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40 Years Project

40 Years of Women in Brasenose Project

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the admission of women into Brasenose we really wanted to do something to mark this as students. Margherita De Fraja proposed to the JCR that a lovely way to do this would be to celebrate some of the things that the women who have attended Brasenose over the past 40 years have achieved in their lives since graduating. Therefore, modelling our exhibition on the way that the portraits in Hall remind us of the many alumni who have made great contributions to college and to society, we have decided to fill the JCR with a series of portraits of our female alumnae. We think that having the portraits in the JCR is important because this is our common space and we want the focus to be on showing these amazing female role models to all our undergraduates.

Over the past few months, with generous support from College and the Brasenose Society, we have worked really hard on the commissioning, creation and exhibition of these 12 portraits.  We sought nominations from past alumni for BNC women they believed to be inspiring and extraordinary; in total we received nearly 200 nominations. These women were all nominated for different, but always inspirational, reasons and the JCR is very proud to have them as alumnae of the college. The JCR committee narrowed down the final 12 and the chosen subjects subsequently had their portraits taken by photographer Bill Knight.

The Photographer: Bill Knight OBE

Bill Knight is a photographer specialising in portraits, theatre and opera. His first job was as a beach photographer at Margate. He was a lawyer in the City of London for 40 years and took up professional photography after he retired as senior partner of his firm. His website is

We also asked Bill to write a few lines about the experience of taking the photos and this is what he said:

“I often take photos of actors and singers. They are used to being photographed but they can be uncertain in front of the camera because without a role to play they are not sure who they are. This was a very different experience. The Brasenose alumnae have very clear ideas about who they are, but are not used to being photographed and most of them approached the experience with trepidation. Several said that they agreed to be photographed because they were chosen by the undergraduates. Over a range of occupations and backgrounds the common denominators were intellect and, in my opinion at least, a sense that they are all spending their lives in the way they want. I really enjoyed meeting them all and would have happily photographed 40 of them. For the first time in my life I was the subject of social media – they tweeted about being photographed!”

Our thanks go to Alexandra Marks, Drusilla Gabbott, Jane Johnson and Julia Diamantis for their invaluable support and guidance; to the Brasenose Society and to College for their financial support; to Bill Knight for his enthusiasm and beautiful photography; and of course to our twelve wonderful portrait subjects.