100 Years of Co-Education

In October of last year, we embarked on a project to find and record the memoirs of Wesley’s female alumni. Our aim was to publish a book preserving the memories and stories of one hundred years of co education in Wesley. We started out with high expectations; by November we had four replies. It was beginning to look more like a pamphlet than a book.

In late November there came heavy snowfall and a sudden avalanche of replies. Finally, we were on our way. We have come a long way from the 1930s, today, our mealtimes are our own, rather than in the early days, when students were given topics to discuss, so as to avoid “idle chat”.

In 1966, a heel of bread constituted a culinary delight, whereas today we have the salad bar, light options, fresh fruit, chocolate cake, and the ever-popular banoffi. In a year where we entered the hockey season defending both major titles, and hosted the All-Ireland Senior Boys’ finals, it’s peculiar to look back on the full length hockey skirts and blouses of 1911 and wonder how they ever competed. It is strange to fathom the possibility of a revolution being staged in the boarding house as a result of the banning of pillow fights, but that’s exactly what happened in the 1960s. Moreover, in an age of interactive whiteboards, data projectors, computers in every room, two dedicated computer suites and even a cyberlibrary, it’s difficult to imagine that just twenty five years ago, the computer was wheeled into class to study binary numbers.

As we read over the memoirs it is fascinating to see how not only have the facilities, uniforms and location changed, but also the societal attitudes to women in the past 100 years; from the early letters, where the girls were “tolerated” to the most recent, where there is no discernable difference or discrimination. Our research has been interesting, enjoyable, and always good fun.

Yvonne Corcoran 
Esther Glenfield
Nathan Walsh
Thomas Wyse Jackson.
September 2011

A short and beautifully presented history of co-education in Wesley College by Michael Halliday was also launched in the National Gallery on the 11th of October 2011.


Both publications can be read by clicking the cover image