The Oxford Union
The Oxford Union is not to be confused with the Oxford University Students Union. The latter is what most universities know as the union, whose job it is to deal with sordid details such as accommodation, legal problems etc, and which is a relatively recent institution.
The Oxford Union is essentially a debating society. One of the most notorious moments in its history was the “King and Country” debate of 1933. The motion was passed by 275 to 153, unleashing a torrent of abuse in the Press against the “Communists and perverts” of Oxford University – shown to be quite unwarranted a few years later when this same generation became embroiled in World War Two.
Women were not admitted as members in Mrs Thatcher’s time – she had to content herself with being the first woman president of the Oxford University Conservative Association. The first woman president of the Union was Geraldine Jones of St. Hughes, in Hilary term 1968. This office has also been held by Benazir Bhutto. Not until Hilary 1986 were all three offices of President, Secretary and Librarian held simultaneously by women – Jeya Wilson, Sally Marlow, and Emma Jenks.
Morris’s frescoes in the library depict scenes from the legend of King Arthur. Unfortunately he and his associates (Burne-Jones, Rosetti, et al) failed to research their materials with due care, and they faded rapidly. they have recently been restored, and 10p in a slot by the door ensures tht they are illuminated while you view them. The library itself is deliciously fusty, with big leather armchairs, which are specially equipped to hold book supports. A sign by the fireplace reads “Members are kindly requested to keep their feet off the seats”.