Authority. Granted 1960. [College website.]
Nominee of College. Saint Hilda (sometimes spelled Hild) of Whitby, Yorkshire, England 614-680; feast day November 17, founder of Streaneshalch (later Whitby) Abbey and a prominent abbess. With Bishops Sts Colman of Lindisfarne and Cedd of the East Saxons, she led the Celtic party at the Synod of Whitby (663/664). She was entrusted with the upbringing of the King Oswiu’s daughter, St Aelfflaed. The King gave Hilda land on which she founded (c. 657) a monastery of monks and nuns at Streaneshalch that became a major religious centre. Among its members was Caedmon, the earliest English Christian poet. In 663/664 Streaneshalch hosted the Synod of Whitby, which settled the dispute over the date of Easter (Celtic or Roman). Hilda supported the Celtic date and opposed the Roman party led by Northumbrian Bishop St. Wilfrid. Unlike Colman, Hilda accepted Oswiu’s decision in favour of the Roman date.
The silver coiled snake at the base of the coat of arms represents the name and reputation of St Hilda, who by legend successfully prayed to God to turn local snakes into stones (language is updated):
In that monastery of Whitby, there was such an abundance of serpents, in the thick bushes and wilderness of the woods, that the virgins durst not peep out of their Cells or go to draw water. But by her prayers she (Hilda) obtained of God, that they might be turned into stones, yet so as the shape of serpents still remained. Which to this day, the stones of that place do declare.
The College also still uses the earliest symbol of St Hilda's Hall, the ammonite fossil, consisting of whorled chambered shells, once supposed to be coiled snakes petrified.The use of the ammonite with the motto non frustra vixi or "I lived not in vain" has continued throughout St Hilda's history. When the College was incorporated in 1926 it could not afford a coat of arms, so a seal was designed by Edmund New, with a bookplate, note paper and blazer badge based upon it. This was the College emblem until the coat of arms was granted in 1960. The motto was not included in the grant of arms, but is occasionally used.
History. Founded in 1893, St Hilda’s was the last of the women’s colleges established in Oxford to give women the right and opportunity to higher education. St Hilda’s College celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2018 and its 10th anniversary as a "mixed" college that accepts both male and female students.
In 2009, one year after the College had gone mixed, the College held a vote across the entire College community to establish whether the college's Senior Members should be referred to in the plural as Alumnae or change to the more traditional masculine Alumni. Following the precedent set in 1979 by St Anne’s College, the majority voted to continue to use the feminine plural, both to honour its history and recognize that it will be many decades before the Senior Members’ community is equally split between men and women.
1893–1910 Esther Burrows (1847–1935) served as Principal, which was at first strictly an administrative, not an academic role.
1910–1919 Christine Burrows (1872–1959), formerly a student at Lady Margaret Hall, assisted her mother in the foundation of St Hilda's while still a student and became a tutor after completing her studies and then Principal.
1919–1928 Winifred Moberly (1875–1928), former scholar of Lady Margaret Hall, oversaw the move to the South Building, but her health deteriorated and she died less than a week after the move.
1928–1955 Julia Mann (1891–1985), after studying at Somerville and the London School of Economics, ran the College during her predecessor's illness and was soon elected Principal. She oversaw considerable growth at St. Hilda's, and was herself a benefactor.
1955–1965 Kathleen Major (1906–2000) was elected President of the JCR as an undergraduate. She went on to be Librarian and Lecturer at the College. As Principal she improved the administrative systems of the College and presided over a major building programme.
1965–1980 Mary Bennett (1913–2005), the first Principal with a husband, John, broke new ground, encouraging students in the Lodgings and leading the musical life of the College.
1980–1990 Mary Moore (1930–2017), after reading History at Lady Margaret Hall, made her early career in the diplomatic service, from which she was obliged to resign when she married fellow-diplomat A.R. Moore in 1963. Mary became Principal in 1980, and she and her husband, Tony, presided over a sociable era in the Principal's Lodgings. Although the centenary of the College in 1993 fell during her successor's time as Principal, Mary helped raise more than £2 million.
1990–2001 Elizabeth Llewellyn-Smith
2001–2007 Lady English
2007–2014 Sheila Forbes