
The Mary Bradburn Prize
She was also convener of the Academic Awards Committee.