Frances Melville

Frances Helen Melville was a promoter of higher education for women in Scotland and suffragist, born on October 11th, 1873. She became one of the first women to matriculate at the University of Edinburgh in 1892, after the Universities (Scotland) Act of 1889 was passed, permitting women to matriculate and graduate from the Scottish universities. Melville graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1897 with a first-class Master of Arts in Philosophy.

During her time at Edinburgh University, she was president of the Women’s Representative Committee, at a time when the university lacked a female voice. She was employed there as a tutor for three years before working as a lecturer at Cheltenham Ladies’ College.

Following this, she moved to St Andrews to become the second warden of University Hall, succeeding Louisa Lumsden. During her time at St Andrews, she obtained a degree in the Bachelor of Divinity, which was awarded to her in 1910. This gave her the distinction of becoming the first woman to receive this degree at a Scottish university. She was also responsible for setting up the St Andrews Association of University Women in 1909.

Following her work in St Andrews, she was appointed mistress of Queen Margaret College at Glasgow University. During her time here, the university oversaw a gradual integration of female students into mixed university classes, rather than receiving their education separate from male students. She received her LLD from Glasgow University in 1927, becoming the first Scottish female graduate to receive this distinction.

Melville was awarded The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1935, recognising her work on increasing access to higher education for women and remains an inspiration to many.