Celebrating Lincoln alumnae

2019-20 marks the 40th anniversary of the admission of women to Lincoln College. This photographic portrait exhibition features 21 outstanding Lincoln alumnae, nominated by their peers and selected by a small committee of students, staff, and Fellows. The exhibition, with photography by Robert Taylor, celebrates their achievements and their stories, as well as the community of Lincoln women that they represent.

We hope that this diverse and dynamic group of Lincoln women will serve to inspire the next generation of Lincolnites.

In the history of a college that is soon to reach its 600th anniversary, a change that took place no more than 40 years ago may, at first sight, appear as being too recent to mark. Yet the admission of women as undergraduates and  graduates in 1979 was a decisive moment in Lincoln’s long history. It was and has been an entirely good decision and, as we approach this anniversary, it is right that we should reflect on it with this small exhibition in the Hall. The exhibition celebrates the presence of 40 years of women at Lincoln for
the College community as a whole.
- H.R. Woudhuysen, Rector

Judith Weingarten (1979)

I came to Lincoln in 1979, when women were first admitted to the College. It was a life-changing moment. I had been working in international marketing, building my own consultancy in Amsterdam (Weingarten & Chaplin b.v.) when an economic storm knocked us out in the recession of 1975-6. I wasn’t sure what to do next but, finding myself for some months on Crete, my old love of history welled up again.

I am so lucky to have had the chance to study at Oxford and be part of the Lincoln MCR. And to have proved, to myself at least, that a crash ending of one life project can lead to the auspicious start of another.

Alison Hartley (1980)

Coming to Lincoln was one of the huge pieces of luck in my life, as is the fact of having been born in 1961. Just a couple of years earlier and the doors of Lincoln wouldn’t have been open to me as a woman. I found that I was one of a more diverse student body than I would have imagined, where we women had to assert ourselves to take our place and change longstanding habits – excellent training for life!

I have now spent more than 30 years in industry, working with multi-national teams in consumer goods and healthcare companies, adapting to different European cultures and gaining insights into cultures across the world.

Caroline Sarll (1983)

Life-changing Lincoln encouraged me to push the boundaries of what I could achieve – and what a year I had! As well as stretching me intellectually, the can-do environment and dynamism of students and staff shaped me personally and professionally.

I also owe my success as a print journalist, burgeoning author, and Germanist to Lincoln’s unique blend of creativity and discipline.

Lincoln ranks as one of the most beneficial and influential forces of my life, alongside such formidable contenders as my ever-encouraging mum, my husband, and my two beautiful daughters. 

Sonali Naik QC (1986)

I had just turned 18 less than a month earlier when I came to Lincoln. From our Freshers photo you can see that it was not just my youth that stood out: I came straight from Birkenhead where I was born and brought up by my Indian first generation migrant parents whose very clear message was to work hard and strive to be better than the rest. 

In the 30 years since leaving Lincoln, I have actively tried to redress inequality through my work as legal aid barrister practising in immigration and asylum, representing people at the margins of society. Now as a silk (QC) I still do a significant amount of publicly funded work as well as acting pro bono.

Louise Chantal (1987)

When asked now what I did at college, I tend to say ‘six plays a term’.  I was certainly busy, producing the Oxford Revue and Oxford Theatre Group  becoming joint President of the Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS) and the University’s first sabbatical officer for drama (a role which still exists). I never thought for a moment I would do anything but work in professional theatre, and I never have.

The friendships I made at Lincoln have endured for 30 years and mean more to me now than ever. I pass the College most days on the way to work now that I am back living here, and smile.

Fania Oz-Salzberger (1987)

I arrived at Lincoln College as a graduate student from Israel in 1987, and launched into some of the happiest years of my life. It was in the Beckington Room that fellow Lincolnite Eli Salzberger and I celebrated our wedding, and it was in Bear Lane that we lived our first two years, typing our theses on a prehistoric Amstrad desktop.

Today I am a university professor of history, Eli is a law professor, our twin boys are grown up, and all of us are socially and politically involved in the pursuit of Israeli-Palestinian peace, human rights, and social justice.

Fiona McPhee (1987)

I am eternally grateful to Professor Gordon Lowe who offered me a DPhil studentship in Organic Chemistry. 

My acquired experiences at Lincoln College provided the foundation for a successful drug discovery career in the USA. Much of my focus has been directed toward Hepatitis C Virus where I proposed and initiated a project leading to the identification of a potent novel agent that inhibited viral replication... Involvement in these efforts led to recognition as a leading expert in HCV drug discovery and clinical resistance, and I was awarded the Heroes in Chemistry award from the American Chemical Society in 2017.

Emily Mortimer (1990)

I will never forget opening a note in my pigeon hole at the Porter’s Lodge telling me I had got the part of Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Three years later I opened a letter at the same Porter’s Lodge from an agent who wanted to take me on. Lincoln was the best of beginnings for me. My eternal shame about how little academic work I did has been mitigated by being recognised in this way and I am so grateful.

Since Lincoln I acted in films by Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Rob Marshall, David Mackenzie, Sally Potter, and others. 

Zoe Williams (1991)

I was astonished by the news that Lincoln College was celebrating 40 years of admitting women, since it meant that when I arrived, in 1991, we were a relatively new addition. It never remotely felt that way. 

I was a feminist when I matriculated, obviously – the proto-Nineties sort, chain-smoking, riotously loud – and what I learned at Lincoln, particularly from Susan Bridgen, the College’s first female Fellow, was an entirely different mode of challenge. You cannot question the world and its assumptions without knowledge of your own; without listening deeply; without profound empathy; without independence of mind. 

Naomi Alderman (1993)

I wrote my first novel while I was at Lincoln, showed it to friends here and discussed it. It was terrible! But it was the support of my Lincoln friends and a very encouraging tutor that made me feel that I had something, and it might be worth trying again. The only way to get better at writing is to write. I’ve published five novels now – my most recent, The Power, won the Baileys Prize for Fiction, is a New York Times bestseller, and was chosen by Barack Obama as one of his books of the year. I’m making it into a TV series for Amazon now.

In the end, it’s the things that were hardest that make you someone you can be proud to be.

Steph Cook MBE (1994)

I joined Lincoln College in 1994 when I started my clinical medical studies at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

I joined the Oxford University Modern Pentathlon Association and was soon competing in national and international competitions, culminating in the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000 where I won the gold medal. I went on to win both the European and World Championships in 2001, after which I resumed my medical career which had been put on hold for a few years. After completing my surgical training in Bath and embarking on an ENT rotation, I then decided to retrain as a GP and am now working as a GP partner in Sussex.

Lucy MacKillop (1994)

Mother, wife, doctor, innovator, academic, gardener, opinion leader. These are titles that, to a greater or lesser degree, I can claim. 

I grew up in a single-parent family with a mother who always worked. When I attended Lincoln College in 1994 it did not feel male-dominated, and the NHS has always offered equal pay to men and women doctors in training. Therefore, I did not encounter gender bias until relatively late in my career. I now take great pleasure in guiding my junior colleagues to navigate these challenges while continuing to forge my own path as a clinician, an academic, and in leadership roles within clinical AI technology.

Kate Smurthwaite (1994)

I remember my favourite tutor, Dr Kiehne, quite reasonably exasperated at my poor algebra, telling me ‘don’t think, use the definitions’.

Thinking prompted my objectively stupid decision to get out of banking and into stand-up comedy and feminist activism... I have toured 15 one-woman shows nationally and internationally, and even performed at the beautiful Hammersmith Apollo. 

I still don’t fit in. I am trying to make a difference, which is exhausting and rarely works. But I’m happy, and now you are looking at a picture of me, so what the heck.


Miatta Fahnbulleh (1997)

I gained my thirst for knowledge at Lincoln; that ability to always enquire. Through student politics, I gained my passion for fighting for causes I believe in and making my voice heard... Since then I have gone on to become Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation – the leading progressive think tank in the country that develops ideas and campaigns on how to create an economy that works for people and the planet.

I love what I do and the life I have built with my husband and three amazing children. And I am incredibly grateful for the time I spent at Lincoln, the amazing memories I left with and the path it has set me on.

Emily Howard (1997)

I have many fond memories of my undergraduate years at Lincoln College and one of the strongest is of regular attendance at Choral Evensong in the Chapel, followed by formal dinner in the Hall.

In retrospect, it’s clear to me that by pursuing a degree in mathematics and computation while being active in Lincoln musical life, I was sowing the seeds for my subsequent career as a composer who regularly collaborates with mathematicians and scientists... My music often responds directly to ideas from mathematics; [a] recent example include[s] Torus, which won the orchestral category of the 2017 British Composer Awards.

Suzannah Lipscomb (1998)

I chose Lincoln for the historians, the accommodation, and the food, and I was very grateful when Lincoln chose me back. Here, I met some of the most important people in my life, including Dr Susan Brigden.

I write - five books and counting - and along the way I started writing and talking about history on television too. I still live in the sixteenth century.

I became Dr before I became Mrs, and Professor before I became Mummy. I have found that all these roles, and all the various forms of work they demand, have brought me great and sustaining joy.

Shabana Mahmood MP (1999)

Every argument I have ever constructed, be it in court or the House of Commons chamber, has been forged in the mould given to me by my two Lincoln law tutors. 

I was elected MP for Birmingham Ladywood in the 2010 general election and became the first Muslim woman ever to be elected to Parliament in the UK. I have served in a number of senior positions since then, including in the Shadow Cabinet but my most important work is in my constituency, serving the people and communities I grew up amongst and consider my own.

Meena Seshamani (1999)

I completed my DPhil in Health Economics as a Marshall Scholar and Lincoln College Senior Scholar. Studying at Lincoln College was life-changing for me. I served as Treasurer of the MCR, and will forever hold dear the friendships I made with people from all over the world.

My studies opened up an entirely new career path for me, enabling me to lead the Office of Health Reform in the Obama Administration to implement the Affordable Care Act, which expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans and implemented care models to improve quality and value in the US health care system. 

Asha de Vos (2003)

Since my time at [Lincoln], my life has been unimaginably magical. Not only did I establish the first long-term research project on blue whales in the Northern Indian Ocean, I have also built a Sri Lankan non-profit, Oceanswell, that focuses on marine conservation research and education. Oceanswell has allowed me to show the world that you don’t have to leave your shores to successfully drive change. From my little island in Sri Lanka, I have been able to build on my mission to change the current trajectory of marine conservation by pushing for increased diversity and inclusivity in the field, and engaging more people in the magic of our oceans.

Laura Brown (2005)

After a period teaching History at a comprehensive girls’ school, I completed my Masters in Educational Leadership, specialising in education delivery models in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Today I am the CEO of the education charity Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS). PEAS builds and manages secondary schools in rural areas of Uganda and Zambia where there is limited access to secondary education. Although PEAS schools are co-educational there is a particular focus on girls’ education, due to the additional challenges girls face when it comes to completing their schooling and achieving their full educational potential.

Naomi Kellman (2008)

When I arrived at Lincoln in 2008, I was the only person of black African and Caribbean heritage in my year.

Since graduating I have focused on improving educational equality through my work on Target Oxbridge, a programme I founded in 2012 whilst working at Rare. Target Oxbridge helps black African and Caribbean students to apply to Oxbridge and has supported over 140 students to gain offers to date. I am passionate about helping more students believe that they too can belong at Oxbridge. For me, being invited to take part in this portrait exhibition is a heart-warming symbol of my journey of belonging at Lincoln.