Exhibition - Newnham and Bletchley Park; women’s work in World War II

Exhibition - Newnham and Bletchley Park; women’s work in World War II

Exhibition - Newnham and Bletchley Park; women’s work in World War II

event Saturday, September 28, 2024 schedule 2.00pm - 5.00pm BST
event Saturday, September 28, 2024 schedule 2.00pm - 5.00pm BST
  • Wartimes Newnhamites
  • Photo of Sally Waugh, Gillian Sutherland and Frieda Midgley
Decoding the past
In-person | Free
Open to: 
Alumni and guests
Cynthia Beerbower Room/Sidgwick Hall, Newnham College | View details

A new exhibition unveiled earlier this year, tells the incredible story of Newnham College women’s war work, at Bletchley Park and beyond. More than 70 students and alumnae have been identified who were recruited for World War Two codebreaking work at Bletchley Park, thanks partly to the personal connections of three Newnham women: Alda Milner-Barry, former Principal Pernel Strachey and Ray Strachey.

The role of Newnham women at Bletchley Park in the vital work at Bletchley Park has emerged slowly and piecemeal through historical research, as the women involved were sworn to secrecy, the need for which continued after the war ended when Cold War tension followed the armed conflict. 

Over 70 Newnham alumnae were involved in the UK’s World War Two signals intelligence operation of Bletchley Park. Newnham women were represented in most key areas of Bletchley Park’s work.

The Newnham stories have been uncovered by alumna Dr Sally Waugh (Newnham 1973), historian and Fellow Emerita Dr Gillian Sutherland, and College Archivist Frieda Midgley, who worked closely with staff at Bletchley Park. The three will be joined by Jonathan Byrne – Oral Historian at Bletchley Park to discuss their fascinating journey of discovery uncovering the hidden stories of Newnham women involved in secret war work.

The exhibition in Sidgwick Hall will be open to the public for an hour after the talk on Saturday 28th September.

Timings and location

14.00-15.00 - Conversation, Cynthia Beerbower Room

15.00-17.00 - Exhibition viewing, Sidgwick Hall, Newnham College


Dr Gillian Sutherland (Newnham 1960)

Fellow Emerita, former Vice Principal of Newnham and former Director of Studies in History, Dr Gill Sutherland taught and directed studies in History at Newnham 1965-2007 and continues to research and write. Her two most recent books have been Faith, Duty and the Power of Mind; The Cloughs and Their Circle 1820-1960 (2006) and In Search of the New Woman: Middle Class Women and Work in Britain 1870-1914 (2015), both published by CUP. With Kate Williams she compiled and edited a second Newnham anthology, Walking on the Grass, Dancing in the Corridors: Newnham at 150, (2021). From 1999-2018 she was chairman of governors of The Stephen Perse Foundation in Cambridge. She currently serves as a Trustee of The Friends of the Women’s Library at LSE.

Dr Sally Waugh (Newnham 1973)

Dr Sally Waugh has a background in Natural Sciences and Mathematics, leading to a career in mathematics education.  With teaching experience at school and university levels, and participation in research into learning and teaching mathematics, Sally has been ideally placed to design tailor-made programmes for learning mathematics.  Sally’s specialist area is the transition between A level studies and university courses for students taking STEM subjects, where there has been a historical mis-match between the mathematics students study prior to entry and what university science courses require them to know.

Sally has worked for many years alongside the Isaac Physics STEM education project which operates from The Cavendish Laboratory.  The Isaac Physics platform, initially developed for school students, now also hosts the preparation materials set for new Cambridge University STEM students.

Frieda Midgley

Frieda Midgley joined Newnham as College Archivist in February 2021, having previously worked at Kettle’s Yard and Wolfson College, Cambridge. Frieda trained as an Archivist and Records Manager at University College London and has wide experience in both the Higher Education and government sectors. Prior to that, Frieda studied Archaeology and History (BA) and Medieval Studies (MA) at the University of York. 

As Archivist at Newnham, Frieda is responsible for developing, preserving, and providing access to archival collections that chart the history of Newnham as a pioneering educational institution, and document the experience of living and learning here, and being part of the College community.

Jonathan Byrne (Magdalene 1978)

Jonathan Byrne read Modern Languages and History, and after many years as a Civil Servant, mainly as an analyst in the Ministry of Defence, he successfully applied for early retirement when the department was downsizing.

Shortly after leaving, he began a one-year contract with the Bletchley Park Trust to compile a database of World War 2 codebreakers. Several years later Jonathan and his team of volunteers have interviewed over 500 veterans of Bletchley Park and its worldwide outstations and he is still employed by the Trust. The database, known as the Roll of Honour, continues to be compiled, as more and more families research what their relatives did in World War 2.

Booking information



Cynthia Beerbower Room/Sidgwick Hall, Newnham College
Sidgwick Avenue
United Kingdom


The Festival Team
Location information: 

Please ask the Porters' Lodge for directions.