Lady Literate in Arts

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A Lady Literate in Arts (LLA) qualification was offered by the University of St Andrews in Scotland for more than a decade before women were allowed to graduate in the same way as men, and it became popular as a kind of external degree for women who had studied through correspondence, or by attendance at non-university classes. Although awarded as a diploma, in terms of academic standard, it was equivalent to the Master of Arts.[1]

Until 1892 women were not admitted to Scottish universities, and the LLA was the nearest qualification to a degree which was open to women in the country, although the University of Edinburgh offered certificates recognising achievement in classes organised by the Edinburgh Association for the University Education of Women, and in Glasgow, Queen Margaret College was offering a university-equivalent education and awards. To obtain an LLA candidates had to pass examinations at a university-approved centre, which might be in Scotland or outwith the country.

Formally established as the Lady Literate in Arts - LLA - by 1877,[2] even after 1892, the course continued to be popular with women who wanted to study for an arts degree without needing to attend one particular institution for three or four years. Thousands of women received an LLA before it was discontinued in the 1930s.

William Angus Knight (1836–1916), Professor of Moral Philosophy at St Andrews between 1876 and 1903, was a supporter of female education and the main force behind the university's introduction of the LLA diploma.

Notable literate ladies[edit]

Violetta Thurstan in her Russian Red Cross uniform

The educationalist and headteacher Isabel Cleghorn,[3] Helen Bannerman, the children's writer,[4] Sarah Bannister, educationist and local politician[4] and suffragette Margaret Nevinson[4] all had LLAs, as did the wartime nursing heroine Violetta Thurstan.


  1. ^ Smith, N. Kemp (1950). "The Scots Philosophical Club". The Philosophical Quarterly. 1 (1): 1–4. doi:10.2307/2216495. JSTOR 2216495.
  2. ^ "University of St Andrews LLA". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 11 April 2022. To walk upon the grass : the impact of the University of St Andrews' Lady Literate in Arts, 1877-1892
  3. ^ Matthew, H. C. G.; Harrison, B., eds. (23 September 2004). "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. ref:odnb/55564. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/55564. Retrieved 2 November 2022. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  4. ^ a b c Smith, Elizabeth (2014). "TO WALK UPON THE GRASS: THE IMPACT OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ST ANDREWS' LADY LITERATE IN ARTS, 1877-1892". PhD Thesis – via University of St Andrews.
  • Susan Sellers, Mischievous to the Public Interest: The Lady Literate in Arts Diploma and the Admission of Women to the University of St Andrews in Launch-Site for English Studies (1997) ed. Robert Crawford
  • R.N. Smart, Literate Ladies: a Fifty-Year Experiment in St Andrews University Alumnus Chronicle (1967)

External links[edit]