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Celebrating pharmacy’s first lady

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Published on 06 February 2018

Students at Sunderland Technical College in the 1930s
Students at Sunderland Technical College in the 1930s

6 February marked the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act, giving the vote to women over the age of 30.

University of Sunderland’s Vice-Chancellor, Shirley Atkinson, commented: “We are very proud of the University of Sunderland’s long history of supporting and championing women in the arts, sciences, business and industry for over 100 years. A century on from the date when some women received the vote is an ideal time to recognise the impact of some of the brilliant women connected with our University and the life-changing opportunities that Higher Education has presented to women past and present and from all walks of life.”

The University was established in 1901, with its forerunner, Sunderland Technical College, opening on Green Terrace. This soon became the base for the North East’s first pharmacy school, established by an early pioneer of women working in the sciences.

In March 1921, a strong-willed young woman called Hope Constance Monica Winch arrived in Sunderland with an ambitious plan to set up the finest pharmacy department in the North East at Sunderland Technical College, the forerunner of the modern University. It began with three fee-paying students, two female, and 25 ex-servicemen in a department that consisted of one double-sided bench in the chemistry school. The whole course was taught by one lecturer – Miss Winch. On her request the Pharmaceutical Society approved the transfer of all pharmacy teaching in the North-East to Sunderland and by 1930 the pharmacy school had 80 students was recognised as a centre for excellence.

Tragically in 1944, Hope Winch was killed in a climbing accident, however the strong foundations laid by this remarkable woman over her 22 years in Sunderland were enough to build on. Today, the University of Sunderland’s School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is recognised for its strong track-record in pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences, biomedical sciences and environmental sciences.

Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry Roz Anderson, who celebrated her own career milestone when she marked her 30th work anniversary last year, said: “I think Hope Winch would have been inspired by how far her pharmacy vision has progressed in Sunderland with the establishment of our Sciences Complex and all the other developments since.

“I also think she would have been delighted to see so many women inspiring change within pharmacy at all levels and across all sectors.

“Hope Winch was one of the earlier pioneers in building women’s confidence and showing them how they can make a difference in this industry.”